Six-time Champion Jamie Whincup has predicted much more than a two-team battle in this year's Virgin Australia Supercars Championship after wedging himself between the current power team at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne Saturday.
Red Bull Holden Racing Team's Whincup was second between Shell V-Power Racing's Fabian Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin today after the pair's dominant first two performances in the four non-Championship races at Albert Park.
Coulthard made it three wins from three starts for the Shell V-Power Racing Team at Albert Park with a commanding performance. He led each of the 13 laps from pole position today, taking the flag 0.8s clear of Whincup who kept McLaughlin at bay after starting second.
Whincup predicts the Prodrive and Walkinshaw Racing outfits will get into the mix this season along with his and the DJR Penske team, notwithstanding his team-mate and current Champion Shane van Gisbergen was almost untouchable in the first points round in Adelaide.
The drive of the day was Van Gisbergen who made up an astonishing 11 places in half a lap having started from the second last row on the grid, finishing tenth.
"We predicted they (Coulthard and McLaughlin) would be very strong at the end of last year," Whincup said of Coulthard and McLaughlin.
"It's going to be a cracker battle; we are both going to go at it hard. We are all good friends at the end of the day like we were with FPR for many years.
"There is no doubt it's not going to be a two-horse race. Don't think the HRTs (Walkinshaw) and the FPRs (Prodrive) are going to just disappear. They are going to be right in there battling it out. The winner out of all of that is everyone who loves the sport and comes out to watch."
Whincup said he had nothing to lose this weekend having battled through the first two races.
"I was pretty soft yesterday and got gobbled up," he said. "All in all we've got a bit of work to do. We have been to this place plenty of times when we haven't been the fastest cars out there.
"It's fun. If there's a 50-50 there you have a crack. Everyone is pushing hard. It's about bragging rights. It's about standing on the top of the podium, not about anything else. You want to go out there and try to beat your mates."
Coulthard said he was not reading too much into this weekend but was happy with the progress.
"We've been to three tracks now so hopefully it's a sign of things to come but we are never going to know until we get there. We want to improve the car every time we go out. I am very happy with the progress in a short space of time," he said.
McLaughlin has an interesting day ahead in the last race tomorrow when he starts from the back of the grid leaving Coulthard as the firm favourite to take the overall honours.
"We were trying a few things there. We will make some adjustment to it and probably going to go a bit crazy. I'm looking forward to coming through the field. It's going to be a bit of fun and learning how fast the car can be."
Chaz Mostert, James Courtney, David Reynolds and Michael Caruso followed the top three home as the top seven finished as they had started.
Completing the top 10 were Will Davison, James Moffat and van Gisbergen.