Saturday, December 5, 2015

Winterbottom Wraps Up First Title Day Early

The 36th race of the 2015 V8 Supercars season will be a dead-rubber as Ford's Mark Winterbottom clinched the title in Saturday's second race from the Homebush Street Circuit.

The Prodrive Racing Australia driver started on pole position in race one of the weekend and championship rival Craig Lowndes started last. Winterbottom slipped back a few positions while the outgoing champion Jamie Whincup jumped from fifth to first and extended his streak of podium finishes to seven. Whincup held off the #97 Holden of Shane Van Gisbergen by just over a second for the victory. Brad Jones Racing's Jason Bright finished third, his first podium since the third race at Sydney Motorsports Park. James Courtney made it a sweep of the top four for Holden with Winterbottom rounding out the top five.

Lowndes was only able to go from 25th to 15th in race one, allowing Winterbottom to add 25 points to his championship total before race two of the weekend.

For race two, Whincup started on pole position with David Reynolds in second and Van Gisbergen in third. Winterbottom would start fourth with Courtney and Volvo driver Scott McLaughlin rounding out row three. DJR Team Penske's Scott Pye and Tim Walkinshaw Racing's Lee Holdsworth started on row four ahead of Lowndes and Bright.

Whincup would dominate race two with Reynolds staying in tow. Whincup now has 97 career V8SC victories and has won five of the last eight races entering Sunday's season finale. Reynolds' second place finish in race 35 of the season has clinched him third in the championship, his best championship position in his five-year V8SC career. This is the best championship finish for a Rod Nash Racing entry. Winterbottom finished third and clinched his first career championship. It was his first podium since finishing second at Bathurst. Courtney finished fourth for the second consecutive race and McLaughlin rounded out the top five.

Van Gisbergen finished sixth with Lowndes finishing seventh. Nissan Motorsports Rick Kelly finished eighth with Pye and Holdsworth rounding out the top ten.

Winterbottom is the first Ford driver to win the V8 Supercars championship since 2010 when James Courtney won the title for Dick Johnson Racing. It is also the first title for a Prodrive Racing Australia driver.

While Winterbottom has wrapped up the drivers' title the teams' championship currently is in the grasp of Red Bull Racing Australia entering the final race of 2015. The partnership of Lowndes and Whincup has scored 5,450 points to Prodrive Racing Australia's 5,434 points. Red Bull Racing Australia has won five consecutive teams' championship. The last time a Ford team won the teams' championship was 2008 when Red Bull Racing Australia (under the branding of Triple Eight Race Engineering) beat Ford Performance Racing (now known as Prodrive Racing Australia) by 55 points.

The final race of the V8 Supercars season will be 74 laps, 250 kilometers in length. Shane Van Gisbergen has won the final round of the season the last two years. It will be his final race for Tekno Autosport before moving to Red Bull Racing Australia in 2016.