Lowndes flies as Whincup stutters in V8s
By Ed Jackson
18:19 AEST Sat Aug 25 2012

The V8 Supercars championship took another dramatic twist on Saturday as Ford's Mark Winterbottom moved 20 points ahead of Jamie Whincup in the title chase.

But it's Whincup's veteran Holden teammate Craig Lowndes who is closing in fast after he snared his fourth win of the season - and third in succession - at Sydney Motorsport Park.

The 38-year-old, starting from sixth, took full advantage of a horror day for Whincup before using pit strategy to take the lead from Winterbottom in the 140km race and snatch victory.

Winterbottom's second-place finish was enough to lift him above defending champion Whincup - who claimed pole position but otherwise had a day to forget.

The three-time drivers' champion bogged his Commodore at the start and was seventh by the end of the opening lap.

He fought his way back to fourth but, as his right rear tyre began to fall apart over the final laps, Whincup had to nurse his stricken vehicle home and crossed the line a lowly 23rd.

Ford's Will Davison finished third to remain in the title hunt, 59 points ahead of Lowndes in the championship standings and just 103 behind teammate Winterbottom.

Lowndes, whose last of three championships came way back in 1999, was clearly feeling confident heading into the year's big events - the endurance races at Sandown and Bathurst.

"It's a great time of the year," he said.

"I love this part. Knowing where we're going to be heading into, the endurance side of it, I'm happy, I'm confident."

Winterbottom for his part said he'll take a 20-point lead, particularly if he can maintain that advantage until the end of the year.

But he knows in-form Lowndes, consistent teammate Davison and been-there-done-it Whincup are not going to give him anything lightly.

"End of the year, there's still going to be four blokes fighting for this championship," he said.

"It's exciting.

"The important thing is to keep finishing races, keep getting podiums and, if we can keep a 20-point lead until the end of the year, that's all you need to do."

The Sydney Motorsport Park 360 ends on Sunday with a 220km race.

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