Motorsport: Whincup looks cert No4

By Eric Thompson

Whincup never lets the pressure drop on the track but is not averse to some good-natured advice. Photo / EDGE photographics
Whincup never lets the pressure drop on the track but is not averse to some good-natured advice. Photo / EDGE photographics

There'll need to be a major force majeure to prevent Jamie Whincup collecting his fourth V8 Supercars title in Sydney in a week's time.

The Triple Eight driver put on a dominant display at Winton over the weekend and now leads the championship by 317 points with only 300 on offer.

FPR driver Mark Winterbottom did his best to stay in touch with Whincup but just couldn't eat into the Holden driver's already considerable lead heading into the penultimate race.

Saturday witnessed Whincup working hard from the time the lights went out to come home ahead of his teammate Craig Lowndes. Lee Holdsworth claimed third place after passing a spluttering Winterbottom, who had run out of fuel on the line.

"It was a tough race strategy-wise - everyone was going everywhere at the start," said Whincup.

"Halfway through the race I asked for an update as to what was going on because I had no idea, I just had my head down and was pushing hard."

Fans of the V8s, and in particular Whincup, were treated to a master class by the champion elect after he was pinged with a drive-through penalty for lighting his tyres up during a pit stop.

Whincup re-entered the race in 22nd place and proceeded to monster through the field to pass the battling SBR duo of Shane van Gisbergen and Tim Slade to finish on the podium behind Winterbottom and Lowndes.

"We did it the hard way," said Whincup. "That spinning in the pits, it's a bit of a wanker rule but at the end of the day I broke the rules and deserved the penalty.

"Mathematically everything is looking pretty good but with the potential to lose points in Sydney I'm going to keep going hard right up until the last lap of the last race," said Whincup.

The Ford driver really needed to finish in front of Whincup, and by a fair margin, in both races to take the championship battle to the streets of Homebush.

Running out of fuel during Saturday's race put paid to that and with Lowndes wining on Sunday, Whincup then had both hands firmly grasping the trophy.

"We gave it all today and did as much as we could but in the end it wasn't quite enough so we now have to finish the year off strong and focus everything on next year," said Winterbottom.

"Late in the race I had a strange feeling through the wheel so I am glad we finished as I don't know what it was. Congratulations to Jamie, with a drive like he had today he deserved to take the title here, though we still have a lot to play for as the runner-up position is still up for grabs."

Winterbottom is right to be wary of his second place in the championship as Lowndes is within striking distance just 63 points behind the Ford driver.

Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen didn't arrive at Winton overly confident of getting on the podium and had his eye on keeping teammate Tim Slade away from his fifth position in the championship.

The worst came true on Saturday when he scored a DNF while Slade finished sixth to close the points gap.

Van Gisbergen put the pedal to the metal and battled Slade all race long on Sunday to cross the line fourth ahead of his team-mate and stay in fifth 22 points ahead of Slade.

"We just got caught up on some stuff going on in first part of the race which wasn't the way I wanted to finish Saturday's race,that's for sure," said van Gisbergen.

- NZ Herald

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