Townsville, Queensland, Australia — Story by Race Chaser Online International Motorsport Correspondent Jack Cobourn —
Despite not having a great car in practice, Jamie Whincup came good on Saturday at the Castrol Edge Townsville 400, winning in powerful fashion from teammate Shane van Gisbergen.
The duo fought throughout the entire race, and when a late-race caution came out, Whincup was finally able to eke out the upper hand, bunching everyone up on the restart to get a big lead off of it.
“That was an entertainment safety car, although that car was probably in the wrong spot,” Whincup told V8 Supercars Media after the race. “That was fairly legit, but even so, it would have been pulled anyway.”
It was a sunny day for Saturday’s 70-lap event, with 77-degree fahrenheit temperatures at race time. Tire degredation was the topic pre-race, with polesitter Jamie Whincup saying keeping the car from flatspotting the rears was key.
Having joked before the start that he and teammate Shane Van Gisbergen were not like “Lewis and Nico, so there won’t be a tangle,” Whincup grabbed the lead from Van Gisbergen, who got jumped by James Courtney for second place, but quickly got it back. The first lap was somewhat clean, though Scott McLaughlin said someone hit him at turn two, and Dale Wood’s Nissan had a puncture.
The gap between the two Triple Eight drivers was 0.391 seconds, but McLaughlin headed to the garage with damage. Rick Kelly tangled with Tim Slade, spinning him around, and then Nick Percat, who got a penalty in qualifying for balking Aaren Russell, thundered into the back of Kelly, damaging his front. Rick Kelly was given a pit lane drive-through penalty for his accident with Slade.
Up front, Will Davison and Chaz Mostert were battling hard for fourth place, with the Ford driver all over Davison’s rear bumper. He took a look down the inside at two, then pulled up and got him on the run to turn three. 2015 winner Mark Winterbottom played it safe on trying to pass Davison.
Craig Lowndes was hunting down James Moffat’s Volvo for 10th place, getting him on lap six. The lead gap was 1.168 between Whincup and Van Gisbergen.
The effort was clearly getting to Whincup, as trying to lap Slade, he locked up, allowing Van Gisbergen to close the gap and a possible flat spot to form.
The gap closed on lap 12, as it was 0.471 seconds, due to the fact Whincup was stuck in traffic. Lowndes pitted at the end of lap 12, being one of the first to pit.
Whincup finally got by Slade on lap 14, opening the gap over Van Gisbergen. James Courtney had a terrible pit stop, with a tire problem holding him up. Van Gisbergen pitted on lap 14, taking on around 13 seconds worth of fuel, getting out ahead of Courtney by 2.6 seconds.
Whincup had a 6.3-second lead over Mostert, but when Whincup pitted on lap 16, it allowed Mostert into the lead, but he got out ahead of Van Gisbergen. Van Gisbergen, though, had warmer tires, and set about nipping at his teammate’s heels like a terrier.
Mostert pitted on lap 19, taking on 14 seconds of fuel. Winterbottom led from Michael Caruso by 10.172 seconds, but Frosty still hadn’t pitted. Whincup and Percat nearly got into it, as Percat was trying to get in the pits, but Whincup snuck down the inside, fortunately with no damage to either car.
Winterbottom pitted on lap 22, coming out in eighth, but Garth Tander got around him with a beautiful slide move into turn one. Winterbottom got him back at the final corner with a cross move, holding onto the position.
Frosty got by Davison at turn 11, while Caruso pitted from the lead, allowing the Whincup-Van Gisbergen battle to resume at the front. The gap on lap 26 was 3.956 seconds, but was beginning to grow.
Chris Pither and Jason Bright got into it, with Bright pushing Pither into the grass at the chicane. Back up front, the gap stood at six seconds between the two Triple Eight drivers.
Halfway through the race, the gap was 7.58 seconds between Whincup and Van Gisbergen. Despite a few incidents, the oft-mentioned safety car period did not happen in the first half of the event.
Mostert got Courtney at turn three on lap 40, possibly due to Courtney’s tire age. Whincup pitted on lap 41, allowing Van Gisbergen to grab the lead briefly. When the New Zealander pitted, a ride height change was made, costing him time, and allowing Whincup by into the effective lead. Winterbottom led from Davison, with Whincup in sixth and Van Gisbergen in ninth.
Whincup had around an 11-second lead over Van Gisbergen. Winterbottom pitted on lap 44, and now Fabian Coulthard, Todd Kelly and Whincup made up the top three. Winterbottom, having been balked by Pither in the pits, lost track position to Courtney.
Whincup was now just five seconds behind Coulthard, but the big move was Mostert passing Van Gisbergen on the way to turn 11. Mostert was 10 seconds behind Whincup, who was closing in on Coulthard, finally getting by him on lap 47 when the DJR Team Penske driver pitted.
The gap between the two top drivers was 9.378 seconds, but Van Gisbergen was not far behind, around a half-second behind Mostert. Van Gisbergen and Mostert went wheel-to-wheel, sliding around the circuit and giving it their all. The only problem was, their battle allowed Courtney and Winterbottom to close up.
Kurt Kostecki, in his first main series race, hit the wall. The 18-year-old, usually a Triple Eight mechanic on Van Gisbergen’s car, was replacing the injured Lee Holdsworth. Van Gisbergen and Mostert continued their battle, trying hard, but keeping it clean for the most part. Behind them, however, Frosty used force to get by Courtney on the run to turn 11, doing a “bump and run” trick to make the pass.
The gap from Whincup to Mostert was 8.6 seconds, but it closed to 8.3 with 17 laps remaining. While Whincup maintained his lead, Van Gisbergen got by Mostert on lap 55, and though Mostert tried to get a run on him, the Triple Eight driver held on to the place.
Winterbottom was lurking behind Mostert on lap 57, and as Van Gisbergen opened a gap on the Prodrive Racing Australia teammates, the gap between Mostert and Winterbottom was about 0.1 seconds.
With 11 to go, Winterbottom got by Mostert at turn three as Mostert ran wide. Whincup held a 7.4-second lead over Van Gisbergen. 6.5 seconds was the gap with 10 to go, and Van Gisbergen was cutting it down ever more.
Whincup was being held up by lapped traffic, and Triple Eight’s Roland Dane was complaining about the lack of blue flags shown to help his driver out. But with five to go, the gap suddenly closed.
Nick Percat’s steering failed, causing the safety car to come out. The field closed up behind the safety car, and the gap between the leaders went to nothing.
Tim Slade pitted in under caution, thinking that with high tire degradation, he could pick up a few spots. It was an idea shared by Scott McLaughlin, who pitted in with three to go.
The safety car came in with two to go, and the battle resumed. Two lapped cars sat between the Triple Eight pairing, and Whincup pushed hard, knowing Van Gisbergen couldn’t pass before the control line. 1.4 seconds separated the two halfway through the lap, growing to 1.7 by the end. Whincup had a 2.34-second lead over Van Gisbergen, and drove a magnificent final lap to win from the New Zealander.
While Whincup drove a fantastic race, Van Gisbergen pushed hard throughout, and said he savored his battle with Mostert.
“It was a battle,” Van Gisbergen said. “A really clean, hard fight. I enjoyed it.”
Top Ten Results for Race 14
1. Jamie Whincup Holden 1:32:00
2. Shane Van Gisbergen Holden 3.577
3. Mark Winterbottom Ford 6.696
4. Chaz Mostert Ford 7.871
5. Will Davison Holden 7.884
6. James Courtney Holden 8.453
7. Garth Tander Holden 8.711
8. Fabian Coulthard Ford 9.247
9. Michael Caruso Nissan 9.513
10. Todd Kelly Nissan 10.350