Jamie Whincup got his V8 Supercar championship title defence off to a perfect start in race one of the Clipsal 500, taking the race win with pace certain to put fear into his rivals.
Whincup fought back from starting, in his words, 'like a taxi driver,' dropping from pole down to fifth as the lights went green and gifting the lead to his Vodafone team-mate, Craig Lowndes.
The reigning champ simply regrouped, got his head down and worked his way forwards, passing Paul Dumbrell, James Courtney, Garth Tander in the course of the next eleven laps, then passing Lowndes for the lead eight laps later.
Whincup maintained the advantage through two safety car periods, before stopping for his solitary pitstop five laps before Lowndes. Despite being put under pressure from his team-mate in the second half of the race, and a third and final safety car period, Whincup was able to demonstrate that the challenge of an all-new car for the Triple Eight Vodafone squad has changed nothing of the team's position as the one to beat.
“After my taxi driver start it was an amazing day for TeamVodafone,” Whincup said. “Everyone worked so hard during the off season so it was great to come out and get a result.
“To be honest it was an emotional day for me. We debuted a new car, there was a certain amount of expectation and pressure on me to back up after last year. I felt a great sense of relief when I crossed the chequered flag.
“The car is a real credit to the team, it was fantastic and just got better and better as the race went on.”
Lowndes faltered in the latter stages of the race, with an apparent mistake dropping him off Whincup's tail, then a number of further mistakes brought about by suspected power steering fluid loss, which put him out of second place and into the team's garage with just a handful of laps left.
Lowndes loss was Lee Holdsworth's gain, with the Garry Rogers Motorsport driver making up from losing a potential second place on the start grid due to his kerb-hopping antics, to adopt that place across the finish line with a strong and consistent performance.
Finishing third, on his Holden Racing Team debut, was Will Davison. The former Ford man's debut for the Red team was not perfect as it was bookended by two mistake. A poor start as the Melbourne resident braked to stop his car creeping, just as the lights went green meant a tardy getaway, then he suffered from a late spin, possibly assisted by oil from team-mate Garth Tander's car, but fortunately he was in sufficient clear air not to lose position.