DEFENDING champion Jamie Whincup confirmed he was the man to beat in the 2012 V8 Supercars championship after becoming the first driver to win back-to-back races in Townsville.
After beating Mark Winterbottom and Garth Tander on Saturday, Whincup had a dogfight with teammate Craig Lowndes yesterday before taking the honours to reverse the result from the second race in Darwin two weeks ago.
The double victory extended Whincups's lead in the series to 100 points from Winterbottom.
Lowndes, who has almost everything that could possibly go wrong happen to him this season, had a bizarre moment mid-race when he accidentally hit the pit limiter button which slows the cars to 40kmh. That allowed Whincup and Will Davison to improve their positions.
The defining moment then came in Lap 43 when pole sitter David Reynolds, Whincup and Davison all pitted together.
When they emerged, Whincup had jumped all of them, including Lowndes, to take the race lead.
As they had in Darwin, the pair went tooth and nail to the finish, Whincup saying he was totally spent after his second victory of the weekend.
"I've never raced with Craig so hard. We had great cars in Darwin and I was a little soft then so I though this time round I will give it a good crack," Whincup said.
"We had a cracking battle with good cars, tyres running down … it was all good stuff.
"I knew there was going to be a fight. It was a good hard battle, clean battle. We are starting to get some results, some race wins, and we need to keep the tempo."
That's something Lowndes will be looking to do in the next round at Ipswich where he won all three races last season.
Davison, who started the season in scintillating style but has gradually dropped down the rankings, finished third yesterday but lamented being outpointed by the Holden crew.
"It was a good intense battle from start to finish. It was high quality stuff with no-one making any mistakes. They are all tricky situations to manage," he said.
"Third was all we could do. We maximized our race, maximized our strategy and so we have got some work to do."
After a strong third on Saturday, Holden's Garth Tander charged through from 13th on the grid yesterday to finish fourth, overtaking Winterbottom in the dying laps.
Tander's teammate James Courtney reached the race lead early on his soft tyres, but faded to 15th with bent steering late in the race.
Premier Campbell Newman showed he knew how to pick a winner, spending much of the day in the garage with Whincup's HRT crew.
1: Jamie Whincup 1794
2: Mark Winterbottom 1694
3: Will Davison 1654
4: Craig Lowndes 1496
5: Shane van Gisbergen 1280
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.