Garry Rogers Motorsport driver Lee Holdsworth has capped off a hugely impressive weekend by securing the second V8 Supercars victory of his career at the season-ending round on Sydney’s Homebush Bay street circuit around the former Olympic Games site.
The Holden driver – whose maiden race victory came at Oran Park over three years ago – stuck his car on pole once again at this venue, was a frontrunner all race, and tigered past a faltering Shane van Gisbergen on the final lap to take a well-deserved victory.
And as spectacular as Holdsworth’s victory was, the event was all about the championship battle between James Courtney and Jamie Whincup, with the matter being resolved in Courtney’s favour, as the Dick Johnson Racing driver did enough to secure his maiden V8SA title with a 14th-placed finish in the weekend’s second 250km race.
For Whincup, he headed into the final race trailing Courtney by 113 points, and nothing less than a fourth-placed finish would keep him in the championship hunt, while for Courtney, the championship was simply his to lose, and he simply needed to finish 22nd or higher to take the crown.
Whincup kept his slim hopes alive in qualifying by securing a front row start alongside Holdsworth, but unlike yesterday’s race, Holdsworth had the pace to fend off Whincup’s advances for the lead.
With fuel consumption forcing most drivers to run a three-stop pit strategy, Whincup’s only chance of taking a hat-trick of titles was to gamble boldly, and the Team Vodafone driver attempted a two-stop strategy that involved some fuel-saving and a bit of praying for a few safety car interruptions.
But a second safety car period – deployed so marshals could remove stricken tyre bundles from the racing line – was over too quickly for Whincup’s strategy to pay off, and he faltered to a fifth-placed finish.
Courtney himself had some race hiccups, badly fluffing the start from 12th on the grid and then getting involved in some gentle nose-to-tail fender bending with the midfield (fortunately for him, with no major damage) in the opening laps.
But more disaster struck during his first pit stop on lap 22, when his mechanics were unable to remove his right-rear wheel during the tyre change, which cost him a considerable number of track positions as he was held in the pits.
But the first safety car interruption just seven laps later allowed Courtney to pit again without the penalty of losing more track position, and this time his mechanics were able to swap the right-rear wheel. The stop also put him out of synch with many of his rivals, who still had to make two pit stops before the 74-lap race ended, while Courtney could squeeze through with just one more visit to the pits.
Van Gisbergen was another who tried a two-stop strategy, pitting for the second time on lap 44 and then needing to eke out his leftover fuel for the remaining thirty laps.
A third and final safety car interruption – to retrieve Tim Slade’s Ford from the Turn 1 tyre barriers gave van Gisbergen a little more margin to play with, and he found himself in the lead as the frontrunners all made their final pit stop. The other to run this strategy was yesterday’s race-winner Jonathon Webb, who was up to second place, with Holdsworth behind them in third.
The hugely impressive van Gisbergen – who oh so nearly took his maiden race victory on the streets of Surfers Paradise – looked set to repeat Webb’s first-time-winner feat, but his Falcon tragically spluttered with just a few corners to go, struggling to pick up the last of the dregs in its very empty fuel tank.
A jubilant Holdsworth nipped through to take the lead and a well-deserved win, with Steven Richards capping off a strong weekend by finishing second in his final outing for Ford Performance Racing. Van Gisbergen was able to stagger over the line to finish third, just two-hundredths of a second ahead of Steven Richards.
But the weekend was largely about Courtney’s championship success, and the off-season rumours will (until confirmed) be all about where the former Jaguar F1 test driver will be racing in 2011.
Race 2 Final Classification:
|1.||Lee Holdsworth||Fujitsu Racing / GRM||2:03:58.6442|
|2.||Steven Richards||Ford Performance Racing||+ 1.5358|
|3.||Shane van Gisbergen||SP Tools Racing||+ 8.4239|
|4.||Steven Johnson||Jim Beam Racing||+ 8.4437|
|5.||Jamie Whincup||Team Vodafone||+ 10.2476|
|6.||Craig Lowndes||Team Vodafone||+ 13.4918|
|7.||Rick Kelly||Jack Daniel’s Racing||+ 16.0408|
|8.||Michael Caruso||Fujitsu Racing / GRM||+ 16.2850|
|9.||Garth Tander||TOLL Holden Racing Team||+ 19.8472|
|10.||Jonathon Webb||Dick Johnson Racing||+ 22.8910|
|11.||Tony D’Alberto||Centaur Racing||+ 23.8604|
|12.||Greg Murphy||Castrol Edge Racing||+ 24.8702|
|13.||Andrew Jones||Team BOC||+ 27.5751|
|14.||James Courtney||Jim Beam Racing||+ 29.7892|
|15.||Paul Dumbrell||The Bottle-O Racing Team||+ 30.6741|
|16.||Dean Fiore||Triple F Racing||+ 34.5637|
|17.||Tony Ricciardello||Stratco Racing||+ 40.5472|
|18.||Warren Luff||Gulf Western Oil Racing||+ 45.8667|
|19.||Fabian Coulthard||Bundaberg Red Racing||+ 56.0602|
|20.||Russell Ingall||Supercheap Auto Racing||+ 1:20.1665|
|21.||Todd Kelly||Jack Daniel’s Racing||+ 2 laps|
|22.||Jason Bargwanna||ROCK Racing||+ 4 laps|
|23.||Alex Davison||IRWIN Racing||+ 15 laps|
|Mark Winterbottom||Ford Performance Racing||65 laps|
|Tim Slade||Wilson Security Racing||58 laps|
|Jason Bright||Trading Post Racing||54 laps|
|Will Davison||TOLL Holden Racing Team||47 laps|
|Karl Reindler||Fair Dinkum Sheds Racing||44 laps|
|Andrew Thompson||Bundaberg Red Racing||37 laps|