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Dec 06, 2013 - 07:01 AM
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Whincup Draws First Blood In NRMA Motoring & Services 500
Posted by: newsla on Dec 06, 2013 - 06:54 AM
Sports Cars
Whincup Draws First Blood In NRMA Motoring & Services 500


Jamie Whincup has fired the first shot in the final battle for the 2014 V8 Supercars Championship, sitting atop the time sheets after the completion of Friday practice at the Sydney NRMA Motoring & Service 500.

 

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The Red Bull Racing Australia Holden Commodore VF driver led rookie Scott McLaughlin (GRM Commodore) by just over one tenth of second with Ford factory ace Mark Winterbottom, who is fighting Whincup and his team-mate Craig Lowndes for the Championship, 0.3 sec off the pace in his Pepsi Max Falcon FG II.

Lowndes finished the day seventh fastest, more than half-a-second behind Whincup.

A maximum 300 points is up for grabs in two 250km mini-marathons around the concrete-lined Sydney Olympic Park street circuit this weekend. Whincup leads Lowndes by 20 points and Winterbottom by 123.

Will Davison in the second Pepsi Max Falcon is a theoretical shot at the title 224 points behind Whincup. He was sixth fastest today.

If Whincup wins he joins Mark Skaife, Dick Johnson and the late Ian 'Pete' Geoghegan with a record-equalling fifth Championship. If Lowndes wins it will be his fourth but first since 1999. It would the first title for either Winterbottom or Davison.

Whincup set his fastest time on brand new green tyres in the closing moments of the day's fourth and final 30 minute session, showing exceptional speed in the 3.42km circuit's final series of 90 degree turns.

"We chipped away at the car to improve it and we did a reasonably good job," Whincup said. "I didn't have the tyres up to temp at the start of the lap but certainly came home strong.

"Now I just have to put my head down and concentrate on qualifying and make sure I start as far up the grid as I can."

Whincup is aware he has a lamentable record at Sydney Olympic Park, having never set pole or finished in the top three - let alone won - a race in the event's four year history.

"There has been no common trend about why I haven't finished on the podium here, it's been a little bit of everything," he said. "We have had some poor strategy, we have had some pretty poor driving one year, we have had a little bit of bad luck.

"But we have had pace so I am not too concerned, but I am certainly aware that Lowndsey is the most successful bloke around here and he will be incredibly hard to beat."

Winterbottom, who admitted struggling for much of the day until getting on green tyres said he had a simple philosophy for Saturday's twilight race, which starts at 5.10pm AEST.

"I have just got to try and win," he said. "It's a pretty tough place to try and finish and you look back to 2010 and about 15 cars ended up in the wall. So anything can happen."

McLaughlin, who is battling Ford factory driver David Reynolds and sidelined Holden Racing Team ace James Courtney for ninth place in the Championship, said he wouldn't be giving the Championship contenders any leeway if embroiled with them in the race.

"I'm a race driver, I want to win," he said.

Nick Percat, who is subbing for Courtney and making his V8 Supercars debut in a solo driver race, was 13th fastest today.

V8 Supercars legend Russell Ingall, who bows out of full-time V8 Supercars racing after this event, was 24th fastest in his Supercheap Autos Holden Commodore.

Erebus Motorsport's Lee Holdsworth, a pole qualifier and race winner at Sydney Olympic Park previously, had a nightmare day, crashing in practice session two and then being sidelined by a failed starter motor after his Irwin Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG was rebuilt and returned to the track for session four.


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