« on: May 17, 2015, 10:45:21 AM »
New V8 Supercars Championship leader Mark Winterbottom has backed his flying team-mate Chaz Mostert to bounce back from a confidence-sapping crash that almost certainly cost him victory at today’s NP300 Nissan Navara Winton SuperSprint.
Once again the Prodrive Falcons dominated the day with Winterbottom winning and assuming the Championship lead, the fourth different leader this year. The only blemish was a self-inflicted crash by Mostert when he backed into a wall and out of the race he led comfortably at the time.
The crash handed the lead back to Red Bull’s Craig Lowndes but he could not hang on to wearing rubber to allow Winterbottom and then Lockwood Racing’s Fabian Coulthard who rescued a tough weekend with a solid second.
“For whatever reason he’s driving around that car a little bit nicer than what I feel like I can at the moment so he’ll be disappointed for sure, but he’s got serious pace,” Winterbottom said.
“We work well together so he’ll ask me things and I’m picking his brain. It’s one of those things, you’re pushing hard and he’s driving the wheels off it. He’ll bounce back.”
While Winterbottom backed Mostert to recover Lowndes did likewise with team-mate Jamie Whincup who salvaged some points today in his fight from the back of the grid into tenth. The Championship powerhouses have made no secret of their troubles finding speed.
“Winton here this weekend was probably one of our worst. Clipsal wasn’t too bad, Tassie I screwed up the Sunday, Perth we had some good results. I’m pretty happy with where we’re at,” said Lowndes.
“Jamie is struggling a little bit, I don’t know if he’s made mistakes but he just hasn’t had the car that he probably wants. We’ll bounce back, there’s no doubt.
“He’s pretty determined to change the results. We’ve had four rounds of the Championship and we’ve had four leaders of the Championship so it just shows how competitive it is.
“There’s no breakaway at the moment and I think that will be the case all the way up to December. He’ll just have to chip away, Grant and I are working really well and we’re chipping away as well and that’s something that I’ve got confidence in the car and that’s showing.”
Coulthard also kept himself in the Championship hunt and just 86 points away from Winterbottom.
“The guys have certainly made some in roads on our cars in the off season,” Coulthard said.
“We got our first win on a street circuit in Adelaide and we’ve got a podium at every round a part from Tassie. Our car is pretty good on all different types of circuits now which is promising.
“Finishing 21st yesterday and finished 2nd today, it’s not hard to do the maths that today was a good day.”
Lowndes flew out of the blocks on soft tyres – one of only five cars to start on the softer rubber – to take seven places in the first three laps including the lead.
He built on that while Mostert held his own on the harder compound to regain the ascendency after the first of the stops and built a massive lead with pit advantage also up his sleeve.
But the youngster who has finished on the last five podiums including one win did the unimaginable when in clear air he lost control at the tricky turn four, barrelling across the sand and backwards into the tyre barrier. It was game over as everybody dived into the pits.
That gifted Lowndes the lead as the field – except for Erebus’ in-form Will Davison whose radio failed – raced in for their final stop. But as he has lamented all weekend Lowndes did not have the pace to keep Winterbottom behind him. Coulthard also got passed leaving Lowndes to battle with Tander.
The good news story of the day came via young rookie Scott Pye and DJR Team Penske. Pye was thrown into the hot seat when Marcos Ambrose vacated the seat after just two events, the pressure on the youngster to carry the hopes of the American racing royal.
After three events battling to work his way up the field Pye capatalised on the strongest qualifying of the year since Ambrose made the top ten shootout in Adelaide. From ninth on the grid Pye showed the best form of the team to date with an eighth-placed finish.
It wasn’t without moments though when Pye clashed heavily with veteran Holden Racing Team pilot Garth Tander two-thirds into the race in what would have been a heart-stopping moment for the 25-year-old. Pye backed out of the clash even though he had position, preferring not to raise the attention of officials for the push and shove.
Michael Caruso came home fourth recording another great race for Nissan, and Tander – who also started on the soft tyre – put in an impressive race, finishing fifth after starting 17.
The V8 Supercars are next on track at the SKYCITY Triple Crown in Darwin from June 19-21.