Win sees Frosty threaten for Championship lead

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 16/05/2015
  • By V8 Supercars

Mark Winterbottom is primed to go the distance in a fight with Jamie Whincup and any other challengers after the second straight dominant Saturday in his Prodrive Falcon.

Winterbottom still kicks himself for starting the last season building a massive V8 Supercars Championship lead, then blowing it only to see his arch enemy Whincup take a record sixth title.

Between he and teammate Chaz Mostert, they scored a set of Prodrive Racing Australia wins, a second and a third in the two sprint races at the NP300 Nissan Navara Winton SuperSprint, mirroring their shutout in Perth two weeks ago. Winterbottomand Mostert grabbed a win each, easily holding the field in the seemingly bullet proof FG-X Falcon.

Nissan Motorsport scored dual podiums with Michael Caruso third in the opener and Rick Kelly second in the rematch as the team awaits the final piece of their puzzle - new engine upgrades that are just around the corner.

Winterbottom has a more pressing agenda. With Whincup sneaking up into third in the Championship virtually un-noticed and by his own admission out of form, 'Frosty' is in a far tighter race than he was this time last year.

"We haven't always started great, we can never put 12 months together," admitted Winterbottom.

"I was worried about Winton because we don't test here. We haven't actually been here in the FG X so I'm surprised how good it is.

"The cars are working well and they're making sense, which is nice. Qualifying is the main thing, and then we can race well from there. All in all a really good day and any win in a Supercar is awesome so I'm glad he [Mostert] got a win and then I got one this afternoon."

Double points are on the line tomorrow and with the gap to Craig Lowndes narrowed to nine, after he finished 12th and eighth, Winterbottom could well lead the Championship tomorrow.

But there are seven drivers within 112 points and the top five is separated by only 83.

"I don't know what strategy will play out but at least we've got tyres at our disposal which is nice," he said. "We've got to make sure we don't go too conservative, but this track is high degradation."

Rick Kelly sits tenth in the Championship following a great day for Nissan with the upgrades on the way.

"It's not going to be a plug and play thing, we're going to have to keep working on it. We're pretty well off in most areas a part from that one in the engine and we're continuing to work on that.

"Once that does come along, we're going to have to do a great job like everyone on the strategy and the car set up on the weekends to be able to achieve those results."

Further down the field there was chaos on the opening lap with Holden Racing Team teammates James Courtney and Garth Tander making contact, the two and stablemate Lee Holdsworth flying off track and onto the grass.

The team retired Tander's Commodore, Holdsworth failed to finish and Courtney received a drive through penalty and nursed his damaged car to 23rd.

Jason Bright and James Moffat also got together early in the race, the Nissan spinning and rejoining at the back after promising pace from his teammates.

David Reynolds put in another solid performance, home in fourth and ahead of Darrell Lea STIX's Shane van Gisbergen; while Red Bull saw both drivers in the top 10 with Jamie Whincup sixth and Craig Lowndes eighth.

Mostert continued his dominance at Winton in the opener, flying to the finish line in the first race with a 2.87sec lead over Winterbottom in the day's first race.

The young Queenslander scored both ARMOR ALL Pole Positions, topped practice yesterday, and has secured the first win of the NP300 Navara Winton SuperSprint in the 20-lap dash.

There was some push and shove down the rear of the field with Dale Wood, Tim Blanchard and Scott McLaughlin exchanging paint. Volvo's McLaughlin came off worst, nudged off the circuit and rejoining in 25th - where he started, after drawing a red flag during the day's first qualifying session.

David Reynolds and Todd Kelly meant three Prodrive cars and two Nissans completed the top five; Whincup finished ninth and Lowndes 12th; while the Walkinshaw Holdens struggled, the highest placed Courtney in 14th.

The V8 Supercars hit the track tomorrow for practice, qualifying and a 200km strategy-fueled race at the NP300 Navara Winton SuperSprint.

Television times:

Saturday Highlights: 20.30 ONE, 24.00 TEN.

Sunday - Race 12: 13.15, FOX SPORTS 506

Highlights: 16.00 TEN, 20.30 ONE.


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