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'Imperfect' Whincup wins Sandown

1 January 1901


As tough as it is in the competitive world of V8 Supercar racing, Jamie Whincup still found time to get down on himself after winning the Midas 400 at Sandown Raceway on Monday.

The TeamVodafone driver took the event for a second straight year, having won the longer Sandown 500 with team-mate Craig Lowndes in 2007, but was highly critical of his performance after beating Ford Performance Racing's Mark Winterbottom and Jeld Wen Racing's James Courtney to round honours.

The all-Ford top three meant Winterbottom took the championship lead from Toll Holden Racing Team's Garth Tander, who was a lowly seventh, while, for Whincup, a win was a welcome in his bid to get back to the top of the standings, even if he was not exactly happy with his overall performance.

“I made three or four errors over the weekend, which is below average for an elite athlete,” Whincup said, “I am running in the top line of motorsport, where you've got to stay on the limit. All these guys beside you are pushing to the limit and you are to the limit but, as an elite athlete, should be able to perform at their best and not make any mistakes. I will go away and work on that and see what the drama is.”

Whincup, who had admitted to concentration problems while winning race one on Sunday, virtually won the event on the back of his race three performance as a late pit-stop strategy put him in front of Winterbottom and the story of the day – SP Tools rookie Shane Van Gisbergen - who finished fourth for the weekend.

Although it will come as little comfort to Whincup, even Winterbottom admitted to making some errors in the gloomy conditions of the final race, which finished in near darkness and spotting rain. But the FPR man was jubilant that he was able to put himself and FPR into the championship lead for the first time in team history.

“The championship lead is fantastic," 'Frosty' commented, "It's the first time ever for FPR, and we are excited about how we are going, but to lead is an achievement."

Tander, meanwhile, lamented a poor weekend by his and HRT's usual standards.

“Obviously, it was a bad weekend for the team,” he said, “We just have to put this behind us and go to Darwin and do better. We lost the points lead, but there's still eight rounds remaining.”

Whincup's team-mate Craig Lowndes had every chance to steal the glory, but didn't even make the starting grid for the final race when he broke an axle on the formation lap. The #888 car went out for the formation lap to the grid but, instead of stopping on pole, he slipped back into pit-lane, leaving the start strategy at the front of the grid in total disarray, not to mention Lowndes' day.

“This was a first for me - I have never had a rear axle break before, and we just didn't have enough time to replace it,” the veteran said, “It was a real shame for the team as we were looking at a Vodafone 1-2.”

van Gisbergen was left alone at the front of the field, with Whincup behind him and facing clear air in front. Courtney was sitting behind van Gisbergen and made the most of it, taking his team-mate on the long front straight. While he may have faded a little in the final race, however, the Stone Brothers Racing rookie was still the talk of the day.

“It's been pretty tough, but I absolutely love it,” the 19-year old said of his elevation to frontrunner, “It was amazing being in the company of those guys and up the front of the field. Now we need to keep working and stay up the front more of the time. I'm sure we will be up there again.”

A reserved Ross Stone appears to have unearthed another great talent in the young Kiwi, having first spied him in Formula Ford, but refused to get carried away.

“We've been doing it for a long time,” the team boss said of his discovery, “We have still got a long way to go yet, it's still early days, but the signs are looking good. We are really looking forward to it. When you are 19, life is not that complicated. All he wants to do is jump in the car and drive it. I don't think he has any interest in anything else but racing in these cars.”


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