Whincup on top in Clipsal 500

Jamie Whincup has gotten his quest to regain the V8 Supercars title off to a good start, claiming a season-opening victory at the Clipsal 500.

The six-time champ leads the series once more after relinquishing his title last year to Mark Winterbottom.

Whincup leapt from the grid to overtake polesitter Scott Pye and never lost effective control of the race despite a safety car called for Tim Slade’s retirement.

In temperatures above 35 degrees – and in-car heat around 20 degrees hotter – Whincup’s superior pace showed.

Reigning Clipsal 500 champ James Courtney improved off the grid to be second, with his Holden Racing Team partner Garth Tander racing through the field to grab fifth.

Shane Van Gisbergen rounded out the podium in third on his debut for Red Bull Racing.

Scott McLaughlin was fourth with Nissan man Todd Kelly placing sixth.

Pye, who stunned the field to win his first pole position in front of his home crowd, managed just 12th after a pit-lane bungle cost him several places.

His slip contributed to a miserable opener for Ford drivers, with Winterbottom dropping several places to be eighth, the highest-placing Falcon.

Whincup will look to repeat the act in race two, when he again starts from second in the grid, behind Chaz Mostert.

Saturday’s second 125 kilometre race begins at 3:45pm (AEST).

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