Reigning V8 Supercars champion Jamie Whincup has claimed the championship lead from Red Bull Racing Australia team-mate Craig Lowndes after finishing second to Fabian Coulthard in Race One at Symmons Plains today.
Whincup led the entire first half of the Tasmanian race but it was a different story come the second 25 laps, a quick Fabian Coulthard getting the better of the reigning champion on the same corner where Lowndes’ race all but ended on lap one.
Whincup battled his best to reclaim the lead in the unique split-race format – which saw all cars held in the pits for 15 minutes at the half-way point – but ended up a narrow second to Coulthard.
“It was a good day for us, we were very quick in the first 25 laps but in that middle break what we did actually de-tuned the car,” said Whincup, who has won three of the past five races at Symmons Plains and finished on the podium the remaining two.
“The car is a bit of an animal still. The changes we made to the car in the break we thought would make it better but it was the opposite. So I’m not quite as happy as I was here last year. It’ll take a few more months yet before the car is where we’d like it but overall, it was a good day.”
Meanwhile Lowndes, the championship leader heading into the weekend, had a horror day at the office. After a small component failure in qualifying, Lowndes was forced to start from eighth on the grid and then had his race ruined inside the first lap when Shane Van Gisbergen made contact with the VF Commodore.
“We went into that race knowing that if something went wrong that it was potentially a huge disaster and for us it was a massive one,” Lowndes said.
“Not only did we have contact out of turn six but to then lose the tyre, lose first gear and then go a lap down – it couldn’t have gotten much worse.”
Challenging for sixth position at the end of lap one, Van Gisbergen and Lowndes came together out of turn six and Lowndes was sent into the dirt. The accident caused a chain reaction that left the rear right panels of the No.888 car in tatters.
“I was a bit angry,” Lowndes said.
“It’s very frustrating and I’m pretty disappointed about it because we’ve always been told to give racing room. There was contact and the cascading effect after I slipped off the track just made it worse.
“The tyre shredded and then did the same to the bodywork. Then I hurt the gearbox trying to get out of everyone’s way when I spun and from there we just limped around.”
Mark Winterbottom finished third with Whincup now leading the championship from Will Davison and Lowndes.
There will be another qualifying session on Sunday morning before races two and three at Symmons Plains, meaning Lowndes still has two chances this weekend to break Mark Skaife’s record of 90 race wins.