Title rivals James Courtney and Jamie Whincup have rued a disappointing day at Symmons Plains Raceway today.
The championship leaders finished 12th and 15th respectively at the Tasmanian circuit, and are now separated by 50 points with four races remaining.
Race winner Mark Winterbottom moved to third place with his result and sits just 200 points behind leader Courtney.
Courtney’s day was compromised when he ran into the back of Lee Holdsworth. Courtney was handed a drive-through penalty for the incident, and lost more time when he was forced to repair damage to the rear of his Jim Beam Racing Falcon.
After qualifying 21st and racing towards the front before his dramas, Courtney admitted that he dodged a bullet at Symmons today.
“We had awesome car speed. The guys did an amazing job turning the car around. It was horrendous this morning, but we transformed it to be on the pace of the front guys,” he told Speedcafe.com.au.
“We passed Jamie on genuine speed, so it was good, but to get the drive through was disappointing.
“Lee got a bad run out of the hairpin, so I towed up onto him, and when we came around the corner, I committed to going past him. As I pulled out to past, he pulled out to block. I’d gone past the point of no return and I did my best to pull it up, but he didn’t give me a whole lot of room to play with. He was entitled to defend his line, though.
“It’s a disappointment, but on the other hand, the Triple Eight guys, something happened to them. Craig (Lowndes) unfortunately didn’t get as many points as they should.”
Whincup was also bound for a top five place until the team didn’t put enough fuel in his TeamVodadone Commodore. He was forced to make an extra pit stop in the latter stages of the race to fill up.
“Once again we gave our opposition a get out of jail free card,” he said.
“We were all set to reclaim the lead which was my goal this weekend, but a silly error cost us the result we needed,” Whincup said.
“The year’s already been tough and today it just got a little tougher. If there are any positives, I feel like we still have a sniff.
“My thoughts are now for Sandown, where we need to regroup and settle the ship. I believe we are still the best team in pit lane but today was definitely one of our lowest moments.”
See below for Speedcafe.com.au’s exclusive video with title leaders Jamie Whincup and James Courtney …