Whincup back on top of V8 pile

All year Jamie Whincup has been desperately trying to regain the No.1 sticker he had to relinquish at the end of last year's V8 Supercar championship.

Whincup back on top of V8 pile
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He's got his number back.

All year Jamie Whincup has been desperately trying to regain the No.1 sticker he had to relinquish at the end of last year's V8 Supercar championship.

On Sunday he did what was needed to secure his third title.

The TeamVodafone driver finished eighth in the last race of the season on the Sydney Olympic Park street circuit, enough to deliver the championship 35 points clear of teammate Craig Lowndes.

Lowndes, the 37-year-old veteran needing to overhaul a 188-point deficit over the weekend to claim a fourth title, did all he could, finishing second behind Ford's Mark Winterbottom in the incident-packed 250km race.

But it wasn't enough, Whincup holding on despite a sub-par weekend to ensure he'll have that precious No.1 back on the side of his Commodore in 2012.

"It's just a money-can't-buy experience," the 28-year-old said.

"It's massive relief at the moment. It's been quite stressful all weekend, especially after yesterday.

"Lowndesy and I came into today with the championship, the whole year's work, swaying in the wind.

"We knew with the weather conditions, we knew with the track the way it is, that it was going to be a tough battle to the end. We played it soft but we played it smart as well."

Whincup had been the dominant force over the year, securing 10 race wins in the season, but he acknowledged challenges from rivals such as Lowndes, Winterbottom and Holden pair Jason Bright and Rick Kelly had made it a hard slog.

"The run home was unbelievably tough with the FPR guys going really good," he said.

"Had some cracker battles with Brighty in the middle of the year and with Ricko in the wet, it goes on and on and on.

"To get through all of that and to come up with the best average score is, for me, the grand prize of the year."

For his part Lowndes was philosophical about falling just short of pulling off the near-impossible with his race win on Saturday and the runner-up finish on Sunday.

"Second was the best we could do today," he said.

"Not too disappointed in the sense that Jamie's done a fantastic job this year. Coming into this weekend it was always going to be a tall order to try and peg back 188 points."

Ford's New Zealand youngster Shane van Gisbergen finished third in the race to complete his breakthrough season as the fourth-placed driver in the championship behind Winterbottom.

 

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Ed Jackson
Journalist

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