Jamie Whincup held off Scott McLaughlin in a tense final race at Hidden Valley to win both the race and the Darwin Triple Crown.
The pair basically spent the entire race separated by less than a second, McLaughlin the early leader before the positions were reversed during the sole round of mandatory stops.
Whincup opted to take his service a lap earlier than McLaughlin, the undercut, paired with what looked like a slight delay on McLaughlin’s right-rear tyre change, helping the Red Bull Holden come out in front.
There was an undertone of controversy to Whincup’s stop, though; he exited his bay right as Fabian Coulthard tried to drive into his, the Penske Ford hitting the brakes to avoid a clash.
That robbed Coulthard of the opportunity to jump Chaz Mostert, which would have given him enough points to clear Whincup for round honours and claim the Triple Crown.
However Triple Eight escaped an in-race penalty, leaving Whincup free to hold off McLaughlin to win the race, and secure the Triple Crown on a countback.
“That was a great battle,” said Whincup of the tense contest with McLaughlin. “It reminded me of the old 2017/18 days where we went head-to-head with these blokes.
“It was just resilience. We just kept chipping away at the car all weekend and made it faster for Race 3.
“I thought after the penalty yesterday that we were done and dusted for the Triple Crown, but fantastic to have a fantastic day.”
McLaughlin added: “It’s tough racing the GOAT, he doesn’t make many mistakes. Credit to him and his team, great pitstop by them. It was a good battle, I had a lot of fun.”
McLaughlin and Whincup ended the weekend separated by 101 points, the same margin they started with this morning.
Shane van Gisbergen finished the race, despite running wide at Turn 1 with a handful of laps to go. Luckily his gap back to the Mostert/Coulthard battle pack was big enough for the Kiwi to hold on to the bottom step of the podium.
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