One win becomes two for Jamie Whincup on Sunday afternoon in the Top End.
Victory in the final sprint also gives Whincup the Darwin Triple Crown prize and completes a massive comeback for the GOAT in Supercars.
Whincup again shows his class, and the strength of the Red Bull Holden Racing Team, as he recovers from a nasty prang in opening practice and a Race 1 penalty to win the decider and the weekend.
The results all pivot on a slick early pitstop that gives him track advantage over title leader Scott McLaughlin, as well as the win that trumps Fabian Coulthard as they finish on equal points for the Triple Crown weekend.
“We just kept chipping away at the car all weekend. After the penalty yesterday I thought we were done and dusted,” says Whincup.
“All in all, we finished the weekend with a win and couldn’t be happier.”
Even so, he is still 101 points behind McLaughlin in the championship chase as crews face a repeat dose in Darwin before the follow-up double-header in Townsville, as DJR Team Penske still leads The Bulls in the Teams’ Championship.
Coulthard has reason to be unhappy after he is impeded in the pits, costing him position and points, although there is no penalty during the race.
“Blind Freddy could see I was impeded,” he says.
“(But) Overall, to be equal on points has been a good weekend. We’ll re-group and come back again.”
The biggest loser from the final sprint is Race 1 winner Anton de Pasquale, who drops completely from Triple Crown contention as he trails home in 23rd place with tattered tyres.
Shane van Gisbergen also has trouble with tyres towards the end of Race 3 but survives a trip onto the grass at Turn 1 to come home third.
“It’s good to be on the podium again. My car started off terrible. It felt like we were a day behind,” SvG says.
The last race at Darwin turns into a non-event once Whincup jumps McLaughlin, as the decision by Supercars to mix the tyre compounds – with a combination of soft and hard-compound Dunlop rubber – turns into an all-soft contest with most runners suffering with some sort of tyre-management drama.
“Soft tyres have lived longer than we thought they were going to,” says Mark Skaife from the commentary box.
There is processional racing, with only a couple of serious contests, although van Gisbergen’s early romp with Chaz Mostert and Nick Percat puts some drama into the opening laps.
Towards the finish, as Coulthard cannot find a way to seriously threaten Mostert for fourth, it’s Mark Winterbottom who livens the track with a late stop, fresher tyres and a strong seventh place.
Even though his pass for the lead happens with a pitstop, and the Formula One-style ‘undercut’ that gives him pace on hotter tyres, Whincup is happy.
“Gee that was a great battle,” he says, and McLaughlin agrees.
“It’s bloody tough racing the GOAT. He doesn’t make many mistakes,” he says.
“He wasn’t putting a foot wrong and I was trying not to, either. A good solid second place.”
RACE 15 – 38 laps
|3||Shane van Gisbergen|
|8||Jack Le Brocq|
Series points – Drivers
|4||Shane van Gisbergen||753|
Series points – Teams
|1||Shell V-Power Racing Team||1706|
|2||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||1676|
|3||Tickford Racing (5 & 44)||1374|
|5||Tickford Racing (6 & 55)||1299|
|6||WAU Racing Pty Ltd||1274|
|7||Brad Jones Racing (8 & 14)||1230|
|10||Brad Jones Racing (3 & 4)||762|
|11||Matt Stone Racing||709|