The first four on the grid filled the top four spots in the first of the two V8 Supercar races at Winton, but not in the order in which they set out as Ford Performance Racing's Mark Winterbottom came from the second row to lead throughout and just see off Team BOC's Jason Bright, who earlier won pole position after topping the timesheets in the first qualifying session.

It was Winterbottom's first win at the rural Victorian track in his 300th career start, while Tony D'Alberto, who qualified second on the grid in his Team Hiflex Holden, achieved his best ever result with a fourth placed finish. James Courtney, in the Holden Racing Team Commodore finished third.

The win catapulted Winterbottom right into the title chase thanks to the other big story of the first two races: the complete eclipse of championship leader Jamie Whincup.

The Red Bull Racing driver is enduring a horror weekend, and has failed to finish in the first two races.

His teammate, Craig Lowndes, is now only 55 points adrift in the standings, while Winterbottom and his FPR teammate Will Davison are 62 and 79 in arrears respectively as the teams prepare their cars for the third and final race of the weekend later on Sunday afternoon.

Whincup was involved in a first lap pile-up, which saw a number of cars put out of business.

Winterbottom was jubilant to post his second race win of the season, having won in the heat and dust of Darwin in June — very different conditions to the grey, cool climes of country Victoria in late winter.

''I have been coming here for a while, so that's awesome. It was a tough race, Brighty pushed me the whole way.''

However, his chances of making further inroads into Whincup's diminishing title lead are compromised in the third race by the fact that he qualified only 19th.

Whincup knows the pressure is now on. ''You have to finish races, and to do that you have to qualify somewhere in the vicinity of the front. We qualified poorly ... we lost massive championship points this weekend. We may be fighting for the lead come the enduros (at Sandown and Bathurst). We lost massive championship points this weekend.''

Bright could not quite match his first session heroics in the second 15 minute qualifying session for the second race of the day — race 27 of the series — but he will still be on the front row having posted the second fastest time.

Courtney, in his Commodore, took that honour, with Chaz Mostert in the Wilson Security Racing Falcon third fastest and Garry Rogers Motorsport's Scott McGlaughlin fourth.

D'Alberto continued his strong qualifying form with a fifth placed finish in the second qualifying session, with Will Davison sixth. It was another poor time for the Red Bull squad, with Lowndes 13th and Whincup 17th, the latter having car problems throughout the session. Winerbottom could not match his first session speed and was 19th quickest in the second effort.

Courtney said: ''We have been working hard at HRT and its all paid off now.''