Van Gisbergen season finale win, Whincup is champion

Jamie Whincup clinches 5th title finishing third, while Shane Van Gisbergen rules the final race.

Van Gisbergen season finale win, Whincup is champion

Jamie Whincup has won his fifth V8 Supercar Championship, joining the greats Ian Geoghegan, Dick Johnson and Mark Skaife. Whincup becomes the youngest person to win this title a fifth time; he’s only 30, plenty of time to win a lot more or maybe try something else.

Shane Van Gisbergen took an emphatic pole postion, backing up his second place from yesterday, for the final race in this year’s Australian V8 Supercar Championship. Jason Bright was second and Jamie Whincup third. All three were Holden-mounted. Mark Winterbottom and Will Davison were next, both in Fords.

The 250 km race on the street circuit around the Sydney Olympic Stadium saw lanky Kiwi Van Gisbergen leap to an immediate lead from Bright. Really, Van Gisbergen was the class of the field today. He was fast, aggressive and made the most of any gap – or half a gap at times.

Differing pit strategies had the crowd guessing, but it seemed odd at the time that Shane Van Gisbergen didn’t pit with the bulk of the cars when there was an opportunity behind the Safety Car. Instead, he stopped several laps later, dropping only to second (behind Bright) and was able to attack with fresh rubber.

When, four laps later a crash between Tim Blanchard and Dean Fiore brought out the Safety Car, Van Gisbergen was right behind Bright at the restart.

No doubt Jamie Whincup gave his engineer, Mark Dutton, a few grey hairs when, with about 10 laps to go and the Championship all but his, he decided to contest second place with Jason Bright.

Van Gisbergen had made a great charge following the lap 57 restart. Bright led from Van Gisbergen, Dave Reynolds, Whincup, Mark Winterbottom and Craig Lowndes.

But Van Gisbergen’s tyres were very fresh and he made full use of them, charging to the lead over the next few laps. His pass on Bright kept the latter slow out of the complex of corners near the railway station, allowing Whincup to have a lunge. Reynolds tried to follow Whincup through but Bright was having none of it.

Dutton meanwhile was probably near despair, seeing the potential fifth title go begging. Jamie Whincup doesn’t play it safe; he raced hard all day, despite Lowndes being a few places behind him in the race and enough points behind to not be a threat if Whincup just finished well. Although, Whincup later claimed Dutton told him ‘you know what you’re doing.’

Whincup kept up the attack on Bright right to the line, as Van Gisbergen took off up the road. David Reynolds was next, the Craig Lowndes. Lowndes thereby cemented second in the Championship. Whincup later quipped that, “We’ve got a much better relationship than Vettel and Webber.”

A late pass on his older brother Alex gave Will Davison third in the Championship, as he leaves Ford for Erebus Racing’s AMGs next year. Also moving on is Russell Ingall, the veteran retiring from full-time driving.

At the post-race press conference Whincup admitted that “I was really enjoying the race with Dave Reynolds and Jason [Bright]. Obviously I might have been taking a bit of a risk, but we’re here to race. People paid money to come and see a race, not a procession. It’s more satisfying knowing you’re giving your all than playing safe.”

Next stop for Whincup is the postponed Race Of Champions. “I’ve got a new race suit and I’ve packed some Vegemite. A few of the boys are coming with me and we’ll have a bit of a holiday afterwards, hopefully there won’t be any riots going on.”

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