Motorsport: Whincup races to an early lead

Jamie Whincup leads the Clipsal500 at Adelaide yesterday. Photo / Getty Images
Jamie Whincup leads the Clipsal500 at Adelaide yesterday. Photo / Getty Images

Jamie Whincup was back yesterday where he's used to being - on top of the standings.

Whincup breezed to victory in race one of the Clipsall 500 around the Adelaide street circuit and pushed James Courtney all the way to the chequered flag in the final stages of the second 125km race.

Just 0.63s separated the two Holden drivers, meaning the pair shared the opening races of the V8 Supercars season to claim an early lead in the overall standings.

Reigning series champion Mark Winterbottom was unable to make an impact, finishing eighth and 11th, but New Zealand drivers Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen made encouraging starts to their new campaigns.

McLaughlin picked up two fourth-placed finishes to be third on the standings and van Gisbergen, driving for the first time for Red Bull Racing, was third and fifth.

On a day where the temperature soared past 38 degrees, the racing was hotter still.

With five laps to go of the second race, Courtney took damage after cutting the barrier at turn one too fine, providing a most dramatic ending.

A last-lap wobble around the fastest turn at the circuit sent Courtney sideways but he held on in tremendous style, celebrating with his 'Frank the Tank' dance on top of the car.

"It was an amazing battle, shows why he's such a champion," Courtney said of Whincup. "I've been wheel-to-wheel with him all day which has been fantastic. It definitely was a fight at the end there. Old mate probably had a bit of a better car than we did we had to work hard to keep him behind us."

The first race lacked quite as much excitement, with Whincup leaping from the grid to overtake surprise pole-winner Scott Pye. Courtney shadowed him home but never mounted a serious challenge to his lead as Pye managed just 12th after a pit-lane bungle cost him several places.

Holden has won every race at the Clipsal 500 since the changeover to car of the future in 2013, with Holden drivers having won 12 of the last 13 Clipsal races since 2010.

- AAP

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