PUKEKOHE, New Zealand – Mark Winterbottom won going away in Sunday’s first race at the ITM Auckland SuperSprint, while Jamie Whincup did serious damage to his title hopes with a spin early in the race.
Winterbottom got around DJT Team Penske man and fellow Ford Falcon driver Scott Pye on the outside line in the first corner off the start to take the lead. He would never look back to win his 38th race of his Virgin Australia Supercars Championship career.
“I pushed hard those first few laps,” he said holding the winner’s trophy afterward. “A win is awesome! We’ve been working hard, we’ve put (Red Bull Racing Australia) under pressure and thankfully got a win! It doesn’t change the year, but it gives the guys and girls at work a little bit more pep in their step. I didn’t think a win was gonna happen today!”
Pye would hold in second and finish there to complete a career-best run in a Supercars event. “It was a tough race on tires,” he said following the event. “Once Frosty got that jump, I just tried to manage the tires as much as I could. The last couple of races, I just burned them up too early. I made sure I was really cautious with them and they held out!”
The most significant incident of the race came on lap 12. Whincup was closing in on his Red Bull Racing Australia teammate and points leader, Shane van Gisbergen. Whincup dove to the inside for a pass in the hairpin, but locked up the rear tires and made contact with van Gisbergen’s right-rear corner. Both cars spun around, and Whincup received a pit lane penalty for his role in the proceedings.
Whincup copped to his responsibility for the spin when asked. “I feel bad,” he said. “It was completely my fault. I locked the rears. He half let me through and I made a bit of a meal of it. The good thing is that Shane got up there and got some good points! ”
Meanwhile, van Gisbergen drove away and spent the rest of the race making up ground. He sat patiently behind Craig Lowndes as the No. 888 searched for and finally found a hole in the esses to get around Fabian Coulthard. Van Gisbergen followed Lowndes to get past Coulthard, then eventually passed Lowndes in the same hairpin where he spun to gain the third position, where he would finish.
“Jamie was really fast, so I gave him some room on the inside.” van Gisbergen said after the race. “It’s happened, and I hear he’s apologized, so it’s ok. P3 is awesome though!”
With van Gisbergen’s podium and Whincup’s 25th-place finish, there is now a 197-point gap in the standings between the two drivers. As it stands, all van Gisbergen will have to do is finish the Saturday race at Sydney Olympic Park to win his first career series championship.
About the Writer
James Pike is a multi-faceted reporter for Race Chaser Online and an analyst on the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
He is the lead correspondent for Race Chaser Online’s coverage of Australian Supercars and also covers regional touring series events in the Carolinas. He is a graduate of the Motorsports Management program at Belmont Abbey College and currently resides in Winston-Salem, N.C.
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