Winterbottom wins V8 race in NZ

By Robert Grant, NZ Newswire Updated April 22, 2012, 5:27 pm

A bold start propelled Ford's Mark Winterbottom to a nailbiting victory for his first win of the V8 Supercar series on Sunday.

Winterbottom beat defending champion Jamie Whincup's Holden in the final race of the Hamilton 400 by just two tenths of a second.

Series leader Will Davison was third in a Falcon, ahead of Whincup's Team Vodafone Holden teammate Craig Lowndes.

Whincup was lucky just to make the grid after smacking a safety wall during qualifying and causing a serious rebuild of the car's right front and rear.

Winterbottom started the 59-lap from second on the grid with Davison on pole but snatched the lead as the lights went out and headed the field into turn one.

Whincup, third on the grid, made an uncharacteristically sluggish start before fighting his way up to second after a round of pit stops.

In the closing laps Whincup tried desperately to run down Winterbottom but could not find a way past.

"(I knew) Jamie's pace late was strong and I started to lose the rear tyres," Winterbottom said.

"It was really on in that last lap and he obviously had better tyre life but I made sure the car was as wide as possible.

"I used the screens on the track where you could see where he was to defend."

Winterbottom has been struggling with an ankle injury which has hampered his starts but said he was virtually back to full fitness now.

"I started running last week ... but the starts were definitely a lot better this weekend," he said.

"The starts are not an issue any more but getting that monkey off my back was definitely an issue."

Whincup said he had pushed too hard in qualifying and collided with the wall.

"We only just finished the last adjustment on the grid - the steering rack was still damaged from the crash but I had the car and it was 100 per cent," he said.

"But I made it hard for myself in the race, I didn't get off the line as well as I probably should have.

"But we fought on and had some really, really good pit stops today so that's one area we can take away and know we've made gains.

"We also had good late race pace."

Davison, winner of three races this season, continues to lead the championship, with a 21-point edge over Whincup.

Winterbottom won two of the three non-championship races at the Australian Grand Prix meeting last month, but is now back in contention for the crown.

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