Waters sprints to victory as Supercars returns to Winton

Numero uno: Cameron Waters after his win at Winton. Photo by Brenden Paddock

Supercars was back full-throttle at Winton after two years lost in the wilderness of Covid collateral damage – and it was worth the wait.

With more than 24,000 people through the gate, venue manager Stephen Whyte says spectators easily topped the 2019 event and the family environment of the sold-out camping facilities was a spectacular success.

Mr Whyte said initial feedback from Supercars was “really good” and the beautiful weather was the icing on the cake.

“With Supercars last weekend and Historic Winton running this weekend, from Friday morning, that’s two massive cash injections into the local economy in the space of one week,” Mr Whyte added.

Racing in style: Cars competing in the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia Championship round the bend. Photo by Brenden Paddock

“And we can’t thank local businesses enough for their support and involvement; and the first thing we did this year – after missing 2020 and going so very close in 2021 – was to approach all those who had been prepared to support us then and give them a chance to be involved,” he said.

A huge crowd of campers and day-trippers packing the track from Friday to Sunday were treated to a terrific trifecta as championship leader Shane van Gisbergen and Mildura’s Cam Waters staged a trans-Tasman chase for the chequered flag.

Waters would hang on by a fraction of a second to win the weekend – but SVG’s race two victory on Sunday would extend his domination of the 2022 Supercars standings to 1376 points; 281 ahead of Anton De Pasquale and 333 ahead of Waters.

On top: Cam Waters celebrates with his Monster Energy Racing team. Photo by Brenden Paddock

And the whole weekend would be decided by 0.4 seconds and a strategic decision that would cost SVG his own double and an even bigger lead in the standings.

After Waters took the first mandatory pit stop at lap 18, SVG launched part one of his masterplan – staying out four laps longer than expected and building a significant time cushion between himself and Waters.

Part two, although a potential game changer, saw SVG opt for three new tyres, not two, and the time wasted as his pit crew attacked the third wheel change, with the clock never slowing, would prove irreplaceable.

Whizzing by: Drivers compete in the Battery World Aussie Racing Cars Super Series. Photo by Brenden Paddock

By the time he exploded from pit lane, SVG had managed to turn a seemingly insurmountable advantage to a five-second deficit as the extra speed delivered by the three new wheels would not be enough even though he chewed into the leader’s time, lap after lap – until he ran out of time and laps.

Given the lap times he was clocking, one more circuit probably – and two all but definitely – would have reversed places on the podium.

Waters had set the pace in all three starts, leaping from the front line of the grid to a dominant position by the first turn in the technically demanding course before the artistry of SVG behind his wheel allowed him to go close in race one, win race two and then self-destruct in race three.

Great day out: More than 24,000 flooded through the gates at Winton. Photo by Brenden Paddock

An elated Waters knew about the three-tyre change and knew what was coming – and despite SVG pulling him back, he simply couldn’t out-monster the Monster Mustang in a carbon copy of the first race on Saturday.

“I was just so pumped to get it done again,” Water said post-race.

“Two wins this weekend (the second time he has achieved that in his career) was absolutely amazing,” he added.

“I knew with the three tyres Shane was going to come back at me, so I focused on maintaining the gap and hanging on.”

Full throttle: There was a huge turnout at Winton for the first Supercars event to hit the track since 2019. Photo by Brenden Paddock

But van Gisbergen was philosophical about the outcomes, taking solace in his increased lead in the standings as the Supercars circus packs up and heads for Darwin in the middle of next month.

“The battle with Cam was awesome; he’s a really good racer,” van Gisbergen said.

“And he really knows where to place the car. I love that kind of stuff,” he added, possibly referring to finishing the race with a broken front-left wheel thanks to contact with Waters at the last corner on Saturday.

Huge effort: Penrite Racing driver David Reynolds takes a moment. Photo by Brenden Paddock

On the undercard, the Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup returned to Winton for the first time since 2013, and of the 31 cars entered for the weekend only two drivers – Marc Cini and Stephen Grove – were on the grid nine years ago.

This time around it was Harri Jones who would claim the weekend honours, but the shining light of the Carrera Cup had to be Morris Finance Pro-Am rookie Matt Belford – a winner in just his second cup start and in his home state.

David Russell also picked up his first win since 2015 – and he just missed making it a double when in the third and final winner-take-all, Jones bolted at the start, led through turn one and was in charge all the way to the chequered flag.

Home stretch: Waters flies home. Photo by Brenden Paddock
Top three: There was little to separate the championship top three of Cam Waters, Shane van Gisbergen and Andre Heimgartner. Photo by Brenden Paddock
Winners are grinners: Waters’ win puts him in third spot on the championship leaderboard. Photo by Brenden Paddock
Taking a breath: Brad Jones Racing driver Andre Heimgartner. Photo by Brenden Paddock