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Winterbottom secures hat-trick

Mark Winterbottom continued his winning ways in the MSS Security V8 Supercars Challenge, maintaining a perfect record in the 2012 Formula 1 QANTAS Australian Grand Prix.

After winning the opening two races, the Ford Performance Racing driver took out a shortened Race 3 on Saturday afternoon. Originally scheduled for 20 laps, the race was Red Flagged after a Turn 3 pile-up on the opening lap.

Reigning Champion Jamie Whincup was turned around and spun back into the pack after a touch with James Courtney. Half a dozen cars were caught up in the incident, with Karl Reindler, Taz Douglas, Russell Ingall, Alexandre Prémat and David Wall all eliminated from the race.

V8 rookie Douglas’ car finished up mounted on the Commodore of Russell Ingall, while Whincup and Rick Kelly also sustained damage.

After a lengthy clean-up, the race got back underway with a revised duration of seven laps. The majority of the field started on the Control Tyre, with front-runners Winterbottom, Shane van Gisbergen, Garth Tander and Todd Kelly pitting at the end of the first lap to change to the softer Sprint Tyre.

Conversely, Will Davison and Fabian Coulthard started on the Sprint Tyre, stayed out and worked hard to build enough of a buffer over the chasing Winterbottom. The pair eventually made their compulsory pit stops at the end of Lap 6, with Davison re-joining just behind team-mate Winterbottom.

While Winterbottom skipped away to win the race, Davison – on cold, harder tyres – found himself under immense pressure from Tander and van Gisbergen on the softer rubber. Tander found a way past to take second, while Davison held out van Gisbergen.

“It’s a really nice feeling,” Winterbottom said of his third win of the weekend.

“Obviously the short race was about trying to maximise the speed early, but it all felt pretty good and the car was strong.

“There was the unknown, which was Will, and he was getting quicker, not slower, so it was quite scary there. The team were saying ‘Keep pushing on but save your tyres’, which is quite hard to do. Then Will came out of the pits and I watched the big screen for the last lap, cheering him on.”

Current V8 Supercar Championship leader Davison’s third-place finish saw both FPR cars on the podium again as the factory Ford squad enjoys a strong weekend.

“It was a good fun race that last lap. It was a good show and that’s what it’s all about this weekend,” Davison said.

“We used the same strategy as yesterday, so I pressed on as hard as I could. It’s a pretty long pit lane here and you know the leaders are coming along. You’re looking at the big screen and you know there’s one lap to go, you’ve got cold, hard tyres on and you just have to gas it as hard as you can.”

Coulthard finished fifth, ahead of Lee Holdsworth, Craig Lowndes (from the rear of the field after Friday’s engine problems), Todd Kelly, Greg Murphy and David Reynolds.

The fourth and final race of the MSS Security V8 Supercars Challenge starts at 1:20pm tomorrow.

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