Motorsport: Whincup fends off pack to boost lead

Jamie Whincup. Photo / Getty Images
Jamie Whincup. Photo / Getty Images

Holden's Jamie Whincup spent the weekend extending both his championship lead and his arm - giving the chasing V8 Supercar pack the big "don't argue".

Whincup entered the three-race Perth weekend after a nightmare round in New Zealand, and with seven drivers snapping at the heels of his championship lead.

Not any more.

Only Team Vodafone teammate Craig Lowndes remains within 150 points - a standard race victory - of the two-time champion after Whincup won two of the three weekend races.

Whincup took pole position in all three races and, bar a minor blip in which Holden's Jason Bright beat him in race two, dominated the weekend.

A third championship is now well within sight for Whincup who remains the only multiple race winner this season - winning four of the nine decided.

Once more Whincup showed his steely ability to immediately bounce back from a setback, and paid tribute to his team's ability to put behind them a poor weekend in Hamilton.

"We got complacent (in New Zealand) and that's embarrassing," Whincup told AAP.

"Every now and then you need a wake-up call.

"That's what every athlete wants to do - to recognise your weaknesses and be able to improve on them, and it's not just me - it's the whole team doing that."

Interesting, too, is the emergence of Lowndes as perhaps Whincup's main championship challenger.

Lowndes trails Whincup by 142 points, and showed plenty of glimpses of speed at Barbagallo Raceway.

Not since 2006 - the year he controversially finished runner-up to Rick Kelly - has Lowndes genuinely been in title contention.

"For the past two or three years I've never had a good strong first half of the season - I've always had a very strong back half," he said.

"It's still a long year to go, but you've got to be consistent, you've got to stay in front, you've got to stay out of trouble."

Reigning champion James Courtney remains outside the overall top 10 after another difficult weekend.

Race two was marred by a horrifying start-line crash with Karl Reindler's Holden exploding in flames.

West Australian Reindler was taken to hospital with superficial burns to his hands and face after he stalled at the start of Sunday's opener and was hit at high speed by Steve Owen's Commodore.

Both he and Owen, who complained of abdominal soreness, were taken to hospital for observation.

The next round of the championship is at Winton in north-eastern Victoria from May 20 to 22.

- AAP

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