Saturday, 16 June 2012
This year's thrilling V8 Supercar title battle took another twist in Darwin on Saturday as defending champion Jamie Whincup ended the seven-race winning streak of his Ford rivals.
Whincup notched his third win of the season in the 120km race at Hidden Valley and regained the championship lead from Ford's Will Davison in the process.
It's the first time since Tasmania in April that a driver other than Davison or teammate Mark Winterbottom has stood on the top step of the podium, giving Whincup a narrow two-point advantage over Davison.
"Today was a good step forward without doubt," Whincup said.
"We're still going to have to keep pushing hard right to the end of the year but very encouraged by what we saw here today.
"Now we'll keep our head down and see if we can keep maintaining the next few rounds."
Davison, who started the race from pole position and had a 10-point lead going into the event, finished second to stay in touch with the Holden ace, while Winterbottom - a mere 40 points adrift of the top - was third to maintain Ford Performance Racing's strong start to the year.
Whincup's veteran teammate, Craig Lowndes, overcame a lowly 20th-place start and being turned around in the race's early stages to finish fourth and ensure he stays within striking distance of the top three.
Whincup himself battled after a sluggish start, losing two places on the opening lap before navigating his way to the lead midway through the 42-lap race and streaking away from his rivals.
Davison, the 2009 runner-up to Whincup, said given his rival's pace on the day, it was important to finish second and not give up too much ground in the title race.
"The points battle is super close at the moment and it can go 150 points either way in a single race so we've got to make sure we keep these results up when we don't quite get the car right," he said.
"We didn't quite have the longevity of Jamie and those guys so full credit to them.
"Another clean race, good race, take the points and work hard with the guys tonight."
The Darwin event wraps up on Sunday with qualifying before a 200km race from 2.40pm (3.10 AEST).