Mark Winterbottom has raced into contention for the V8 Supercars Championship winning Race 26 at the Winton 360 today, while points leader Jamie Whincup was eliminated from contention in a first lap collision.
Whincup was the innocent victim when GRM Fujitsu Holden Commodore VF driver Alex Premat skidded across the infield and back into the pack. Russell Ingall’s Supercheap Auto Commodore was out on the spot, while Whincup pitted four times before retiring his Red Bull Racing Australia Commodore.
Winterbottom, who had never won at Winton, launched into the lead at the start in his FPR Pepsi Max Ford Falcon from third on the grid as ARMOR ALL Pole Position qualifier Jason Bright and surprise second fastest Tony D’Alberto hesitated.
He established an early gap but several times during the 34-lap sprint race Bright closed on to his rear bumper but could never get close enough to make a lunge in his BOC Commodore.
Factory Holden driver James Courtney finished third after passing D'Alberto in his Team HIFLEX Commodore, who held off Shane van Gisbergen (VIP Petfoods Commodore) and David Reynolds (The Bottle-O Falcon) to claim fourth.
With his teammate Will Davison finishing seventh, Winterbottom jumped into third in the Championship only 62 points behind Whincup. Craig Lowndes is 55 points behind his teammate Whincup after managing only 12th place. Davison is 79 points off the pace and Bright is fifth, 154 points off the lead.
Yesterday's race winner James Moffat qualified a poor 25th, but drove a brilliant race through the field to 11th.
The final race of the Winton 360 begins at 4.15pm AEST, the final sprint race before the PIRTEK Enduro Cup.