IRWIN Racing’s Mark Winterbottom and DEWALT Racing’s Scott Pye had a solid hit-out at Sydney Motorsport Park today, as Team 18 returned to action in Race 7 of the Supercars Championship.

Mark Winterbottom scored his second top-ten finish of the season from 13th place to finish in ninth, while a strategy gamble didn’t pay off for Pye as he dropped back from eighth to 17th

Qualifying earlier in the day saw both drivers pass through the two ten-minute sessions and into the Top 15 Shootout. Mark Winterbottom used up two sets of tyres in qualifying so he completed the shootout in 13th on worn rubber. Pye meanwhile would start Race 7 in eighth.

The first race of the weekend was a 32-lap sprint race with one pit stop for a minimum of two tyres and no refuelling. The biggest strategic topic of the day focussed on how teams would run their tyres in the race, with only two rattle guns for tyre changes permitted in the pit stop.

After starting 13th, Mark Winterbottom dropped back to 16th in the first stint of the race, before taking an early pit stop out of traffic on Lap 10, taking two right-side tyres and drove a clean race to bring it home with another top ten spot.

Strategy didn’t fall the way of the DEWALT Racing car in Race 7 today. Pye was held up in traffic but pressed on with a longer first stint to pit on Lap 18 for three tyres, emerging from his stop in 20th before taking the chequered flag in 17th.

Both drivers were encouraged by their qualifying speed and early race pace heading into Races 8 and 9 on Sunday.

The IRWIN Racing and DEWALT Racing Commodores will return to action tomorrow with qualifying and two more 32-lap sprints for Races 8 and 9 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, live on Fox Sports 506 and Kayo Sports.

Mark Winterbottom, driver #18 IRWIN Racing Holden ZB Commodore

“We had a pretty good day overall,” said Winterbottom.

“We qualified 13th but we used two sets of tyres to get into the shootout which ruined the chance of having a proper crack at it, but we knew our car pace was reasonable.

“We finished the day in ninth with a straight car and a happy team with relatively good data to take through to Sunday.

“Thanks to all our sponsors for supporting us through this rough patch and all the fans out there. It’s amazing that we have had four months off but it’s game on straight away.”

Scott Pye, driver #20 DEWALT Racing Holden ZB Commodore

“It was a pretty tough race today,” said Pye.

“Practice was tough but we made some good changes and showed really good speed in qualifying.

“I qualified 5th, and then 8th in the shootout which put us in a good position for the race.

“Our early race pace wasn’t too bad and hung in there in the first stint but I think we just got the strategy wrong.

“We lost around eight seconds in the pit stop compared to others but we took three tyres, so it probably wasn’t the ideal strategy and ran a bit too long considering the car speed we had.

“Our car speed wasn’t there at the end and so the strategy didn’t work out for us today.

“We will fight again tomorrow, hopefully we can be in the top ten in qualifying in both races which will make our day a lot easier.”

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