Garth Tander has survived an incident-filled pair of race legs to claim victory in today’s SuperSprint opener at Phillip Island, although the mood in his team was atoned somewhat by the huge accident his teammate James Courtney suffered in the opening 60-kilometre race.
Tander had qualified third for opening race leg and held that position all the way through the fourteen lap sprint until the very final corner, when contact between Mark Winterbottom and Craig Lowndes opened the door for him to claim the win, which came him pole position for the second race leg, which carries championship points.
It seemed that a number of drivers had forgotten that the opening race leg doesn’t count for anything other than pride, and after the standard of driving witnessed up and down the grid, few were going to leave with their heads held high.
Shane van Gisbergen was in the thick of it, biffing Chaz Mostert into a high-speed slide through the kitty litter on Lap 7, before nudging championship aspirant Will Davison into a spin a few corners later.
The biggest incident of the race came a little over three laps later. Alexandre Prémat found himself forced wide at the exit of the Turn 3 left-hander, and found himself slithering across the grass infield at unabated speed towards Turn 4.
The Frenchman could do nothing to regain control of his GRM Holden, and he slammed into the right-hand side of James Courtney, with both cars copping extensive damage. Courtney was momentarily trapped inside the wreck and had to be extricated out of the passenger side of his car by Prémat, who scrambled out of his three-wheeled car to render assistance.
Courtney was taken to the circuit medical centre for checks – mercifully he suffered no major injuries other than soft tissue bruising. But given the damage to both his and Prémat’s cars, it’s unlikely we will see either back on track for the rest of the race weekend.
Approaching the final corner, Winterbottom attempted a criss-cross overtaking move of Lowndes, moving to the inside of the series veteran.
The pair managed to lock wheels, with the resulting rubbing seeing Lowndes being fired into the gravel, eventually skating across the finish line in fifteenth place, much to his fury.
Ten minutes wasn’t going to be enough for the drivers to cool their heads, but Tander was one of the few t keep his, blasting away from the front row at the rolling restart to assume a lead that would never seriously be challenged.
The battle for second place proved to be the most entertaining, with Alex Davison holding the likes of Fabian Coulthard, Winterbottom, Whincup and the two DJR Falcons of Chaz Mostert and Tim Blanchard at bay for much of the race.
Coulthard was eventually able to slip by Davison’s Ford on the penultimate lap to secure second place, with Davison finishing ahead of Whincup, who had himself forced his way past Winterbottom on the final lap of the race.
With his teammate Craig Lowndes only able to recover to eighth place, Whincup’s fifth-place was enough for him to regain a slender championship lead ahead of tomorrow’s two 120-kilometre races that close out what is the penultimate round of the season ahead of next weekend’s Sydney 500 finale.
Whincup leads by a scant 14 points from Lowndes, while Winterbottom is a further 74 adrift in third place. A maximum of 300 championship points are up for grabs across Sunday’s two races.
Of concern will be the spate of tyre failures witnessed over today’s two 14-lap sprints. Tomorrow’s two races will run for 23 laps apiece – theoretically without the need for any pit stops – and it will be fascinating to see how the drivers and teams manage the high tyre wear on the recently resurfaced track.
2013 V8 Supercars Phillip Island 360 – Race 1 Final Classification (28 laps):
|Driver||Entry / Team||Result|
|1.||Garth Tander||Holden Racing Team / TWR||1:16:53.796|
|2.||Fabian Coulthard||Lockwood Racing / Brad Jones Racing||+ 3.087|
|3.||Alex Davison||Jeld-Wen Racing / Ford Performance Racing||+ 4.276|
|4.||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Racing AU / Triple 8 Engineering||+ 4.811|
|5.||Mark Winterbottom||Pepsi Max Crew / Ford Performance Racing||+ 5.080|
|6.||Tim Blanchard||Wilson Security Racing / Dick Johnson Racing||+ 6.042|
|7.||Shane van Gisbergen||VIP Petfoods / Tekno Autosports||+ 6.748|
|8.||Craig Lowndes||Red Bull Racing AU / Triple 8 Engineering||+ 6.972|
|9.||Chaz Mostert||Wilson Security Racing / Dick Johnson Racing||+ 6.975|
|10.||Michael Caruso||Norton 360 Racing / Nissan Motorsport||+ 8.658|
|11.||David Wall||Wilson Security Racing / Brad Jones Racing||+ 9.387|
|12.||Tony D’Alberto||HIFLEX Racing / Tony D’Alberto Racing||+ 10.673|
|13.||Russell Ingall||SuperCheap Auto Racing / TWR||+ 11.145|
|14.||Lee Holdsworth||IRWIN Racing / Erebus Motorsport||+ 11.398|
|15.||Scott Pye||EKOL Racing / Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport||+ 11.969|
|16.||Todd Kelly||Jack Daniel’s Racing / Nissan Motorsport||+ 13.018|
|17.||Will Davison||Pepsi Max Crew / Ford Performance Racing||+ 13.380|
|18.||Jonathon Webb||Darrell Lea Racing / Tekno Autosports||+ 14.880|
|19.||Scott McLaughlin||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||+ 15.726|
|20.||Rick Kelly||Jack Daniel’s Racing / Nissan Motorsport||+ 16.236|
|21.||Maro Engel||SP Tools Racing / Erebus Motorsport||+ 16.945|
|22.||David Reynolds||Bottle-O Racing / Ford Performance Racing||+ 30.674|
|23.||Dean Fiore||Dodo Insurance / Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport||+ 37.073|
|24.||Jason Bright||Team BOC / Brad Jones Racing||+ 1 lap|
|25.||Tim Slade||Heavy Haulage Racing / Erebus Motorsport||+ 2 laps|
|DNF.||James Courtney||Holden Racing Team / TWR||10 laps|
|DNF.||Alexandre Prémat||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||10 laps|
|DNF.||James Moffat||Norton 360 Racing / Nissan Motorsport||6 laps|