JAMIE Whincup claimed his first win as reigning Supercars champion, splashing to victory in Race 4 at the Coates Hire Melbourne 400.
The victory extends his career tally to 109, the Red Bull Holden pilot blitzing his rivals in dismally wet conditions at Albert Park.
“It’s so Melbourne, isn’t it. 35 degrees one day, p****** with rain the next,” Whincup said.
“I nearly spun off a couple of times — I nearly spun off on the warm-up lap!”
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Race 3 winner Scott McLaughlin led home DJR Team Penske teammate Fabian Coulthard to lock out the remaining podium positions.
Tickford’s Richie Stanaway had a delayed start to the race, heading back to the garage to sort out a problem with his rain light, rejoining the race several laps after it started.
After two laps under Safety Car the race proper began on Lap 3, Whincup immediately jumping out to a noticeable lead from the Shell Fords.
Shane van Gisbergen was the big mover among the leaders in the early stages, working his way past Michael Caruso and Nick Percat to sit fifth.
The first real drama came in the mid-field. Todd Hazelwood, Simona De Silvestro and Garth Tander made contact while running three-wide at Turn 3, the former and the latter spinning to the tail of the field.
Hazelwood made it only two more corners before damage sent him slithering into the fence. The rookie limped his Ford back to the pits to replace a broken steering arm.
Whincup was the next to slip up, running off into the grass at Turn 1 on Lap 6. He managed to keep his lead, albeit with a reduced margin to McLaughlin.
Andre Heimgartner and James Courtney were soon caught up in their own incidents, too. The Kiwi slid off at the penultimate corner, while the latter was bumped into a spin by Jack Le Brocq at Turn 4. Stewards handed JLB a 15 second time penalty for his troubles.
By Lap 8, van Gisbergen had made steady inroads into Cameron Waters’ margin in fourth, ranging up on the outside of the Ford into Turn 3 on Lap 9 but unable to nag the spot.
At the front, Whincup rebuilt his margin after his early scare, pulling four seconds over the Shell Fords by the start of the 10th tour.
Van Gisbergen continued to apply the blowtorch to Waters, his momentum blunted by a big slide through Turn 12 that gave the Tickford driver a brief respite.
With no more rain falling, several drivers began hunting for water to keep their wet tyres together in the closing laps.
Craig Lowndes’ charge from the rear of the grid to mid-field ended at the end of the 10th lap, contact with Heimgartner at Turn 15 breaking his steering, a moment that would draw a post-race investigation.
The next battle to focus on was the squabble for sixth between Nick Percat and Chaz Mostert. After fending his advances for a couple of laps, Mostert snuck past at Turn 4 on the penultimate lap.
Van Gisbergen caught back up with Waters on the final lap, outdragging the Monster Energy Falcon on the exit of Turn 9.
Despite another brief off at Turn 1, Whincup’s margin at the front was four seconds by the chequered flag over McLaughlin and Coulthard, bagging his first win of the season.