AFTER scoring a V8 Supercars record 11th pole position in the one season at Winton on Saturday, a shock tail shaft failure has robbed championship leader Jamie Whincup of a chance to claim his ninth race win of 2013.
Having got off to a flying start in his Red Bull VF Commodore and set the pace in the opening laps of the controversial 60km/60km format split race, Whincup suffered a rare tail shaft malfunction on lap 10 which signalled race over for the reigning champion as Nissan posted its first ever win in V8 Supercars courtesy of James Moffat. At the team’s home track, fellow Nissan driver Michael Caruso finished second and Jason Bright third.
But for Whincup and team-mate Craig Lowndes, who battled poor grip to come home 21st, it was a forgettable afternoon.
“There was a big explosion in the car inside coming out of the last corner and it just had no drive,” said Whincup who leads the championship from Lowndes by 101 points.
“We got the car back in as quick as we could but the bad news is you have to finish 75 per cent of the race and we missed it by one lap. So there was no point in us getting back out – which is extremely disappointing.
“Other than that, we had good pace, the car had good balance and I guess the silver lining is we’ll be back on the grid tomorrow and have some fresh tyres for qualifying and the two races.”
The 60km/60km format is split by a 15-minute half-time period before a double-file rolling restart. It meant Whincup couldn’t return for the second half as he didn’t complete more than half of the first stanza, while Lowndes lost seven positions when trying to avoid mayhem on the restart.
“Look, I got hung out to dry on the re-start but the biggest issue was grip,” Lowndes said.
“It was like an ice-skating rink and I just didn’t have confidence in the rear or front end to attack. We’ll get back into it overnight and be back better tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, two-time MotoGP champion Casey Stoner’s rough and tumble four-wheel initiation continued, the 27-year-old an unwitting victim in a first corner pile-up.
Having qualified 20th on a circuit he’d barely seen before let alone driven on, Stoner was optimistic of his chances of a top-10 finish given his recent race history and passing ability.
However, it wasn’t to be, the rookie V8 driver cruelled when caught up in a mid-pack scuffle that will see his mechanics working overnight to repair the car.
“I crashed in the first corner and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it,”
said Stoner, who claimed an impressive top-five finish in his last start at Queensland Raceway.
“We were optimistic about this race. Normally we start further up the front, get mixed up in something and end up on the back of the grid and then start coming forward. So today starting at the back of the grid we were optimistic that we could actually come through the pack and if a few things went our way that we could crack the top-10.
“Unfortunately, it’s another weekend over. We just can’t seem to have any luck.”
Stoner’s debut has been plagued by lack of track time, again this weekend’s practice and qualifying sessions cut dramatically short because of constant red flags.
Races one and two of the V8 Supercars will get underway at 1.35pm and 4.15pm Sunday respectively, both races to be broadcast on Channel 7 and or Seven Mate. Check the TV schedule here.
Stoner will race at10am and 3.05pm. All races can be watched live at www.v8superview.com