V8 Supercar Champion Jamie Whincup fought back from a fortnight of soul searching to regain much needed confidence with victory in the first of two races at the Island 300 in Victoria this weekend.
Whincup's embarrassing stumble at the SuperGP event on the Gold Coast when a self-imposed error turned a healthy Championship lead into bare bones sparked some questions from his rival whether he had thrown his chances away.
But today was step one in the short 100km sprint at Phillip Island for Whincup who held of his main rival Will Davison and the first podium for the newly formed Jack Daniel's Racing and co-owner Rick Kelly.
Whincup cancelled his planned appearance at the high profile Race of Champion's at the Birds Nest Olympic Stadium in China where he would have been alongside some of the world's biggest names in order to refocus his efforts on the Championship race.
“It's eyes down now,” Whincup said. “It was the right decision. It doesn't matter what happens tomorrow now it was the right call at the right time. I feel gutted that I missed the opportunity and can only hope I get another chance.”
As Whincup crossed the line his team said to him “welcome back Jamie” over the radio, something the Champion interpreted as a slight on him going missing on the Gold Coast.
“That was a bit of a cheap shot at me I think. I haven't won a race in a long time even though we've been chipping away here and there. There were just far too many errors at the SuperGP – it was just all over the shop.”
Davison had the early lead today but couldn't hold down Whincup who had a faster car and managed to pass his mate before heading for a fairly comfortable victory.
Fujitsu Racing's Jason Bright, who is still uncertain on his future, gave his outfit a well deserved pole position for the first race with a cracking top ten shootout lap. But the excitement was short-lived from the race start.
Bright missed the jump slightly with the field having been held by the starter for a long time. He was soon scooped up by the field and streeted by Davision, not long after shuffled out of the mid-pack on the very first lap.
Whincup also took advantage of Bright's slow start but slipping around the Fujitsu entry and tucking in behind Davison in what was almost a repeat of the L&H 500 here six weeks ago which became a fist fight between Toll HRT and TeamVodafone.
The second longer 200km race tomorrow afternoon follows a 20-minute qualifying session in the morning.