Whincup laments strategy misstep in Race 15

Jamie Whincup

Jamie Whincup believes that a different strategy would have yielded a better result than the eighth he took in Race 15 at Hidden Valley given the pace at his disposal.

Whincup qualified sixth for the opening race of the CrownBet Darwin Triple Crown and started alongside the other Red Bull Holden Racing Team entry of Shane van Gisbergen.

He beat the New Zealander away from the grid and was lapping in fifth position when it became clear that he was being held up by Anton De Pasquale.

The #1 ZB Commodore was called for its compulsory pit stop along with third-placed Rick Kelly at the end of Lap 5 and Whincup nearly jumped the Nissan but had to ultimately merge behind in the fast lane.

Try as he might, neither Whincup nor team-mate Craig Lowndes could pass Kelly despite tailing him for 37 laps.

A hair-raising passage on Lap 22 did, however, see Lowndes pass Whincup and van Gisbergen carve his way through both of them between Turns 5 and 6.

Whincup had got alongside Kelly exiting Turn 1 and they ran side-by-side to Turn 5, at which time both ended up wide of the ideal line and bottled up what had become a five-car battle as van Gisbergen and David Reynolds arrived on the scene.

The latter two went on to fill the minor placings while Whincup took the chequered flag nearly 20 seconds after winner Scott McLaughlin.

“We had good car pace today, it was just strategy that got us,” lamented Whincup.

“Today the strategy was to stop early, but it wasn’t the right one.

“I did my best to get past Rick, but he blocked well and we almost crashed at Turn 5. We were lucky to come away unscathed.”

Whincup had explained after Friday practice that reversion to a more familiar package looked set to pay dividends.

While upbeat about the race pace of Car #1, the defending champion still found himself hamstrung by qualifying performance ahead of Race 15.

“We need to improve the car balance to do better in qualifying tomorrow,” explained Whincup.

“We’ve changed the car quite a bit from the last three rounds and just trying to nail that balance for qualifying is difficult.

“We didn’t quite get it right today, but we’ll use today’s info to get it right tomorrow.”

Armor All Qualifying for Race 16 of the championship, for which the grid will be finalised by a Top 10 Shootout, starts tomorrow at 0925 local time/0955 AEST.

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