Supercars champion Mark Winterbottom has turned up the heat on Red Bull Racing teammates Shane Van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup.
The Ford star says the Holden pair might be leading the way in this year’s title race but their friendship is yet to be tested by racing directly against each other.
Van Gisbergen moved within 53 points of championship leader Whincup – who came fourth on Sunday – after claiming his third win of the season in Sunday’s 200km race at Townsville.
The New Zealander passed Winterbottom midway through the 70-lap race and had enough pace to hold off a fast-finishing James Courtney to take the win.
But Winterbottom, who was narrowly beaten to second by Courtney on the finish line, says the love-in between his rivals will be tested as the season goes on.
“We’ll see what happens, it’s a long way to go,” Winterbottom, who sits third on the standings, said.
“Those two are going to have to race each other at some stage too. It’s all lovey-dovey at the moment, they want each other up here (the podium), but there’ll be a point that they don’t.”
Van Gisbergen’s victory makes him the first of the 10 race winners in 2016 to claim three victories.
He says the title race is looming as a five-car battle between himself, Whincup, Winterbottom, Craig Lowndes and Volvo’s Scott McLaughlin.
“Every weekend those five cars are in and amongst it,” he said.
“There’s a smokey every once in a while who comes out and dominates but those five cars are in and amongst it. Everything’s so tight and it’s pretty exciting to be a part of.”
Courtney spiced up a relatively-incident free race when his team made a strategy gamble after the safety car was triggered with less than 10 laps remaining.
The Holden Racing Team driver pitted and re-entered the track with fresher tyres than the eight cars in front of him.
He then used his superior grip to gobble up the leaders, making up seven spots in as many laps before getting passed Winterbottom right on the line for a much-needed second-place for the embattled factory team.
“I just had to pick them off,” Courtney said.
“Most of them just let me through but Mark was probably the one who fought the hardest.
“It was a really good call on strategy from the boys.”
The Supercars next event is at Queensland Raceway in Ipswich from July 22.