V8 Bulls fight it out at Melbourne GP

The heat is on Jamie Whincup – and it’s coming from his V8 Supercars teammates.

The six-time champion was put to the test by fellow Triple Eight Holden drivers Shane van Gisbergen and Craig Lowndes in the opening two exhibition races at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne on Friday.

Whincup started race one from pole position, only to have van Gisbergen steal the lead and win both sprints.

He then fought with Lowndes for second place in race two, but lost it on the final lap.

While there are no championship points to prove it, the pair showed they’re not interested in playing second fiddle to the V8 title record-holder this season.

Van Gisbergen’s wins were his first since joining the team for 2016, and their first at Albert Park since 2011.

It was also Lowndes’ first in TeamVortex colours.

“It’s really cool to get one on the board even though it doesn’t count statistically,” van Gisbergen said.

“We had really good speed in Adelaide but struggled for comfort.

“It feels a lot better now and … more and more like home.”

The Kiwi driver, who left one-man outfit Tekno Autosports to take a seat in the Red Bull-branded Commodore, hasn’t had a teammate in three years.

He admitted he wasn’t sure what to do when Whincup slipped up midway through the first race following a safety car restart.

“But it was clean and fair,” he added.

“We’ve been told what’s expected of us. I really enjoyed it … and I’m sure it’ll go the other way sometimes as well.”

Van Gisbergen sits third on the drivers’ championship after one round, with Whincup ahead in second following his win and podium at the Clipsal 500.

While Holden had a field day at the Grand Prix track, Ford’s reigning series champion Mark Winterbottom had an afternoon to forget.

He was nudged and spun on lap one of the opening sprint, sending him to the back of the grid and finished 21st.

He started the second race from that position but fought back to cross the line in 12th.

The unique rolling starts, which only feature at Albert Park, claimed a couple of casualties but neither suffered major damage.

A third 12-lap race begins at 3.20pm (AEDT) on Saturday, with a final sprint to be run on Sunday afternoon.

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