Reigning Winton round 'champion' Jamie Whincup pounced when V8 Supercar points leader Mark Winterbottom ran out of luck in the first race of the 2008 season's return to the Victoria track, taking a runaway win in the first leg of the weekend's triple-header.

Winterbottom saw his lead sucked away when a flat tyre ended his chances of posting yet another race win in what has been his season to date. It allowed Whincup, who dominated here last year, to take the win from Jim Beam Racing's Will Davison and Toll HRTs Garth Tander.

"It was a shame about Mark really," the TeamVodaone driver said, "All three of us would have liked to have raced him to the end. But hey, I got a flat tyre in Formula Ford in 2002 and he beat me, so what goes around comes around.

"It's good to be back up the front, as it has been a couple of dry rounds since my previous victory. Both Craig [Lowndes] and I have good fast cars, yet we believe we can still find a little bit more for tomorrow. But remember, Winton always throws up plenty of variables, so races two and three are by no means a foregone conclusion."

Winterbottom had got off to a flier from pole, and his dominance was no more evident than on the very first lap when he opened up a one-second lead, clearing away from the field with ease. However, everything came to a halt very quickly for the championship leader, as the flat rear tyre allowed a flotilla of cars to swamp the FPR machine, leaving Jim Beam Racing's Davison in the lead. By the time the pit window opened, Winterbottom had gone from clear leader to dead last.

"They've beaten us [only] when I've got a problem," Winterbottom pointed out later, having seen his championship lead whittled down to just 64 points, "They will be happy, but they didn't genuinely beat us. You've got to make the best of a bad situation, there's nothing you can do about it, it's not the last round and there's plenty of points still to be had."

'Frosty''s problems left Davison and Whincup fighting for the lead, and the former housemates diced for several laps before Whincup got the upper hand, assuming the lead on the eleventh lap of 40.

"It's awesome to be back," Davison said, despite having to settle for second, "This is a bogey track for me, to be honest. We thought for a while there it might have even been a win, but we didn't quite have the strength in the end."

Reigning series champion Garth Tander claimed the final podium spot as the leading Holden driver, and the 'red side' went on to dominate the top ten, with five other cars joining Tander's HRT example.

Jason Richards came close to a rare podium for Tasman/Sprint Gas Racing, while Lee Holdsworth, Todd Kelly, Russell Ingall and Michael Caruso - making it two Garry Rogers Motorsports cars in the top ten - all made it into the leading group.

Richards' fourth place was his, and the team's, best result of the season to date and, outside of a win at Winton in 2006, was the driver's best result at the Victorian track.

"We had good car speed, a good strategy and a good pit-stop," the V8 veteran said, "We showed our potential today. Everything fell into place and we got a result. I'm really happy, we deserved this today.

Richards had a tough battle during the last 23 laps with FPR namesake Steve Richards, but managed to keep his nerve and hold the Ford man off.

"The race sure took a long time to finish," the Tasman man said, "I was hoping we could have finished the race at lap 20! I pitted early and 'Richo' pitted later so, when it mattered later in the race, he had fresher tyres. He seemed to be a little stronger on the corners, but I was able to keep a safe distance on the straights, which made it difficult for him to even attempt a pass. We obviously had a fast car which gave us the advantage."

James Courtney rounded out the top ten in the other Ford to make the lead group, but the likes of Rick Kelly, Lowndes, Mark Skaife and practice pacesetter Fabien Coulthard all had to make do with worse results than maybe they were expecting. Coulthard finished down in 19th after a disappointing qualifying effort.

Lowndes, meanwhile, had made a brilliant start, leapfrogging at least four cars, but was unable to capitalise on it after being pushed wide at turn two, forcing him onto the gravel and back to 18th position. He eventually recovered to twelfth.

"I got a ripper start, but I was on the outside and got run out onto the gravel," he explained, "I feel like I and the team have worked hard this afternoon, but we have only got two spots to show for it. Overall, the car is a good package and I am feeling pretty positive."