Whincup bemoans missed opportunities in Darwin

Red Bull Ampol Racing went winless in Darwin. Picture: Mark Horsburgh

Triple Eight Race Engineering team principal Jamie Whincup believes the Darwin Triple Crown was a weekend of missed opportunities.

The team walked away from the three-dayer without a win, those scalps going the way of Anton De Pasquale (Dick Johnson Racing), Cameron Waters (Tickford Racing), and Chaz Mostert (Walkinshaw Andretti United).

In all three races, van Gisbergen was there or thereabouts. In the first instance, a slow pit stop in Race 16 cost the Kiwi time and eventually he had to settle for third. Race 17 saw the #97 pilot not feature for the win, but at least secure another podium while Waters and Will Davison battled for the lead.

In the weekend’s closer, van Gisbergen clashed with Davison on a Safety Car restart at Turn 1 while battling for third. The contact broke the power steering on the Holden ZB Commodore, eventually finishing 21st.

The pair had been well poised for the closing stages of the race with the freshest tyres of the front-runners. In fact, Davison thought both drivers were a shot at victory.

For Whincup, having to play catch-up behind the top qualifiers Dick Johnson Racing ultimately hurt their hopes.

“We were certainly competitive,” Whincup told Speedcafe.com.

“The guys next door are always very, very fast here and generally set the pace in quali. We had a slight advantage in the race and I think it was a similar story this weekend.

“We didn’t qualify as well as we would like. We don’t expect to be on pole every time, but Car 97 starting fifth and Car 88 back of the 10 in a weekend with super soft tyres in hot conditions and 20 psi, it makes it hard when you qualify back there.”

Whincup was most disappointed with the Race 18 result. Van Gisbergen’s woes opened the door for team-mate Feeney to pounce, though he was outboxed by Waters, Davison, and Andre Heimgartner to plummet from third to sixth.

“Shane’s lunge was on, it was on,” said Whincup.

“If you don’t take those, you know, you’re not racing. I feel like after qualifying we maximised as much as we could.

“The big missed opportunity was we should run third in that race, 88 should have run third and that didn’t happen, so that’s what’s hurting the most right now.”

With the NTI Townsville 500 next on the calendar, a stronghold for the team, making sure it doesn’t repeat its qualifying quandary is a must.

“The cars are quick, we just didn’t perform the best this weekend,” added Whincup.

“So we don’t take that lightly. It’s not like ‘Ah, happy days’ and move on; no, we’ll need to debrief properly next week and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes.

“Our pace was good. Strategy was good with what we had. We just need to clean up few areas of operation and that’s the game we play.”

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