Jamie Whincup has taken to the top of the time sheets in what turned out to be another dreadful session for Holden Racing Team. Whincup’s first flying lap through the circuit put him into an early lead, but not before youngster Nick Percat stole it from him, slotting in 0.00.031s faster. After the five minute mark Percat lead, followed by Jamie Whincup in second, and Shane Van Gisbergen, Scott McLaughlin and Craig Lowndes completing the top 5 of the first qualifying session.
In another blow to HRT, Garth Tander had an off at turn one, causing some decent damage to the front right of the VF commodore. Tander came in with too much speed and wasn’t able to make the turn, ploughing into the tyre barrier, knocking it out of place and causing a red flag. Nil injuries were suffered and Tander sat out for the remainder of the session.
The continuation of the qualifying session saw Jamie Whincup break into the 0.27s with 1.27.767, again placing him into a temporal lead. Chatter between Craig Lowndes and the Red Bull Racing Team picked up that he was losing control of the rear, making it difficult for him to gain a high finishing spot. In addition to this, communication between the Pepsi Max Crew and Mark Winterbottom also picked up that he was having trouble negotiating the curbs around this unforgiving concrete jungle. The final few minutes saw Whincup back into the lead, with Will Davison, Fabian Coulthard, Van Gisbergen and Jason Bright trailing. Most teams also took the final few minutes to pit and change to greens for the final dash to gain a top time. The final result for the for the first qualifying session was Jamie Whincup in P1 Van Gisbergen in P2 and Will Davison, Coulthard, Lowndes, Bright, Winterbottom, D’Alberto, Webb and Reynolds completing the best 10.
The top ten shoot-out at the Sydney finale has paved the way for some very interesting races, with rivals Mark Winterbottom and Jamie Whincup sharing the front row for race 35. The series leader narrowly managed to gain the edge on Winterbottom, gaining a top time of 1.28.8137s, just 0.1733s ahead in the one-lap dash. Fellow Red Bull driver Craig Lowndes came in at a disappointing tenth following a driver error, but isn’t out of this fierce battle between his teammate and Frosty from the Pepsi Max Crew. Shane Van Gisbergen took 3rd along with Jonathon Webb who will share the 2nd row, and Jason Bright, Will Davison, Fabian Coulthard, Tony D’Alberto, David Reynolds and Craig Lowndes fill the top ten for the 2nd last race of the series.
Jamie Whincup has moved one step closer to a fifth V8 Supercars Championship, claiming victory in race 35 at the Sydney finale. In what was a relentless battle, race 35 saw some of the best supercar action of the entire series. There was plenty of crashes, lots of pushing and shoving as well as many questionable tactics by FPR and Red Bull Racing Australia. The very first lap was as action packed as the last with the notorious first corner claiming many cars including Tander 3 times. There was a three wide scuffle on the first turn leaving Whincup, Winterbottom and Van Gisbergen all fighting for the lead. Jamie Whincup got the job done but was later taken over by Webb who lead for a short duration. Lowndes and Winterbottom were involved in another debatable racing incident, which saw Lowndes being rear ended into the wall at turn nine of the track. Lowndes had previously made an inside pass on the number 5 car on turn 8 and was shunted off as a result.
With the rivalry between FPR and Red Bull Racing firing up this weekend, there is no doubt there was some controversy as a result of this incident. No penalty was handed down to either driver. It was along time between drinks but Jonathon Webb made his way back onto the podium claiming a solid 2nd place. He was out to an early lead and was struck off by many to gain a top 3 finish, but he sat up the top of the field for the majority of the race and proved many wrong. Tim Blanchard was another to be caught out by the damaging turn 1, becoming trapped in the tyre wall after being elbowed in by the self -confessed aggressive driver in the series, Shane Van Gisbergen.
Lap 22 saw the cracks starting to appear for Mark Winterbottom, having loose rear rights panels and the trouble continued when he was spun out by Tony D’Alberto later on, causing serious front end damage and rendering him a DNF on lap 64. Lee Holdsworth although starting the weekend in relatively good form, suffered mechanical issues, due to rear end and frontal damage on lap 30, forcing him to limp his way back to the pits. Leading at lap 40 was Whincup, followed by Webb and Coulthard in 3rd, closely followed by Lowndes and D’Alberto making the top 5 just after the half waypoint.
Other DNF’s for the race were Scott Pye, Maro Engel, Tim Blanchard and Scott Mclaughlin in the Fujitsu Holden. Race penalties included James Moffat receiving a PLP (Pit-Lane Penalty) for an unsafe release, as well as Maro Engel for spinning his wheels whilst on jacks. Garth Tander just couldn’t get it right on turn 1, missing the turn 3 times, and at one point twice in 2 laps. There was speculation of a breaking problem although it wasn’t confirmed. Shane Van Gisbergen came in 3rd to make the podium somewhat of a different look, in a series that has seen close to 20 different race winners. Jason bright came in 4th, followed by Will Davison in 5th and D’Alberto, Caruso, Tim Slade, Rick Kelly and Todd Kelly finishing the top 10.
Shane Van Gisbergen has taken pole in the last 2013 Qualifying session after pipping Jason bright on the final lap. The VIP Pet Foods Holden was out in front early on and kept good pace for the entire session, making sure he didn’t loose sight of the usual front-runners Jamie Whincup, Mark Winterbottom and Craig Lowndes. After 5 minutes the top 3 were Shane Van Gisbergen out in front with Winterbottom in 2nd and Fabian Coulthard in 3rd. Jamie Whincup completed an average first lap after being caught up in heavy traffic around the track. For a while it was a battle of the Championships top 2 with Lowndes and Whincup swapping the lead between each other, but the flying Shane Van Gisbergen was just 2 good for the Red Bull drivers. Scott McLaughlin was up there, moving into a temporal 3rd position, but was having trouble in the 2nd half of the circuit and dropped down in the leader board. Bright who has equalled the amount of Pole positions as Jamie Whincup looked set to gain yet another, however Van Gisbergen’s last lap blew him off the top perch. Sharing the 2nd row with 3rd place getter Jamie Whincup was Winterbottom, followed by Davison, McLaughlin, Webb, D’Alberto, Lowndes and Will Davison closing the top 10 for the finale race of 2013.
The final race for 2013 has exceeded all expectations, making it one of the best races ever seen throughout the year. Jamie Whincup has notched his way into the record books, claiming a fifth championship win on the streets of Olympic park in sensational style, battling some of the most fierce contenders to join the likes of Mark Skaife on that magical number 5. The first corner again wreaked havoc in the first lap with both HRT cars battling for the front, as a result knocking Tony D’Alberto into the tyre wall and causing him to rejoin in last position.
On just the 3rd lap, Jonathon Webb was forced to pit with damaged right front suspension due to an incident with D’Alberto just moments earlier. With the battle continuing up the field, Whincup was given an opportunity to pass Winterbottom and grasped it with both hands, giving him the edge on the FPR driver early in the race. An unusually late first safety car was caused by Moffat in the 360 Hornet, after he was stopped on the track causing a hazard, and car 88 was issued a PLP for passing whilst under this safety car. Caruso ran into problems when he managed to spin himself out on lap 49 and the leading pack on lap 53 was Whincup, Van Gisbergen and Winterbottom taking the end of the top 3.
Later on Tim Blanchard and Dean Fiore had themselves stuck up the escape road of turn 1 after Blanchard ploughed into Fiore at speed and caused some decent damage. Braking issues were blamed for the incident, which caused another safety car. Van Gisbergen was out there showing his stuff, performing his signature move and taking an inside path to get past Reynolds on turn 9. This move put him into P2 in the late stages of race 36. It was on for young and old in the final few laps with Jason Bright and Jamie Whincup going tit for tat, daringly passing each other several times and causing some unwanted damage for both drivers. The risky moves had not only fans but also the Red Bull Racing team on the edge of their seats as the final race came down to the wire. The Race 36podium was Shane Van Gisbergen in first, Jason Bright in second and Jamie Whincup in third.
Race 36 closes the 2013 V8 Supercars Series and what a year it has been. The teams have had many ups and many downs and the races all over the country has given fans some spectacular, world-class racing. Some drivers will be departing the series, some will be switching brands, and with the addition of Volvo Polestar and several more twilight races next year, the 2014 series is set to be better than ever. See you next year!
Words: Jayden Stirrup, Photos: Christian Hartung