Townsville Supercars: Whincup cruises to Saturday race win

Jamie Whincup dominated the opening leg of the Townsville 400, comfortably leading home teammate Shane van Gisbergen to keep his slim title hopes alive.

Townsville Supercars: Whincup cruises to Saturday race win
Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering
Craig Lowndes, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Craig Lowndes, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Fabian Coulthard, DJR Team Penske Ford
Mark Winterbottom, Tickford Racing Ford
Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Scott McLaughlin, DJR Team Penske Ford
Fabian Coulthard, DJR Team Penske Ford
Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Fabian Coulthard, DJR Team Penske Ford
Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden

It was an action-packed start to the 200-kay race for Whincup, the Red Bull Holden driver spending most of the first lap fending off David Reynolds to hold onto second, before charging past Scott McLaughlin into Turn 2 on the second lap to snatch the lead.

Once in front Whincup made light work of the chasing pack, his lead over McLaughlin out to just over three seconds within 10 laps, six seconds five laps later, and 10s on Lap 21.

Behind the runaway leader it was McLaughlin and van Gisbergen battling over second spot in the first stint, after Reynolds conceded third to the #97 Red Bull Holden on Lap 10.

The two Kiwis made their first stop together on Lap 21, van Gisbergen managing to sneak out ahead of the Penske Ford. Whincup stopped a lap later, coming back out 11s down the road.

The second stint was a good one for van Gisbergen, who managed to eek out a small buffer over McLaughlin in the 15 laps after the first stops. McLaughlin, meanwhile, spent most of the stint in his mirrors, with Craig Lowndes crowding his rear wing.

On Lap 43 both McLaughlin and Lowndes made their second stop, rejoining in that order. Van Gisbergen then pitted a lap later, coming out directly in front of McLaughlin and then needing to hold off the Penske Ford on its warmer rubber.

Whincup, however, was well clear of that excitement, making his second stop on Lap 47, re-joining with the best part of 15s up his sleeve over the scrap for second.

From there a dominant win seemed inevitable, only for the Safety Car to be called on Lap 55 to allow crews to retrieve debris from the track.

But while it did bring Whincup back to the field, there was no stopping the reigning series champ. Not even a late charge from his teammate after the restart could rattle him, Whincup winning by a comfortable 2.1s.

“I had to remind myself I could still drive," said Whincup, now a 10-time winner on the Far North Queensland circuit.

“But [engineer] David Cauchi gave me an absolute rocket today, it was a lot of fun. We were able to lead from the start and a one-two for the team, I couldn’t be happier.

“I don’t know what it is about Townsville… it’s just a great event and we dig deep and put in our best performance.”

Van Gisbergen was the big winner from the late restart, jumping the lapped Tim Blanchard quicker than McLaughlin to set up a trouble-free run home to second.

McLaughlin came home home third, meaning he dropped as few points as possible to van Gisbergen, while Lowndes had to settle for fourth.

Fabian Coulthard came home fifth, having made his second stop late and therefore had decent tyre condition after the restart. He even went close to running down Lowndes in fourth, closing in on the Triple Eight Holden before dropping back with a handful of laps to go.

Mark Winterbottom was the best of the Tickford Fords in sixth, while Reynolds slipped back to seventh after his pace tailed off mid-way through the first stint.

Cam Waters capped off a decent day for Tickford given the team's recent struggles with eighth, Will Davison finishing ninth in the Tickford-build, 23Red Racing-run Ford and Nick Percat rounding out the Top 10.

While there was little carnage during the race, there was a bizarre incident on the final lap when James Courtney and Jack Le Brocq clashed while scrapping over spots in the back end of the Top 20. Rookie Le Brocq ended up hitting the wall hard, which dumped him to 22nd.

McLaughlin continues to lead the standings with a 152-point gap over van Gisbergen, while the win helped Whincup leapfrog Lowndes, albeit still with a 412-point deficit to the leader.

Race 1 Results: 

Cla#DriverCarGapIntervalPoints
1 1 australia Jamie Whincup  Holden Commodore ZB      
2 97 new_zealand Shane van Gisbergen  Holden Commodore ZB 2.195 2.195  
3 17 new_zealand Scott McLaughlin  Ford Falcon FG X 4.933 2.738  
4 888 australia Craig Lowndes  Holden Commodore ZB 6.217 1.284  
5 12 new_zealand Fabian Coulthard  Ford Falcon FG X 6.992 0.776  
6 5 australia Mark Winterbottom  Ford Falcon FG X 12.390 5.398  
7 9 australia David Reynolds  Holden Commodore ZB 14.043 1.652  
8 6 australia Cameron Waters  Ford Falcon FG X 14.560 0.518  
9 230 australia Will Davison  Ford Falcon FG X 15.005 0.445  
10 8 australia Nick Percat  Holden Commodore ZB 16.301 1.296  
11 14 australia Tim Slade  Holden Commodore ZB 16.770 0.469  
12 7 new_zealand Andre Heimgartner  Nissan Altima 17.860 1.091  
13 55 australia Chaz Mostert  Ford Falcon FG X 19.063 1.203  
14 2 australia Scott Pye  Holden Commodore ZB 20.521 1.457  
15 15 australia Rick Kelly  Nissan Altima 23.568 3.047  
16 33 australia Garth Tander  Holden Commodore ZB 24.878 1.310  
17 34 australia James Golding  Holden Commodore ZB 29.441 4.563  
18 25 australia James Courtney  Holden Commodore ZB 29.505 0.063  
19 18 australia Lee Holdsworth  Holden Commodore ZB 30.146 0.641  
20 99 australia Anton de Pasquale  Holden Commodore ZB 31.157 1.011  
21 35 australia Todd Hazelwood  Ford Falcon FG X 33.004 1.847  
22 19 australia Jack Le Brocq  Holden Commodore ZB 1'07.354 34.350  
23 56 new_zealand Richie Stanaway  Ford Falcon FG X 1'11.858 4.505  
24 21 australia Tim Blanchard  Holden Commodore ZB 1 lap 1 lap  
25 78 switzerland Simona de Silvestro  Nissan Altima 1 lap 0.000  
  23 australia Michael Caruso  Nissan Altima  
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