SYDNEY, New South Wales, Australia — Recap by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — V8 Supercars photo —
They say it doesn’t matter how you win a race, but rather that you win it — and that was the case for V8 Supercars champion-elect Jamie Whincup during the second 125 km sprint of the Sydney NRMA 500.
Whincup claimed the victory in a race shortened by 14 laps due to a torrential downpour that moved through the Sydney area and wreaked havoc with the Sydney Olympic Park circuit during Race 37 of the V8 Supercars Championship.
Whincup took the lead on the initial start with a thrilling four-wide move to the inside, shooting past polesitter Jason Bright to go from fourth to first in one corner and building up a seven second advantage before rain started to fall on lap 12 that brought several cars, including Whincup’s teammate Craig Lowndes, to the pit lane for wet tires.
However, it wasn’t until lap 16, when Whincup and Scott McLaughlin came down for their wet tires, that rain began pouring down in buckets — causing new leader Jason Bright, Shane van Gisbergen and others to slip and slide around before making it down pit road for service and fresh tires on their machines.
Once Whincup cycled through back to the lead, the caution was displayed and the Safety Car deployed on lap 18 when David Wall, who stayed out on slicks, smacked the wall with both ends of his Dick Johnson Racing Ford Falcon as the rain began flooding several areas of the race track.
The race was finally red flagged at halfway, with 19 of 37 laps completed, and the cars brought down pit road with Whincup, van Gisbergen, McLaughlin, Bright and Mark Winterbottom the top five at the time of the red flag.
After a 23-minute stoppage, the race resumed under Safety Car conditions on lap 20 of 37, making the show official as being one lap beyond the halfway point — and then completed three additional laps under yellow before hitting the time limit and being officially called with 23 of the scheduled 37 laps going into the record books and the top five remaining as they came in at the time of the red flag — with Whincup on top.
The victory was Whincup’s 89th career V8 Supercars Championship triumph, moving him within one victory of tying Mark Skaife for second on the all-time wins list, and his 14th win of the 2014 season.
“The race was obviously really before the rain came down,” Whincup said after returning to the pit lane. “We got a really good start and we [came] in at the right time for the tires and put ourselves in front. Credit where credit’s due to race control — I thought they were going to restart it there which would have been complete carnage so they did a good job.”
“Looking forward to tomorrow though — I think the sun will be out tomorrow and we’ll go hard.”
Van Gisbergen said his second place run was appreciated, but that even he wouldn’t have wanted to go back green in the conditions presented.
“That was not safe, restarting that, so they made the right call there,” van Gisbergen expressed upon climbing from his car. “Would have been good to see a race finish [under green], but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
“I’m still pretty excited about some good points today though — we got to sixth from 18th [in the first race] and then we finished second there so it’s pretty good and we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
Scott McLaughlin rounded out the podium in third, with Bright and Winterbottom the rest of the top five. Winterbottom said conditions were just as horrendous as they appeared to fans who may have been watching.
“The puddles on the track [were] bigger than swimming pools, I [didn’t] want to go back out there,” Winterbottom said of the weather and the circuit.
James Courtney, Tim Slade, Michael Caruso, Scott Pye and Garth Tander made up the rest of the top ten.
With his finish, van Gisbergen moved ahead of Craig Lowndes in the championship standings, taking over the third spot in points by 26 markers with only the 250 km finale race remaining to be run. SvG is 87 points out of second in the standings, held by Winterbottom.
Lowndes, who got into Marcos Ambrose on the start and sent the Tasmanian spinning, was stunned by the severity of the weather when it struck the circuit. He finished 20th in his Red Bull Holden Commodore.
“That’s probably the worst conditions I’ve even been in,” Lowndes said. “There [were] rivers everywhere. It was unbelievable really — if it hadn’t been for the cars in front of me I wouldn’t have known where the track went.”
Ambrose managed to rebound and pass a couple of cars when pit stops began to cycle, ultimately finishing 21st.
The finale for the 2014 V8 Supercars Championship, Race 38 of the season, kicks off at 11:00 a.m. local time on Sunday with ARMOR ALL Pole Qualifying, followed by the Top Ten Shootout at 1:30 p.m. and the race at 3:40 p.m.