Whincup returns to V8s winner’s circle

Jamie Whincup has returned to the V8 Supercars winner’s circle after a five-month absence, claiming victory and a podium on the opening day of racing at Sydney Motorsport Park.

Until Saturday, the Holden superstar had gone 15 races without a win – stretching back to March in Tasmania.

But he broke that drought with a measured drive in the second of two sprints on Saturday, jumping Chaz Mostert’s Ford on pole position and fending off fellow Holden driver Fabian Coulthard for all 16 laps.

He finished the earlier race in third, marking his first appearance on the podium since May.

“It’s been a while,” Whincup said.

“She sounded a bit like a tractor out there … but it’s good to be on the top step of the podium.”

While the win does little to help his hopes of a record seventh championship in 2015, it will provide a shot in the arm for Red Bull Racing ahead of the endurance series.

Whincup steps up one place to sixth on the overall standings, 455 points behind Ford rival and leader Mark Winterbottom.

Winterbottom maintained his spot atop the rankings with a second and eighth in the two races.

But PRA teammate Mostert continues to be hot on his tail, closing to within 267 points with a win in the opening sprint and third place in the second.

He leapfrogged Holden’s Craig Lowndes into second in the title race, with just nine points separating them.

Lowndes finished fifth and 10th.

Jack Perkins, who replaced the injured James Courtney in Holden Racing Team’s No.22 Commodore, finished 19th in both sprints.

Courtney remains in hospital with two broken ribs and a pneumothorax after being struck in the chest on Friday by a metal hoarding, blown over by a low-flying Navy helicopter during a pre-practice display.

Qualifying for Sunday’s 52-lap race begins at 11.45am (AEST).

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