V8 Supercars – Lowndes close to miracle V8 Supercar title‏

December 3, 2011

V8 Supercars

Craig Lowndes had 50 metres of fuel left in the tank when he turned the V8 Supercar Championship on its head by winning the first race at the Sydney Telstra 500 today.

Lowndes has smashed his way to within 83 points of what would be a miracle victory after a nightmare day for Jamie Whincup. The entire Championship comes down to the 28th and final race of 2011 at the same track tomorrow.

Whincup broke his steering on lap 24 of 74 and struggled home for 20th and last position (eight cars failed to finish). Lowndes won from Toll Holden Racing Team’s Garth Tander and SP Tools’ Racing’s Shane Van Gisbergen.

For the second straight event Lowndes has come from the clouds, as if blessed. Instead of Whincup claiming his third Championship in four years he now faces a fight from his team-mate to hold on to the reducing margin.

It started today at 188 points. Lowndes got back 105 of those points in one race. Now it’s a defendable but mind-stretching battle.

“Everything’s possible; it’s just a matter of staying out of trouble,” said Lowndes.

“My gut feeling is pretty good at the moment. Its one of those things where I can only focus on what I can do and control. We will be able to put on a good show tomorrow – whether that show is good enough or not we will see.”

Lowndes will certainly have the better in the mind stakes but Whincup has proven time and again that his mental strength is not in question.

“I know Jamie pretty well, he will be gutted. He rarely makes the same mistake twice. Tomorrow will be a hard fought race. I am ready to go,” said Lowndes.

“The possible has happened. We will get over it and get on with it. I know tomorrow is going to be a completely different day.”

Lowndes conserved just well enough to make the distance, with just 200ml of petrol. At race end there were stopped cars strewn around the entire length of the circuit having run out of petrol. Lee Holdsworth lost a podium spot when he limped to the end and stopped 100m across the line.

“There wasn’t too much left in the tank. We thought we were safe but had a little less than we thought, just enough to get the job done,” Lowndes’ team principal Adrian Burgess said.

As if a premonition Whincup has been saying all week he thought this would come down to Sunday.

“I’ve been saying it all week,” he said.

“It’s just bad luck, one of those things. If anyone knows motorsport anything can happen tomorrow so we are going to have to fight for it now. I’ve been around long enough to understand this sport and how up and down it can be.

“It’s going to be intense now. We are going to go out there and race hard, focus on qualifying. It’s come down to the last day and who knows what is going to happen. I didn’t expect this.”

Whincup had been super-aggressive for someone that was in the box seat. He said he wasn’t going to hold back and he didn’t. It appeared the front suspension broke well before he hit the wall.

All the while Lowndes was plugging away in the top five. At the second last stop he had worked his way up to second while Whincup, at that time, was 24th.

Pole-sitter Will Davison led the early running of the 74-lapper, but his Trading Post Falcon quickly suffered a bent steering arm from contact with the harsh trackside kerbs.

Eventually his steering broke and pitched him into the wall at turn 1 on lap 10.

Teammate Mark Winterbottom would later find himself involved in contact with Greg Murphy, which sent the Pepsi Max Crew Commodore into a spin at turn 1.

The Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon driver was handed a pit lane penalty, dropping him down the field before he recovered to finish fifth.

The Sydney Olympic Park street circuit again proved itself to be a car-cruncher, with 20 of the 28 starters finishing.

Tomorrow’s 28th and final race will see the V8 Supercars Championship go down to the wire with another 20-minute qualifying session to determine the grid.

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