Chasing eight: Sandown signals Whincup's return to form

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 22/03/2021
  • By James Pavey

Jamie Whincup was "over the moon" with a return to the podium at the Penrite Sandown SuperSprint as he moved into second in the championship.

Whincup will need to bring out his best to defeat Red Bull Ampol Racing teammate Shane van Gisbergen for the 2021 title.

Van Gisbergen continued his unbeaten run in 2021 with a Sandown sweep of all three races.

However, the gap closed between the two drivers after van Gisbergen left Whincup in his wake at the season-opening Repco Mt Panorama 500.

Van Gisbergen again showed his prowess in Race 3 with an extraordinary run from 17th on the grid, but a key to his performance was Whincup’s own run.

WATCH: TITLE RIVALS THROWN DOWN ON PENULTIMATE LAP

The seven-time champion loomed large in the mirrors of leader Chaz Mostert, with Cameron Waters also in the fight.

A bottleneck at Turn 2 allowed van Gisbergen through into P2, which became the lead once he cleared Waters.

For Whincup, who went on the clinch a 223rd career podium, the Saturday race was an intense spectacle, and one the retiring driver thoroughly enjoyed.

"It was quite an eventful race from where I was sitting, and there was plenty going on," he said after the race.

"Obviously, we’re over the moon with third, and congratulations to SVG who grabbed the chequered flag and bagged a one-three for the team, so it was a great result overall.

"We pushed hard all day and passed a few cars, but then lost one off the start and couldn’t quite get to the front, and obviously SVG was fast on green tyres towards the end."

Whincup scored front row starts alongside van Gisbergen in the wet on Sunday, and added podium No. 224 in Race 4.

He dropped to fourth in the finale, with Brodie Kostecki and David Reynolds beating him to the podium.

Regardless, scoring the second most points for the weekend, and rising to second overall behind van Gisbergen, proved Whincup is more than likely to try and clinch an unprecedented eighth drivers’ championship in 2021.

"It was a hard day with obviously appalling conditions with so much sitting water," he said on Sunday.

"The first race started off wet and I had a good battle with SVG into turn one and then just made a few little errors and lost a few spots, but happy to capitalise on P3.

"The car was really fast in the dry conditions, so I was hoping Race 5 was going to be dry but unfortunately the heavens fell out of the skies just before the race and it was quite wet and quite tricky conditions with the car moving around down the straights.

"We tried to make a tune forward with the set-up for the wet but unfortunately it wasn’t as good, and the best result we could get was P4.

"We managed to claim second for the weekend overall which we’ll take, but we’ll go back to the workshop and learn from the weekend, look through all the data and keep building this new relationship with my engineer Wes [McDougall]."

Whincup heads to next month’s Beaurepaires Tasmania SuperSprint 150 points adrift of van Gisbergen in the standings.

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