The last round of the 2013 V8 Supercars Championship drew to a close at the Sydney NRMA Motoring & Services 500 Grand Finale. The event is held on the notorious car breaking streets of downtown Sydney was spectacular. However this race was also the last for Russell Ingall as a full time drive better known as “The Enforcer”, in his 18 years in the Series he won twice at the legendary Mt Panorama, Bathurst circuit and he secured his only Championship in 2005. However with one legend retiring, another could be created. The Championship was still wide open with the closest finish to a season in years, which saw three drivers in contention to take the Championship.
Going into the two 250km (155mi) races, reigning champion Jamie Whincup (Red Bull Racing Australia) and his team mate Craig Lowndes were only 20 points apart, with Mark Winterbottom (Ford’s Pepsi Max Crew) a further 124 points behind. With 300 points on offer over the weekend, anything was possible on this tight, concrete lined street circuit, as previous years have proven. With the sun shining, the only certain thing was this was about to get entertaining.
At the end of Saturday’s qualifying for race one, Jamie Whincup had topped the timing board with Shane van Gisbergen (Tekno Team VIP Petfoods) second and Will Davison (Ford’s Pepsi Max Crew) third. All three championship contenders had made it into the afternoon’s Top Ten Shootout, a single flying lap to determine the final starting order. Mark Winterbottom was the first to set a time in the high 1min:28sec and held first position until Jamie Whincup the last driver out, set a time 0.17sec quicker to claim pole position for the evening Twilight race.
Craig Lowndes unfortunately out braked himself into turn 9 losing the rear into the tire wall. His car only had cosmetic damage, but qualified in 10th. He was going to have to do some hard graft on the track to catch up and put pressure on his team mate for the championship.
The first and only Twilight race of the season got off to a clean start with Jonathon Webb (Team Tekno Darrell Lea) starting from the second row jumped to an early lead with Whincup in second place. It only took a lap and half for Whincup to pass Webb and start his charge for the championship. The tight street circuit lived up to its reputation for car damage with a lot of cars caught up in what looked like a demolition derby. Whincup had stretched to an 8 sec lead when the first of many safety cars, bought the pack back together after Scott McLaughlin (Fujitsu Racing GRM) stopped on the track with mechanical problems.
The race restarted and the carnage and controversy continued this time with two of the championship contenders. Lowndes out braked Winterbottom into turn 9 for third position only to be bumped from behind in the next corner and was sent into a half spin that caused the pair of them to drop several spots and eventually forced Winterbottom out of the race altogether. Lowndes battled back to 4th but with his opponents on different tire and fuel strategies combined with the damage from the early accident he ended the race in15th.
At the front Whincup held a comfortable lead from Webb and Fabian Coulthard (Lockwood Racing) to take the chequered flag. A hard charging van Gisbergen pushed after the last safety car and dove under Coulthard at turn 8 a fast right hander on the penultimate lap. This forced him into the outside wall to take third position. After the race Van Gisbergen would be penalised 35 points for the move, but retained his third position.
Final positions for Race 1
1st Jamie Whincup (Red Bull Racing Australia)
2nd Jonathon Webb (Team Tekno Darrell Lea)
3rd Shane van Gisbergen (Tekno Team VIP Petfoods)
4th Jason Bright (Team BOC)
5th Will Davidson (Ford’s Pepsi Max Crew)
The second race on Sunday saw a lot of the tired teams who had worked through the night repairing and rebuilding their respective cars for the final race of the year. Even with his result in race one Craig Lowndes (Red Bull Racing Australia) still had a mathematical chance of winning the championship over his teammate Jaime Whincup. If Whincup failed to finish the race and Lowndes finished in the top 5 Lowndes would secure another Championship. Alternatively, if Lowndes won the race, Whincup had to finish in the top 20 to secure the 2013 championship. Similar to race one race, two was 74 laps (250km) with two compulsory pit stops.
The 20 minute qualifying session finished with Shane van Gisbergen (1:27.9956) on top, Jason Bright in second and Jaime Whincup in third. Craig Lowndes qualified 9th, 0.57 sec behind the best time and still struggling to find the pace of the front runners.
The final race for the season got underway with van Gisbergen taking an early lead from Winterbottom and Bright. An early incident between Jonathon Webb and Tony D’Alberto (Team HIFLEX) avoided a safety car with both vehicles limping away to the pits. Van Gisbergen built an early lead, several drivers made early pit stops to clear traffic which resulted in spreading the field out.
On lap 30 after all the teams had made their first compulsory pit stop Whincup lead Winterbottom and van Gisbergen. However James Moffat (Norton Hornets) complained of a vibration in the car and stopped on track, this trigged a safety car to remove the stricken vehicle. As a result of the safety car most of the field made their second compulsory pit stop before the race went “Green” on lap 37.
At this stage it was possible for some of the Holden (GM) and Ford teams to make the end of the race on this single tank of fuel. Van Gisbergen didn’t stop and continued to push hard and build a margin in first place. The race leader pitted on lap 51 and rejoined the race side by side with Whincup in fourth, where the two battled for position.
The final safety car was brought out when Tim Blanchard (Wilson Security Racing) lost his brakes and ploughed into the back of Dean Fiore (Dodo Insurance Racing). Badly damaged, Fiore was able to continue, however back up front it was going to be a sprint to the finish. Van Gisbergen with fresher tires began his charge forward from fourth place, first passing Whincup and David Reynolds, (The Bottle-O Racing Team) then finally Bright to take the lead.
Jaime Whincup’s Championship looked like it was in the bag, however he gave his team a bit of a scare when he challenged Bright for second position, the pair rubbed panels in the dying stages of the race, Bright ended up holding on to second place. As the drives passed the chequered flag Jaime Whincup won his Fifth V8 Supercars Championship.
Final positions for Race 2.
1st Shane van Gisbergen (Tekno Team VIP Petfoods)
2nd Jason Bright (Team BOC)
3rd Jamie Whincup (Red Bull Racing Australia)
4th David Reynolds (The Bottle-O Racing Team)
5th Craig Lowndes (Red Bull Racing Australia)
2013 Championship Standings
1st Jamie Whincup (Red Bull Racing Australia)
2nd Craig Lowndes (Red Bull Racing Australia)
3rd Will Davidson (Ford’s Pepsi Max Crew)
4th Mark Winterbottom (Ford’s Pepsi Max Crew)
5th Shane van Gisbergen (Tekno Team VIP Petfoods)
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