Darwin victory better than Bathurst: Winterbottom

Mark Winterbottom claimed his win at the SKYCITY Triple Crown was 'better than Bathurst' citing a perfect combination of factors that extended his V8 Supercars Championship lead.

At what may be a pivotal part of the V8 Supercars' season, Winterbottom repelled the Red Bull Racing Commodore of Jamie Whincup and then a rampant Shane Van Gisbergen in the final laps.

It sounded a huge call at the time but the man they call Frosty – who had an epic closing laps battle with Whincup at last year's Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 – explained.

"It was an incredible race, different strategies certainly played a part," Winterbottom said.

"In terms of my performance I feel I drove better than Bathurst. There was only a two dog battle at Bathurst and here there was three. It just felt like you got every inch out of the car whereas you never really feel that way at Bathurst. If you do you end up in the fence."

Van Gisbergen flew up to Winterbottom in the closing laps and it seemed almost inevitable he would pass. But Winterbottom drove tough and forced some errors from the young Kiwi.

"I thought I was in a world of hurt. It was sliding all over the place and the last corner he stick his nose in and my thing was out of control. I didn't want one more lap, I'm glad it finished," said Winterbottom who extended his Championship lead to 161 points over Craig Lowndes.

"It is payday on Sunday, you do get a chunk of points. Jamie smashed everybody yesterday but you don't get rewarded as much with points. I'm glad we are winning the big ones."

A punctured tire from an incident with Chaz Mostert left Lowndes to finish seventeenth. Whincup's second catapulted him into third after a forgettable day for Lockwood Racing's Fabian Coulthard.

Van Gisbergen thought he was a chance with three laps to go before pushing that little bit too hard.

"I had a couple of quick laps and thought 'this is going to be good. But I had a couple of slides two corners in a row and it's pretty hard to recover from that, the tires were just gone," he said.

"I was second last at one point in that race so I wasn't expecting to finish second."

With six laps to go Whincup seemed to make the decision to let Gisbergen past. On his mind was Championship points – and letting Van Gisbergen have a shot at the leader. But older tires got Whincup in the end regardless.

"I knew I couldn't win," Whincup said. "I knew I was only going to have a massive scrap with Shane. I thought I would let him go and make a race of it. There were plenty of people on the hill who paid 50 bucks to see a good race and I wanted to see a good race like them."

Whincup missed out by just .08 of a second to break the all-time ARMOR ALL Pole Position record of 57 in Australian touring cars set by the late, great Peter Brock.

It left him next to Lowndes on the front of the grid, both choosing to start on their last set of hard tires while some others behind them opted for the faster soft compound to start.

With Lowndes and Whincup on hard tires they went backwards at an alarming rate. After five of 69 laps Lowndes was twelfth and Whincup thirteenth.

All that changed when the Volvo of Valvoline GRM's Robert Dahlgren had a stuck throttle which barreled him into the dirt, setting off a safety car that eroded the advantage of the FPR trio and brought Lowndes and Whincup back into the game.

But Lowndes' luck lasted less than a lap when he hit the rear corner of Mostert as they diced for position, suffering a flat tire and adding an unscheduled pit stop. It put Lowndes back in position 21 and out of the running.

Whincup came in for his last stop on lap 43 – earlier than everyone else – with 25 laps left of his final set of soft tires. It was a bold plan at the time but it put him in clear air to chew back some of the gap to leader Winterbottom.

It didn't quite work.

The Championship moves to the next event – the Castrol Townsville 500 – Driven by TAFE Queensland in 11 days time.

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