Jamie Whincup has wrapped up his fourth V8 Supercar title in the most spectacular fashion at Winton, overcoming a pit lane penalty to pick up the points required to seal the championship.
Whincup finished third in Sunday’s second race at Winton, but had to fight his way through the field after falling as low as 25th following a rule breach.
The Holden driver was in the lead and well on the way to securing the championship when he was penalised for spinning his wheels while his car was up on jacks in pit lane.
That meant a drive-through penalty, which dropped Whincup from the lead to 22nd place midway through the race.
He fell even lower during pit stops.
But he then launched a stunning assault through the field, eventually climbing to third with four laps remaining to ensure his only rival Mark Winterbottom cannot catch him at the season’s final event in Sydney in a fortnight.
He now holds a 317-point championship lead over Ford’s Winterbottom, with only 300 points left on offer this year.
Whincup’s Team Vodafone teammate Craig Lowndes won the 67-lap race at Winton, with Winterbottom second.
Whincup, 29, adds this year’s title to his 2008, 2009 and 2011 championships.
He has won 12 of the 28 races so far this season.
Despite clinching the title, Whincup and Team Vodafone are refusing to celebrate their championship victory until after the final race at Sydney’s Homebush.
Only the highly unlikely scenario of a points penalty during the Sydney races for Whincup could in any way re-open the championship, and even then it would be unlikely to be enough to stop him.
“We did it the hard way today,” Whincup said of his spirited drive from back to front after his pit lane penalty.
“It’s a bit of a wanker rule really (the wheel spin rule) but at the end of the day I broke the rules and have to do the penalty.
“I’ll just bottle the emotion, do everything right in Sydney, and make sure everything is signed sealed and delivered.”
But Winterbottom admitted the title race was over as far as he was concerned, and he was now concentrating on retaining the season runners-up spot with Lowndes still a chance of catching him.
“Obviously the championship is over, but I’d like to split the Triple Eight cars and we’re in the right position to do that now,” Winterbottom said.