Nice finish: Will Davison after his win in the Sydney 500.
IT WAS redemption of sorts for Ford's Will Davison and Holden's James Courtney at Sunday's Sydney 500, although their returns to form were eclipsed by Jamie Whincup's long-awaited celebration of his fourth V8 Supercars championship.
Davison, who, until mid-season, was a serious threat to Whincup's title defence, ended a long run of errors and plain bad luck to dominate the final race of the year in his Ford Performance Racing Falcon.
He recovered from a race-ending mistake in Saturday's 74-lap, 250-kilometre leg of the Sydney Olympic Park street circuit to leap into a lead at the start from second on the grid that he never lost.
Champion Jamie Whincup. Photo: Getty Images
For Courtney, his second third place in the weekend's twin torture tests around the brutal 3.42-kilometre street circuit was a major breakthrough for the beleaguered Holden Racing Team.
Although still shamed by another desultory season of underachievement - the first in 20 years that Holden's official factory team has not won a race - HRT and Courtney were encouraged by their ability to coax his recalcitrant Commodore onto the podium.
In between the pair of relieved redeemers, a beaming Craig Lowndes finished second to finish runner-up in the championship to his Triple Eight Holden teammate Whincup, who finally celebrated the foregone conclusion of retaining his title after another of his championship-defining fightbacks.
Whincup started 24th in the 28-car field after miscuing in qualifying, crashing his Commodore and causing the 20-minute session to be stopped while his stricken car was cleared from the track.
By triggering the stoppage, he incurred the automatic penalty of having his fastest lap time excluded, relegating him to the grid's third-last row.
It was too much of an ask for him, but he did battle his way to fifth at the end of the remarkably carnage-free race, just 24.5 seconds behind winner Davison.
Although he had wrapped up the championship - his fourth in five years - at Winton, near Benalla, two weeks earlier, Whincup had vowed to hold off celebrating his triumph until after the final race and unleashed his joy with some doughnuts and burnouts on the track, before glorying in his success at the podium presentation of the championship trophy.
''It was an unbelievable feeling standing up there on the podium as the champion,'' Whincup grinned afterwards. ''It's been an intense battle all year. Just because Triple Eight and FPR won all the races, it definitely hasn't been boring.
''Every race was just so intense that this [championship] feels like the best, although I don't want to disrespect the other three. But it's been the toughest one to win.'' Courtney, who stopped Whincup sweeping five V8 titles in a row by narrowly beating him in 2010, graciously acknowledged his rival's fourth championship success, which puts him among the all-time greats.
''Jamie's right up there with the best of them,'' Courtney said. ''He's a very deserving champion.''
As the proud winner of the last solely Ford-versus-Holden race in V8 Supercars, which will add Nissan and Mercedes-Benz entries under the new Car Of The Future rules next year, Davison is looking forward to mounting a more sustained challenge to his closest friend in V8 racing in 2013.
''Today, we finally got it right,'' he said. ''I enjoyed every single lap and it's great to end the era with a win to Ford.
''It has been a very up and down year, but, all in all, it's been a great year. It's been a huge step up for FPR this year and we have to keep it going next year and go to the next level.'' Davison boosted his win tally for the season to eight - second to Whincup's title-winning 12 victories.
Courtney, whose $1.2 million a year move to HRT last year has netted just one win, as it coincided with the team's collapse, said his two third places were a surprise and now he is looking ahead. ''It's been a pretty tough year and I'll be glad to see the back of that car,'' he said.