Race 28 2023 Repco Supercars Championship - Vailo 500 For the second year succession, the…
Reigning Virgin Australia Supercars champion Jamie Whincup returned to the winner’s circle with a decisive win at Townsville. A recent test session for the Triple 8 Racing team paid dividends, with Shane vanGisbergen completing a Red Bull 1-2, with Craig Lowndes just off the podium in 4th, the Shell V-Power Ford of championship leader Scott McLaughlin finished 3rd. (Photos: Darin Mandy)
McLaughlin led the field away from pole position with the Erebus Commodore of David Reynolds in hot pursuit across the opening lap. Jamie Whincup followed and was soon demoting Reynolds to 3rd. He was quickly onto the tail of McLaughlin and moved into the lead on the second lap. James Courtney and Garth Tander made contact on the entry to turn 2, with Courtney the loser as he spun to the back of the field. The Walkinshaw Andretti United driver was fortunate to avoid further damage as the rest of the field filed past the stranded car.
Whincup then opened a gap which grew steadily as the teams prepared for the first of a two stop strategy. The Red Bull managed to maintain a gap of around 10 seconds for most of the race after the pit stop cycles had finished. Shane vanGisbergen took an effective 2nd place from Scott McLaughlin with a quicker first pit stop and managed to pull away from the Ford driver as Craig Lowndes looked to complete a Triple 8 trifecta at the front of the field.
A full course caution for debris on the track led to a Safety Car intervention late in the race. Whincup’s 10 second lead was reduced to zero with barely more than a handful of laps left to run. He soon drew away from the pack with the BJR Commodore of Tim Blanchard between Whincup and the rest at the re-start, while Mark Winterbottom came under attack from David Reynolds in the run towards turn 2. Winterbottom was enjoying his most competitive outing in the Bottle-O Falcon for some time and sat comfortably inside the top 10.
Whincup skipped away as vanGisbergen, McLaughlin and Lowndes staged a dogfight for the minor places. Jack Le Brocq’s race ended dramatically with a heavy impact into the concrete wall on the run to turn 3. He had looked for a run up the inside of James Courtney but made contact with the rear quarter of the Boost Mobile Commodore which pitched the car back across the track and into the outside wall. The Tekno Commodore just glanced the GRM entry of James Golding before contact with the wall.
Jamie Whincup went on to win for the 10th time in Townsville from 20 race starts by a little more than 2 seconds to Shane vanGisbergen. with Scott McLaughlin a similar distance behind. Craig Lowndes, Fabian Coulthard, Mark Winterbottom, David Reynolds, Cameron Waters, Will Davison and Nick Percat rounded out the top 10.
“I had to remind myself I could still drive,” Jamie Winchup quipped post race. “But 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.”
Shane vanGisbergen was also happy with a strong race and podium finish. “I really enjoyed that race, a great battle with Scotty, and stoked for a one-two,” van Gisbergen said. “Jamie is bloody awesome here, so we need to make our car a little better and I need to be a bit better tomorrow and we’ll take him on.”
Scott McLaughlin was satisfied with his effort, but was left bemused by the difference between the winning Red Bull Commodore and his Shell V-Power Ford.“Jamie was fast from the get-go,” McLaughlin admitted. “I got a good start and thought ‘this is good’, but he just came blistering past. I had nothing for him to be honest, we’ve got a lot of head-scratching to do.”
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