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

Winterbottom scored his second top-ten finish of the season from 13th place to finish in ninth.

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

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, 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.

Winterbottom and team mate Scott Pye were encouraged by their qualifying speed and early race pace heading into Races 8 and 9 on Sunday.

The IRWIN Racing Commodore 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.”