Jamie Whincup has notched up his 13th win of the V8 Supercars season with victory in the opening race of the Sydney NRMA 500.
Starting from second, champion-elect Whincup got the jump on polesitter Will Davison off the line, but lost out to Tim Slade under the first Safety Car intervention. Whincup pitted in anticipation of a full course yellow but was overly cautious behind the Safety Car, allowing Slade who pitted one lap later, to rejoin ahead of the #1 Red Bull Holden
Looking to reclaim the spot, Whincup piled up the pressure on Slade before making a decisive move down the inside of the Supercheap Auto Racing Commodore into the Turn 9/10 chicane with 11 laps to go.
Denied of his maiden win, Slade stayed clear of David Reynolds in the Bottle-O Falcon for a season-best second place.
Volvo Polestar Racing’s Scott McLaughlin survived late-race contact with James Courtney to claim fourth ahead of Rick Kelly and Shane van Gisbergen, who made up 12 places from 18th on the grid.
David Wall, Fabian Coulthard, Jason Bright and Garth Tander completed the top 10. Having climbed from 22nd to fifth, Courtney’s tangle with McLaughlin dropped the #22 HRT driver back to 11th
Earlier in the race, the battle for second in the Championship took another twist when Winterbottom’s FPR Falcon went into the fence at turn 1 bringing out the first Safety car on lap 10. Winterbottom recovered but finished last, four laps down. Rival Craig Lowndes, who earlier had a big smash in qualifying moved up from 20th to 13th to remain in third, 80 points behind Winterbottom, but just 21 points clear of van Gisbergen.
DJR’s Scott Pye and Nissan Motorsport’s Todd Kelly both recorded DNFs after a mid-race collision that brought out the second Safety Car deployment. Kelly went wide at turn 1, bouncing off the tyre bundle and in to the path of Pye, the two cars making side to side contact, leaving both cars with significant damage and out of the race.
With 10 laps remaining Davison suffered a power steering failure while running in the top five. After such a promising start to the day, the Erebus Motorsport driver joined Pye and Kelly on the retirement list.
In his first V8 Supercars race in nine years, Marcos Ambrose kept out of trouble to finish in 20th place.