Jamie Whincup has described the Red Bull Holden Racing Team’s showing in Race 22, including a DNF for team-mate Shane van Gisbergen, as “a real let-down”.
The seven-time champion finished fourth in the Robson Civil Projects Townsville SuperSprint opener from seventh on the grid after an untidy Top 10 Shootout lap.
Van Gisbergen fared worse, becoming one of only two retirements due to the power steering letting go on the #97 ZB Commodore.
Car #88 pinched track position in Race 22 with a two-tyre pit stop compared to three for each of eventual podium finishers Cameron Waters and Chaz Mostert, but he could keep neither behind him for long.
Whincup eventually got home more than five seconds behind the latter after the 39 laps.
“We just weren’t quick enough today,” lamented the title contender.
“We gave ourselves every opportunity and DC (David Cauchi, race engineer) gave us an aggressive strategy to get us out in front of Chaz and Cam, but we didn’t quite have the car pace and balance today.
“I’m not too disappointed with a P4 result but the fact that we weren’t as quick as last weekend and a failure for car #97 is a real let-down for the team.
“We’ll go over the data tonight, have a good sleep, have a couple of Red Bulls in the morning and see if we can do a better job for another day of back-to-back racing.”
Van Gisbergen might well have been on the podium before his car started dropping fluid, which nearly put him in the wall at Turn 10.
The 2016 champion started second, where Whincup had provisionally qualified, and inherited the lead when Scott McLaughlin pitted from a touch under four seconds up the road on Lap 17.
Hopes of a strong result fell within another four laps when the power steering failed and van Gisbergen’s attempts to press on with a larger steering wheel were dashed altogether by a mechanical black flag which came shortly after.
“Right from practice this morning the car felt really good,” he recounted.
“I had a couple of moments in both practice sessions, but I felt we definitely had potential to post a good result today.
“In qualifying, we were up the front for each session which was really encouraging, so we made a really good step there compared to last week.
“I made a little mistake in the shootout which wasn’t enough to cost us pole but I managed to keep second which was great.
“The race was going well, and the car felt good. I’m not too sure what our strategy was but, unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to find out; the power steering let go at Turn 10 so we were lucky not to end up with a damaged car, but hopefully we can fix the power steering rack for tomorrow’s two races.”
McLaughlin would go on to win the race and extend his championship lead to 143 points over Whincup, while van Gisbergen has dropped from fourth on a countback to fifth outright and is now 499 points off the pace.
Qualifying for Race 23 of the season commences tomorrow at 09:40 local time/AEST.