V8 Supercars: Protagonists warming up for scrap

By Eric Thompson

Perth hosts round three of Winterbottom, Whincup stoush

Jamie Whincup's rivalry with Mark Winterbottom started during the round in Pukekohe. Picture / Getty Images
Jamie Whincup's rivalry with Mark Winterbottom started during the round in Pukekohe. Picture / Getty Images

After a bit of breathing space on their return to Pukekohe Raceway, the V8 Supercars have landed in Western Australia for the Chill Perth 360, round four of the championship.

The introduction of the Car Of The Future in 2013 has blown the series wide open, and despite fans having already watched nine races (not including the non-point scoring round at the Australian Grand Prix) there's no clear indicator as to whose championship it might be.

So far this season there have been seven different winners - more than in the entire 2012 season - and there's a bit of biff going on. There might be two new manufacturers in the series, Nissan and AMG Mercedes, but the good old Ford/Holden ding-dong is alive and well.

The two protagonists involved are Red Bull Racing Australia's Jamie Whincup and Ford Performance Racing's Mark Winterbottom.

The rivalry really raised its head at the ITM400 round in Auckland when the pair had a number of coming togethers through the new set of corners down the back straight. Whincup was pretty dark with the Ford driver after he tried to T-bone him to get through turn five - messing up any chance Winterbottom had of winning.

"Mark has been getting angry, hasn't he?" says Whincup.

"But it's all good fun, I reckon, and it's good for the sport.

"Everyone's saying it's this big rivalry, but it's not quite like that. He did a dumb move in one of the races in New Zealand and we can't have people getting around doing that.

"So of course, you've got to retaliate in the next one and, as I said in my report, it's not my style but it's what has to be done sometimes, unfortunately."

The normally placid Whincup wasn't as reflective at the post-race press conference, suggesting if Winterbottom wanted to play hard ball he'd play it back.

It's odds-on the combat will continue at Barbagallo circuit with Winterbottom having the slight advantage in Perth.

Last year FPR had the wood over Triple Eight winning all three races, with Winterbottom bagging the first race on Saturday and teammate Will Davison winning the two races on Sunday.

Winterbottom has won one more race at Barbagallo than Whincup over the years the event has been in WA, leading the tally four to three.

Whincup said if there was going to be round three in their stoush, it would be up to Winterbottom to start it. "If he wants to go toe-to-toe, I'm happy to. I'll do that any day of the week without absolutely any dramas," said the defending series champion.

The head-to-head battle between the two might be a distraction and open the door for Davison to extend his lead at the top of the points table over Whincup and Craig Lowndes.

All three New Zealand drivers are inside the top 10 with Fabian Coulthard leading the Kiwi charge in fifth, followed by Shane van Gisbergen in seventh and rookie Scott McLaughlin in 10th.

All three have notched up a win so far in the championship with Coulthard the man on fire and looking to be a real contender to fight for the championship all season.

He's in a fast car with a good team behind him and has been consistently qualifying well at the pointy end of the field.

With two wins under his belt, and in a team that has got the new car well and truly sorted, Coulthard knows now is his chance to make a move and consolidate his place in the top five in the championship.

McLaughlin, find of the series so far, has proved he deserves his place at the top table of V8 racing and became the youngest winner of a main-game race when he led the field home in race one at Pukekohe.

Van Gisbergen has settled nicely into the Tekno Autosport outfit and has notched up a win.

The Nissans and the AMG Mercedes are rolling out new engine packages so could be a threat to the midfield players. The cars are on soft Dunlops this weekend, which will make tyre management crucial.

The tough and tight 2.42km circuit is notorious for severe tyre degradation - something all the teams will be keeping a close eye on.

V8 Supercars points

1. Will Davison697

2. Jamie Whincup666

3. Craig Lowndes591

4. Garth Tander553

5. Fabian Coulthard552

6. Jason Bright539

7. Shane van Gisbergen532

- NZ Herald

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