V8 Supercars: Whincup takes victory at Yas Marina 400 in opening round of season
Abu Dhabi, Feb 11th – The desert King has extended his international winning streak to 12. TeamVodafone’s Jamie Whincup was near flawless in dominating the V8 Supercar season opener, vowing to take back this year’s Championship crown.
As he did 12 month ago Whincup smashed all rivals and apart from a poor start headed off an impressive Alex Davison in his Irwin Falcon and Orccon Steel’s Mark Winterbottom in a cracking race on soft tyres and under lights.
He sounded his warning early once again but this time was cautious about forward predictions considering he did the same at the start of 2010 but was unable to take the Championship from James Courtney.
“It’s been a big week. We come here each year and seem to get off to a good start. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes and trying to keep these soft tyres alive and my car seemed to do it better than most.”
As they did last year TeamVodafone charged out of the blocks in qualifying with a 1-2 finish, this time Lowndes dominating from Whincup. Davison was almost as speedy to take second row on the grid alongside Winterbottom.
Almost amazingly it was Lowndes’ first Armor All Pole Position in two seasons. In contrast Courtney struggled all day in qualifying into 20th with team-mate Tander 14th.
The resurgence of Stone Brothers Racing, the proud Kiwi three-time Championship team was startling in the opening race of the year with all three cars fighting well up the front of the field.
Davison, SP Tools’ Shane Van Gisbergen (fourth) and Lucky Seven’s Tim Slade (fifth) had arguably the best cars outside of race winner Whincup and Winterbottom with the team performance of the race.
“We hadn’t gone as well as we should have and with that comes a lot of pressure comes with that, and a lot of critiscm as well. It’s great to start the year of strong and fresh. It shuts people up but also grounds a good Championship,” Davison said of his car.
“All three of our cars are good but we’ve done a lot of work over the off-season in not only making the cars faster but how we glue our three car team together. In the two years I’ve been there it’s the best working environment we’ve had so far.”
Despite a cracking start Davison’s lead was short-lived and despite opening up a nig gap from the start line was quickly snapped up by Whincup who had the fastest car on the track by a long way. His raw speed allowed him to pull away from the field, just as he did in his unbeaten run at this same circuit last year.
Winterbottom did get past Davison but an error in the pits allowed the Irwin Tools driver back in second when the spike controller accidently put his jacks back up at the end of the last stop.
“We’ve had a few people change in the team and a guy on the spike for the first time,” Winterbottom explained. “Things happen I guess, he got three out of four right and unfortunately it was the one under pressure.”
An incredible effort by much of the field on lap one to avoid Davison’s younger brother Will, who lost complete control, busted through a trackside sign and flung back into the middle of the track saved what would have been an ugly 200km/h plus impact.
It was Warren Luff, Dean Fiore and Greg Murphy in particular who made the difference by evading Davison who was left untouched in the middle of the track and allowed to continue at the back of the field.
Courtney was effectively out of the race on lap five with front end damage from an incident at turn eight, pulling into the garage for repairs. It wasn’t the start Courtney wanted with his new Toll HRT team.
He resumed four laps down trying to salvage any points he could as HRTs terrible Middle Eastern form continued for at least one of their cars. There was some light however when he set the second fastest time of the race even with some severe front end damage.
“We didn’t get it together in qualifying today, which put us back in the mix where you just don’t want to be – when you’re back there things go wrong, and they did,” he said.
“We damaged the front of the car and broke the steering and had to pit. We lost a heap of time and from then on we were wounded. This track doesn’t lend itself to fighting back from there.
“It’s not the way we wanted to start the season, but after the incident I had a good amount of time in the car, we were able to make some changes mid-race, and we set the second fastest lap of the race only four laps from home.
“It’s only the first race of the year, so we get to fight another day tomorrow.”
Tander finished in sixth, a respectable result given he came away from this same event last year with zero points.