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Dec 07, 2013 - 06:12 PM
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Whincup Eyes The Prize And Extends Championship Lead
Posted by: newsla on Dec 07, 2013 - 06:09 PM
Sports Cars
Whincup Eyes The Prize And Extends Championship Lead

Jamie Whincup has one race to become the greatest ever Australian touring car driver in a group of just four. But team-mate Craig Lowndes is still stalking, just.


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Whincup used all of his ruthless guile and precision to become the only one of the top Championship three to not have an issue in the penultimate race of the year, the Sydney Motoring & Services 500 at the intimidating Olympic Park circuit.

Lowndes struggled against problems to fade a further 110 points astray, he started the weekend 20 back, while Pepsi Max Crew's Mark Winterbottom's challenge is now over.

On the surface it would appear Whincup is near unbeatable but he still needs to finish in position 22 or better to be absolutely certain tomorrow.

"I wouldn't say comfort," said Whincup.

"It's obviously better than 20 points but it's still well and truly wide open. It's so easy to have a DNF around this place. Although I would like to celebrate the win we've got to keep our heads down and not throw it away with one day to go."

It was Whincup's first win at Olympic Park and could not have been better timed. His previous four titles have largely come with comfortable margins into the last event but this time he was under more pressure than any of them.

"It's definitely nice. I've been trying hard here for four years and never been able to crack it. It's a huge relief to finally get a way here at Olympic Park. There was plenty going on in the mirrors, I'm looking forward to the replay. I saw some good carnage which was good."

The only thing that seemed to trouble Whincup and the entire field was the setting sun in the first twilight race for the sport, with many more to come in future years.

"I'm a massive supporter of the twilight racing and into the night, I just wish it was a month earlier because the sun was setting right into our eyes," he said. "It's pretty gnarly heading up into turn two but it was a pretty straight forward race for me which is exactly what I needed."

He established his dominance from the start.

Whincup dive-bombed Winterbottom on the first corner after getting jumped off the line in a sign the Champion was not going to leave anything on the track.

It allowed Jonathon Webb to sneak past both of them leaving Whincup slotting into second, Will Davison third and Winterbottom fourth, lucky to stay out of trouble in the early laps.

Winterbottom and Lowndes chose to pit early and when, on lap 11, Scott McLaughlin stopped dead on the track forcing a safety car the two were back in third and fourth. The gamble from both paid huge dividends; bringing both well back into the contest.

But the joy was short-lived for both when an ambitious move up the inside by Lowndes resulted in contact at the tight railway station corner. Lowndes pushed up the inside, got the pass but turning into the very next corner was hit from behind by Winterbottom.

Both continued but Winterbottom had extreme damage to the rear of the car, the result of his FPR team-mate David Reynolds nailing him from behind in the tangle with Lowndes.

The damage ended up getting Winterbottom whose day finished on lap 62 of 74 when he ran into Tony D'Alberto who crashed into the fence.

The trailing two battled for the rest of the race following that as Whincup nursed a broken car and Lowndes set about just staying in the top ten. Winterbottom was also placed under investigation following the incident, while Lowndes had a problem with his fuel intake.

The fuel issue meant Lowndes had to pit for a third time, putting him even further back in the Championship picture as Winterbottom faded out of contention.

All the while Whincup zoned out and turned in lap after lap of near perfection. His concentration and focus was intense as they began racing into sunset, their eyes temporarily blinded at various parts of the circuit.

It was a great day for Nissan, with three of the four Altimas making the top 10. The fourth, James Moffat, had a tougher race, handed a pit lane penalty after contact with Scott Pye.

Others to note include Garth Tander in 14th after Holden Racing Team battled to repair the car after an accident in qualifying, Nick Percat standing in for James Courtney in 18, Coulthard 19th after that late incident, and McLaughlin unable to finish with gearbox issues.

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