March 1, 2014 — race report by V8 Supercars correspondent James Pike — Pistik Sport photo — ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA — Sometimes, all Jamie Whincup really has to do is smile and wave, and good things just happen.
Whincup won Race 1 of the Clipsal 500 in dominating fashion on Saturday to open the 2014 International V8 Supercars Championship. It was his 76th career V8SC victory and eighth career win on the streets of Adelaide.
Whincup’s Red Bull Racing Australia teammate, Craig Lowndes, finished second, while TEKNO Autosport’s Shane van Gisbergen claimed the final spot on the first podium of the 2014 season.
Whincup pitted on the fifth lap and used a different strategy from that of Lowndes and van Gisbergen (who pitted on lap 14 and 13, respectively) to jump into the lead midway through the race. From there, Whincup drove off the front of the field to lead the entire second half of the race and claim the victory.
While the pit strategy helped Whincup, a mistake by Craig Lowndes’ pit crew also played a part in the final outcome of the race. Lowndes had a slow change of his right rear tire on his pit stop, and that extra time on pit road cost Lowndes his lead once the pit cycle had completed.
After the race, Lowndes lamented the costly error in the pits.
“We had a few issues in the pit stop, and then burned the tires up trying to get to him,” the Queensland native said simply.
Lowndes was able to drive to within .78 seconds of Whincup with 7 laps to go, but Lowndes’ tires began to fall away in the race’s closing stages, and his chance to win the race was gone.
While the two Red Bull cars were fighting for the win up front, Shane van Gisbergen finished out his race cruising to a third place finish.
Afterwards, SvG was left to marvel at the strength of the top two finishers.
“Their cars are in another league. It’s unbelievable,” van Gisbergen said of the Red Bull Commodores. “They’re a fair way ahead of us, of everybody.”
Mark Winterbottom would bring his Pepsi MAX Ford Falcon home in fourth after complaining of a loose race car in the heat of the South Australia sun, with Fabian Coulthard rounding out the top five.
Rick Kelly somehow managed to hold on to sixth place in his Jack Daniel’s Nissan Altima after one of the race’s best on track battles for position. Kelly had to hold off Scott McLaughlin (running a brand-new Volvo Polestar Racing S60 in their return to V8 Supercars racing) and Jason Bright, who had one of the fastest cars in the field from lap 31 to the finish.
The three cars ran nose-to-tail as McLaughlin and Bright tried to find a way around the Nissan, but in the end it was to no avail. It capped off a strong performance for Jack Daniel’s Racing, who had both cars in the top ten for the majority of the race before brother Todd Kelly’s car faded late to finish 16th. Scott Pye also had a notable run in his debut for Dick Johnson racing, placing his Wilson Security Ford Falcon in tenth.
While many drivers started off their season well with a strong finish in Race 1, there were some drivers that struggled significantly during the race. In his debut race with Ford Performance Racing, Chaz Mostert would go off into the tire barrier at Turn 4 on the opening lap after slipping in fluids from his own car. He would have to go to the garage to repairs and eventually retired from the event. David Reynolds would also be forced to retire his Bottle-O Racing Ford Falcon after he sustained heavy front-end damage from a run-in with the Turn 12 tire barrier.
In a race that was relatively free of on-track incidents, Nick Percat was the source of Race 1’s largest. He attempted to pass the Norton Hornet of Michael Caruso in Turn 11, but overshot the corner and made contact with Caruso. Both drivers were sent wide off of the racing line, and when Percat drove back on to it, he made hard contact with an innocent Dale Wood. Both Percat and Wood would have to go to the garage for repairs (Wood to repair front-end cosmetic damage, and Percat to replace a bent right-front steering arm); they would finish 22nd and 23rd, respectively.
After the race, Whincup was pleased with the results, but indicated that he does not expect the next race to come as easily to him.
“A one-two to start the year off is fantastic for us,” the five-time champion said. “But it’s gonna be dog eat dog for every point you can get.”
Asked of his teammate’s chances in Race 2, Whincup assured Craig Lowndes would be back at the front of the field and fighting for the win.
“He’ll be a threat in the next one. For sure.”
The Clipsal 500 continues with a second 125 km sprint under the twilight sky at 6:50 PM local time on Saturday evening, followed by a 250 km race to conclude the weekend on Sunday afternoon.