Whincup closes on fourth championship
Jamie Whincup lifts the trophy after winning in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Getty Images
HOLDEN hero Jamie Whincup is within sight of his fourth V8 Supercars championship after completing a clean sweep at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.
Whincup, the defending V8 champion, made it three out of three at the Yas Marina formula one circuit at the weekend with another runaway in the third 12-lap, 65-kilometre sprint, again finishing with a comfortable margin over Ford's Will Davison.
South Australia's Tim Slade was third, his best result of the season, ahead of his Stone Bros Racing Ford teammate Shane Van Gisbergen.
Mark Winterbottom muscled his way through to fifth after starting seventh in his Ford Performance Racing Falcon to keep his slim championship hopes alive until at least the next event at Winton.
Whincup's three wins extended his lead in the standings over Winterbottom to 296 points. The two races at Winton are worth 150 each.
Whincup's Team Vodafone teammate Craig Lowndes is still third in the championship, but he lost further ground yesterday by finishing 11th after qualifying poorly and is now 389 points off the lead with four races at two events to go.
Unlike Saturday's two races, that were watched by just handfuls of people in the towering grandstands, there were a few thousand for the final V8 race, the only on-track entertainment before the Abu Dhabi formula one Grand Prix three hours later.
With almost no action at the front of the field, the most dramatic moment was a three-car crash on the third lap with Karl Reindler's Kelly Racing Commodore briefly erupting into flames.
In a chain reaction, Jason Bright was spun across the track by a nudge from Jonathon Webb, sending Bright's car sideways into the path of Reindler's machine.
As Reindler ploughed into the right rear of Bright's Holden, he was rear-ended by Dean Fiore's Falcon. Amid flames and smoke, Reindler evacuated quickly. It was reminiscent of his fiery startline accident at Perth's Barbagallo Raceway in 2011, when he suffered burns to his hands and arms.
Despite a safety car period of several minutes while the track was cleared, the race restarted on the sixth lap and finished just on the 30-minute time limit.
Whincup's weekend sweep lifted his career win tally to 63 - third all-time in Australian touring car championship competition behind Mark Skaife and Lowndes - and yesterday's win was his sixth from the seven V8 races staged in Abu Dhabi since 2010.
He also notched up a milestone for Holden, scoring the VE model Commodore's 100th victory since its debut in 2007, making it the most successful car in Australian touring car championship/V8 Supercars history.