Townsville 400: Saturday Wrap

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Whincup starred on Saturday in Townsville as he lead home an assured Red Bull one-two finish.

My apologies for the low frequency of posts over the last two weeks. It’s been an incredibly busy time but with futures now starting to take shape, daily posts will resume from this post onwards! A huge thanks to the 1124 readers who took the time to fill in my reader survey. I’ve got some really interesting results and opinions and I’ll be making some big announcements regarding the future direction of the hairpincorner in the near future.
Now, back to racing.
Jamie Whincup’s 99th race win was a long time coming and despite coming into Townsville leading the championship, the #88 hasn’t been in too many positions to win races this year since Adelaide – yet another tell tale sign of the incredible level competitiveness we’ve seen this year. Townsville has long been one of my personal highlights of the year, and even on the TV all the way round the other side of the world in the UK it’s possible to get a taste of the incredible atmosphere and setting for the two 200km races over the course of the weekend. Plus, who doesn’t love a top ten shootout on the Sunday?! Saturday’s race was another great watch, and I’ve given my opinion on some of the highlights from the race below.
Red Bull and Prodrive Lead the Way
It goes without saying that Triple Eight and Prodrive have been the championship’s two biggest, and most successful teams for a good number of years but it has been a while since we’ve seen the two teams dominate the race. The margins are so tight this year it feels strange to say that Whincup effectively dominated Saturday’s race, but in reality as soon as the lights when out he never looked like he was going to relinquish the lead. Getting in front of James Courtney after a slow(ish) start from SVG was a critical move for the Kiwi, and one that set the stage for a one-two finish for Red Bull Racing.
On the basis of today’s form  it would be a safe bet to assume Jamie Whincup could well be in a position to take his 100th Supercars race victory on Sunday, but he will have a small, but extremely fast group of challengers which will include the likes of Van Gisbergen, Mostert, Winterbottom, Davison and possibly Courtney. On today’s performances at least I didn’t see many other cars or teams capable of taking the fight to Triple Eight and if Whincup can take pole in the top ten shootout he’d certainly be my bet for victory tomorrow afternoon. A victory which will not only see him join the legendary 100 club, but could well be the win he needs to begin taking command of this season’s championship race.
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Whincup will be a heavy favourite to take pole position in the shootout tomorrow after showing great qualifying and race pace on Saturday. Image – www,speedcafe.com

Some of his challengers tomorrow are likely to come in the form of Winterbottom and Mostert. With Frosty the exception, PRA have generally struggled for race pace this season but it was refreshing to both Winterbottom and Mostert fighting at the front of the field, and Mostert’s presence at the front will be vital in Frosty’s championship fight. It’s been so competitive this season that when one PRA car has been in a podium position, the others have usually been either in collisions with other cars of scrapping around the lower reaches of the top ten. Although the Falcons didn’t have the pace to challenge Whincup for the win, we were treated to one of the battles of the season between Van Gisbergen and Mostert in the final stint.
Better for HRT
After the year they’ve had, Townsville was quite clearly going to be HRT’s best weekend for a while, and like it was refreshing to see both Winterbottom and Mostert back in the top five together, it was also refreshing to see James Courtney, and eventually Garth Tander back inside the top ten. Another poor qualifying for Tander was the only downside of HRT’s Saturday in Townsville and although Courtney fell back off the pace in the final stint and was eventually overtaken by Will Davison on the line at the flag, I think the whole team can be encouraged by what we saw during the race. Had Courtney been able to stay ahead of SVG after their exchange in the opening corners he may have eventually finished a little higher than 6th, but with Tander coming home in 7th after driving a storming race from 20th on the grid it was a positive day for everyone involved at the Holden Racing Team.
The Other Runners and Riders 
After the lead six cars began to drive away from the field in the middle of the opening stint we were left with a furious battle to fill out the lower positions of the top ten, and two of those drivers involved, Caruso and Coulthard were locked in a race long battle for 8th and 9th before the DJR Team Penske Falcon finally prevailed in the closing laps of the race. It was a shame for Tim Slade and everyone at BJR, who I feel were on course for a certain top ten finish before they were turned around by Rick Kelly in the opening laps, and after Percat collided with the rear of Kelly’s stationary Nissan Altima we were robbed of two cars who would have certainly joined the fight with Coulthard, Caruso and Tander.
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Reynolds has been in great form at Erebus lately, and he continued that run of strong results with a fine 11th place finish on Saturday. A dark horse for the shootout? Image – www.newsapi.com.au

Just outside the top ten, it was another good race for David Reynolds who really seems to be thriving at Erebus, but two championship contenders Scott McLaughlin and Craig Lowndes had difficult afternoons with McLaughlin finishing down in 24th after opening lap contact with Dale Wood, and Lowndes in 12th in a TeamVortex Commodore which seemed to lack the pace of it’s stablemates the #88 and #97. With the championship as close as it is, both Lowndes and McLaughlin can’t afford a poor qualifying and race on Sunday if they want to stay in contention at the top, and I’m sure both will be looking at the making the top ten shootout and minimum target in qualifying tomorrow.
Championship Standings After Race 14 

1Jamie Whincup1425
2Shane Van Gisbergen1342
3Mark Winterbottom1341
4Craig Lowndes1314
5Scott McLaughlin1263
6Will Davison1263
7Michael Caruso1119
8Tim Slade1089
9James Courtney1011
10Garth Tander1003
11Chaz Mostert 989
12Rick Kelly 963
13Todd Kelly 943
14Fabian Coulthard 886
15Jason Bright 858
16David Reynolds 847
17Scott Pye 826
18Cameron Waters 742
19James Moffat 678
20Lee Holdsworth 648
21Chris Pither 595
22Nick Percat 591
23Dale Wood 571
24Tim Blanchard 554
25Andre Heimgartner 524
26Aaren Russell 423
27Kurt Kostecki  30

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