Jamie Whincup survived carnage and chaos to seal his third V8 Supercar Championship at the Sydney Telstra 500 in an incident-packed 250km second race won by Orrcon Steel FPR's Mark Winterbottom.
In a gripping final race of the year on the Sydney Olympic Park street circuit, TeamVodafone team-mate and Championship rival Craig Lowndes stormed through to second place, but it wasn’t enough to bridge the gap as Whincup finished in eighth to take the title by just 35 points.
Whincup joins the late Peter Brock and Craig Lowndes as a three-time champion on the honour roll and becomes only the second driver in history to win a championship with both Ford and Holden.
“It’s been such a long year and a long week to be honest. (This) probably won’t sink in until the week later,” said Whincup.
“It was great to see my dad there at end of the race, and obviously the whole team- we’ve gone through thick and thin.”
“I’ve never driven so soft before just trying to get clean air and stay out of the carnage! To finally get there is an unbelievable feeling.”
With rain falling right up to within an hour of the race start, all the cars bar the fifth-placed The Bottle-O Racing Team FPR Falcon of Paul Dumbrell, lined up on the grid with wet tyres. However, with more than half the field diving in for slicks at the end of the formation lap, just a handful of cars, including front row starters, double pole-sitter Trading Post FPR's Will Davison and Whincup, to take the start proper.
Dumbrell showed that slicks were the right move as conditions improved, and before a dozen laps had been run, the leaders all pitted. Having to stack behind his team-mate, Whincup lost time allowing Wilson Security Racing/Team McGrath's Tony D'Alberto, Pepsi Max Crew's Greg Murphy and Winterbottom to take up the top positions – with Winterbottom taking the lead on lap 16 before a safety car deployment on lap 25 for the stricken Gulf Western Oil Racing Commodore of Warren Luff saw the entire field take to the pitlane.
The leading contenders elected not to pit under a second Safety Car, after D'Alberto's suspension failure on lap 33 led to heavy impact with the barriers. But 14 laps later, a clash between Jack Daniels Racing's Todd Kelly and Toll Holden Racing Team's Garth Tander brought out the third safety car as the marshals collected the debris from Tander's exhaust. With everyone pitting again, Lowndes emerged in eighth, but Whincup, forced to queue behind his team-mate dropped down to 18th.
The pair again made their way through the pack after the restart, with Whincup passing Jason Bright, for 12th on lap 60, after the Team BOC driver had been spun by Mother Energy Racing Team's Jonathon Webb. This was the key position from which Whincup needed to secure the Championship, no matter where Lowndes finished.
With just four laps remaining, Will Davison again failed to finish when he buried his car in the turn 8 tyre wall as he misjudged a passing move on SP Tools Racing's Shane van Gisbergen. On the same lap, Dumbrell in his final V8 Supercars race, spun while running second and was t-boned by Team Fujitsu's Lee Holdsworth – eliminating both from the race and from podium contention. Lowndes narrowly avoided the crash but in doing so, moved up into second place. The incident prompted a third safety car appearance and set up a final dramatic two-lap sprint to the finish. Winterbottom managed to hold off Lowndes by just 0.7s to take the 28th and final race of the season. The win also meant Winterbottom took third in the final standings, ahead of van Gisbergen and Tander, as well as the honour of being the highest-finishing Ford driver this year.
“It’s a great effort by the boys, we’ve really turned this season around,” said Winterbottom.
“This is a big event for us, Sydney is my childhood home and I’m absolutely rapt.”
Lowndes, who claimed a 1-2 finish for TeamVodafone in this year’s Driver’s Championship, said: “It was one of those moments today, it was all about not holding back and we had hell of race.”
“Credit has to go to Jamie, he’s done everything right, and to all our guys – what a year!” he added.
Van Gisbergen rounded out the podium finishing third for the second time in two days. Mother Energy Racing’s Jonathon Webb was fourth, with Supercheap Auto Racing's Russell Ingall ending his time with Paul Morris Motorsport with a top five finish. Fujitsu Racing's Michael Caruso, Toll Holden Racing Team's James Courtney and Whincup finished sixth, seventh and eighth respectively. Despite being crashed into twice, Team BOC's Jason Bright finished ninth with Lucky 7 Racing's Tim Slade completing the top ten.
The 2012 International V8 Supercars Championship will kick off on Australian soil with the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide on March 1-4.
Race 28 results:
|Pos||Entrant||Driver||Vehicle||Fastest Lap||Fastest Lap Time||Race Time||Laps||Points|
|1||Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon||Mark Winterbottom||Falcon FG||67||01:28:6064||02:05:05:2756||74||150|
|2||TeamVodafone||Craig Lowndes||Commodore VE2||63||01:28:3839||02:05:06:0018||74||138|
|3||SP Tools Racing||Shane van Gisbergen||Falcon FG||64||01:28:9861||02:05:08:9735||74||129|
|4||Mother Energy Racing Team||Jonathon Webb||Falcon FG||62||01:28:7613||02:05:09:7854||74||120|
|5||Supercheap Auto Racing||Russell Ingall||Commodore VE2||58||01:29:2505||02:05:10:4633||74||111|
|6||Fujitsu Racing GRM||Michael Caruso||Commodore VE2||23||01:29:0260||02:05:11:0128||74||102|
|7||Toll Holden Racing Team||James Courtney||Commodore VE2||62||01:28:8656||02:05:11:5128||74||96|
|8||TeamVodafone||Jamie Whincup||Commodore VE2||22||01:28:8502||02:05:12:5991||74||90|
|9||Team BOC||Jason Bright||Commodore VE2||44||01:28:9814||02:05:13:4312||74||84|
|10||Lucky 7 Racing||Tim Slade||Falcon FG||55||01:29:2027||02:05:13:9571||74||78|
|11||Pepsi Max Crew||Greg Murphy||Commodore VE2||55||01:29:2169||02:05:14:3854||74||72|
|12||Jack Daniel’s Racing||Rick Kelly||Commodore VE2||22||01:29:0203||02:05:14:7746||74||69|
|13||Stratco Racing||David Reynolds||Commodore VE2||23||01:29:4290||02:05:16:1879||74||66|
|14||Jim Beam Racing||Steven Johnson||Falcon FG||22||01:29:5332||02:05:16:5636||74||63|
|15||VIP Petfoods||Steve Owen||Commodore VE2||55||01:29:3163||02:05:19:9768||74||60|
|16||Jack Daniel’s Racing||Todd Kelly||Commodore VE2||40||01:29:4295||02:05:38:2490||66||57|
|17||Jana Living Racing||Jason Bargwanna||Commodore VE2||50||01:30:6688||02:05:24:7348||64||54|
|18||Fair Dinkum Sheds Racing||Karl Reindler||Commodore VE2||56||01:30:5990||02:05:25:4068||64||51|
|19||Toll Holden Racing Team||Garth Tander||Commodore VE2||41||01:29:4246||02:05:22:0045||63||48|
|DNF||Trading Post FPR Falcon||Will Davison||Falcon FG||57||01:28:6477||01:55:54:6091||69||0|
|DNF||The Bottle-O Racing Team||Paul Dumbrell||Falcon FG||67||01:28:6459||01:56:43:5475||69||0|
|DNF||Fujitsu Racing GRM||Lee Holdsworth||Commodore VE2||66||01:28:6699||01:54:19:4389||68||0|
|DNF||Triple F Racing||Dean Fiore||Falcon FG||32||01:29:5310||01:55:55:6105||55||0|
|DNF||Wilson Security Team McGrath||Tony D’Alberto||Falcon FG||20||01:29:5341||52:04:6914||31||0|
|DNF||Irwin Racing||Alex Davison||Falcon FG||21||01:29:5209||50:26:5164||30||0|
|DNF||Gulf Western Oil Racing||Warren Luff||Commodore VE2||17||01:30:5752||37:24:2510||23||0|
|DNF||Bundaberg Racing||Fabian Coulthard||Commodore VE2||–||00:00:0000||03:12:9611||1||0|
|DNF||Jim Beam Racing||James Moffat||Falcon FG||–||00:00:0000||04:05:2482||1||0|