Whincup wins in Ipswich; McLaughlin second
Suddenly, there is no place like home for V8 Supercars series leader Jamie Whincup.
The 30-year-old finally clicked at his Holden team's test circuit, claiming a stirring victory in the Ipswich round opener on Saturday to get his title defence back on track.
His Red Bull Racing team were always tipped to claim victory at Queensland Raceway - but Whincup's teammate Craig Lowndes was the man expected to triumph.
Remarkably, Lowndes had claimed the last five races on his team's home track.
In contrast, Whincup had gone winless in the last eight races west of Brisbane.
However, Whincup turned his luck around by triumphing at Ipswich for the first time in four years.
He finished half a second ahead of fellow Holden driver, exciting Kiwi young gun Scott McLaughlin, with Ford's Mark Winterbottom third.
Lowndes had a rare frustrating day at Ipswich to finish fourth but is under investigation for an opening lap incident that earned the ire of Winterbottom.
Whincup suffered his worst round to date at the last start in Townsville, missing the podium altogether and failing to qualify in the top 10 for the first time this year.
It ensured Lowndes had whittled Whincup's series lead down to just 111 when they arrived at Ipswich.
However, Whincup was not to be denied on Saturday, claiming his ninth pole position of the year before sealing career win No 72 in the opening sprint race split into two 60km legs.
Whincup credited a recent test day at the track with his Ipswich turnaround.
"We certainly made some gains," he said.
"It's great to bounce back from our worst performance of the year at Townsville with our best.
"But we won't sit on our hands. We need to step up tomorrow to be competitive."
Lowndes caught the eye of officials after a bold inside move on the opening lap resulted in contact with Winterbottom and Holden's Fabian Coulthard.
The bingle dropped Winterbottom from fourth to sixth and an unlucky Coulthard from third to 15th.
Winterbottom recovered to make the podium but Coulthard finished 11th.
"There are two sides to every story but I thought Coulthard overshot it (and made contact with Winterbottom)," Lowndes said.
"I didn't feel anything. Look at the front of my car. There is no blue mark on it (from Winterbottom's Ford)."
Winterbottom wasn't happy.
"It is interesting when you talk to someone who always accuses someone of diving," he said.
"He obviously blamed Fabian straight away so there's no surprise there to be honest."
Whincup (1691pts) is now 131 clear of Lowndes and 247 ahead of Ford's Will Davison in the series before Sunday's two 100km races.