Motorsport: V8 out to hang 10 with the surfers

By Eric Thompson

War of attrition likely in the last Pirtek race of the series, writes Eric Thompson

Mark Winterbottom is in the middle of a hot run at the moment and loves the Surfers Paradise course. Picture / Getty Images
Mark Winterbottom is in the middle of a hot run at the moment and loves the Surfers Paradise course. Picture / Getty Images

The last of the Pirtek Endurance races - a championship within the V8 Supercars championship - hits the streets of Surfers Paradise this weekend for round 12 of the 2013 series.

The man on fire at the moment is Ford Performance Racing driver Mark Winterbottom, who along with co-driver Steve Richards won the Bathurst 1000, and he's gunning for series leader Jamie Whincup.

Winterbottom has out-scored all other drivers across the Townsville, Queensland, Winton, Sandown and Bathurst events, slicing 202 points away from defending champion Whincup in the process. He's scored 1202 points across the last five events to Whincup's 1000.

What's even more worrying for all the championship contenders is his form in the Gold Coast 600 race. Winterbottom has finished on the podium in seven of the last eight races at Surfers Paradise, including two wins.

It's the fourth straight year the 600 race format - featuring a pair of 102-lap races with two drivers in each car - has been held. This year there is a slight change though; having an international co-driver is no longer compulsory for each team.

There are, however, two overseas drivers competing. IndyCar driver Ryan Briscoe (with Russell Ingall) is making his fourth straight appearance this year in a V8 Supercar at the event and David Brabham is sharing the Tim Slade ride.

Whincup holds a 114-point championship lead over teammate Craig Lowndes heading into the Armor All Gold Coast 600 and will rack up his 300th V8 Supercars race start this weekend. If you think Winterbottom's record on the street course is pretty good, take a look at the Red Bull Racing Australia driver's - three wins from the last five races. The four-time champion has taken the last four pole positions in a row and been the top point-scorer for the last two events.

Whincup and co-driver Paul Dumbrell lead the race for the inaugural Pirtek Enduro Cup, which will be awarded for the first time to the duo that scores the most points across the Wilson Security Sandown 500, Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 and Armor All Gold Coast 600.

Whincup and Dumbrell hold a 42-point lead over Red Bull teammates Lowndes and Warren Luff while Winterbottom and Richards sit third, 72 points behind the leaders.

There are 12 drivers in this year's field making their first appearance in a V8 on the streets of Surfers Paradise. Of them, only Maro Engel, Scott McLaughlin, Alex Premat and Matt Halliday are yet to race in any category at the event. Jonny Reid, David Russell and Daniel Gaunt all have Porsche Carrera Cup experience, while Nick Percat, Chaz Mostert, Ash Walsh and Scott Pye have Formula Ford experience on their resume from the event.

Lowndes will notch up an important milestone on the Gold Coast, making his 220th Australian Touring Car Championship/V8 Supercars Championship start.

That ties the three-time champion with Mark Skaife for third on the all-time list behind Russell Ingall (230) and John Bowe (225).

Kiwi Craig Baird will be aiming for a record fifth Porsche Carrera Cup title on the Gold Coast in addition to duties in the #4 IRWIN Erebus entry co-driving with Lee Holdsworth.

James Courtney and Greg Murphy will have the bit well and truly between their teeth, as after Murphy's uncharacteristic crash at Bathurst, Courtney has slipped from sixth to ninth. Best of the Kiwis is Fabian Coulthard in fifth and, after finishing Bathurst, he and Luke Youlden will be keen to grab another bundle of points.

The track and race are hard on cars and, since the first event in 2002, no Gold Coast V8 Supercar race, whether part of the championship or not, has ever seen a full field start and finish. And some of the new cars have been hit with mechanical gremlins.

The race tomorrow will not only be a test of the driver skills but possibly a war of attrition as well.

Pirtek Endurance Cup
1. Whincup/Dumbrell - 576
2. Lowndes/Luff - 534
3. Winterbottom/Richards - 504
4. Davison/Owen - 450
5. Holdsworth/Baird - 366
6. McLaughlin/Perkins - 360

2013 V8 Supercars Championship

1. Jamie Whincup - 2423
2. Craig Lowndes - 2309
3. Mark Winterbottom - 2281
4. Will Davison - 2242
5. Fabian Coulthard - 2015
6. Jason Bright - 1937
7. Garth Tander - 1920
8. Shane Van Gisbergen - 1914

- NZ Herald

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