Craig Lowndes has drawn level with Mark Skaife on the all-time V8 Supercars racewinners list after claiming victory in the opening leg of the Clipsal 500 at Adelaide.
The Red Bull Racing Australia driver drove his Holden to a comfortable win with a victory margin of over 20 seconds from Ford Performance Racing’s Will Davison. Lowndes’ team-mate and reigning series champion Jamie Whincup finished third.
The race ran under green flag conditions for the entire 78 laps scheduled, marking just the third time in the event’s history that the race has run free of safety car interruptions.
But that wasn’t to say the first race under the new ‘Car of the Future’ regulations wasn’t chaotic…
Before the race had even begun, David Reynolds pulled into the pits after the warm-up lap with a driveline failure. The Ford driver was eventually able to get going again, finishing six laps adrift.
Polesitter Shane van Gisbergen stalled his Tekno Holden as the lights went out. He managed to scramble off the line, but fell to tenth place by the first corner, giving fellow front-row starter Mark Winterbottom an early lead.
But the Ford Performance Racing driver’s joy would prove short-lived, with his lead lasting just a few corners before he succumbed to a gearbox problem.
That left Fabian Coulthard as the new leader, and the New Zealander held the position until the first round of pit stops, at which point he was overtaking by Lowndes and Whincup, with the latter opting to make an early pit stop in the hope of gaining track position.
Lowndes was now in the lead, and this was the launchpad for his first victory on the streets of Adelaide since 2005 as he set about building a margin on team-mate Whincup, who was struggling to keep Coulthard back on his older tyres.
The positions between Whincup and Coulthard reversed after the second round of pit stops, and the Lockwood Racing driver looked on course for a well-deserved podium until fifteen laps from the end, when his brakes began to play up. Unable to keep pace, he tumbled down the order and finished a disconsolate nineteenth.
Fellow Kiwi van Gisbergen had managed to recover from his poor start and ran as high as third, only to succumb to a broken gearbox just two laps before Coulthard’s problems struck.
All of this misfortune played nice into the hands of Davidson, who had opted for a long opening stint. With fresher tyres and a lighter fuel load, he’d carved his way through the field in the second half of the race, managing to squeeze ahead of Whincup after his second pit stop.
And so the top-three finished in that order, although Whincup’s third place started to come under pressure in the closing laps courtesy of a hard-charging Alexandre Prémat. The Frenchman claimed a career-best fourth-placed finish, and with GRM Holden team-mate Scott McLaughlin finishing two spots behind, it was a great day for the team. The pair sandwiched James Courtney in the final reckoning.
Garth Tander recovered well from his dreadful qualifying position (18th) to finish seventh ahead of Jonathon Webb, who managed to finish the race despite sustaining damage after clobbering the Turn 4 wall while running in sixth place.
The top ten was completed by V8 returnee Alex Davison and the soon-to-retire Russell Ingall, who himself survived a brush with the wall early in the race.
Rick Kelly finished as the best non-Holden/Ford runner in eleventh place in his Nissan, while Tim Slade finished four spots further back as the highest-placed AMG runner.
Kelly’s Nissan stablemates Todd Kelly and Michael Caruso had a more troubled time. The latter lost many laps in the pits while a power-steering issue was investigated, while the former had his race come to a smoky end with a mechanical failure.
The other AMG drivers, Lee Holdsworth and Maro Engel, also had their own troubles on the marque’s first V8 Supercars race. Holdsworth was one of several drivers to suffer from burned feet on the hot pedals – a ‘Car of the Future’ design flaw, it turns out – while Engel lost laps early in the race when his electrics died on the grid.
Tomorrow sees the field compete for Race 2 honours with another 250-kilometre race, preceded by a twenty-minute qualifying session.
2013 V8 Supercars Clipsal 500 – Race 1 Final Classification (78 laps):
|Driver||Entry / Team||Result|
|1.||Craig Lowndes||Red Bull Racing AU / Triple 8 Engineering||1:47:37.312|
|2.||Will Davison||Pepsi Max Crew / Ford Performance Racing||+ 20.520|
|3.||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Racing AU / Triple 8 Engineering||+ 32.129|
|4.||Alexandre Prémat||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||+ 35.582|
|5.||James Courtney||Holden Racing Team / TWR||+ 37.392|
|6.||Scott McLaughlin||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||+ 38.683|
|7.||Garth Tander||Holden Racing Team / TWR||+ 39.036|
|8.||Jonathon Webb||Tekno Autosports||+ 48.475|
|9.||Alex Davison||Jeld-Wen Racing / Ford Performance Racing||+ 49.211|
|10.||Russell Ingall||SuperCheap Auto Racing / TWR||+ 1:06.058|
|11.||Rick Kelly||Jack Daniel’s Racing / Nissan Motorsport||+ 1:08.566|
|12.||Tony D’Alberto||HIFLEX Racing / Tony D’Alberto Racing||+ 1:11.483|
|13.||Scott Pye||EKOL Racing / Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport||+ 1:13.235|
|14.||James Moffat||Norton 360 Racing / Nissan Motorsport||+ 1 lap|
|15.||Tim Slade||Heavy Haulage Racing / Erebus Motorsport||+ 1 lap|
|16.||David Wall||Wilson Security Racing / Brad Jones Racing||+ 1 lap|
|17.||Lee Holdsworth||IRWIN Racing / Erebus Motorsport||+ 1 lap|
|18.||Tim Blanchard||Wilson Security / Dick Johnson Racing||+ 2 laps|
|19.||Fabian Coulthard||Lockwood Racing / Brad Jones Racing||+ 3 laps|
|20.||David Reynolds||Bottle-O Racing / Ford Performance Racing||+ 6 laps|
|21.||Dean Fiore||Dodo Insurance / Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport||+ 7 laps|
|22.||Jason Bright||Team BOC / Brad Jones Racing||+ 11 laps|
|23.||Michael Caruso||Norton 360 Racing / Nissan Motorsport||+ 14 laps|
|24.||Maro Engel||SP Tools Racing / Erebus Motorsport||+ 19 laps|
|DNF.||Shane van Gisbergen||VIP Petfoods / Tekno Autosports||62 laps|
|DNF.||Jonny Reid||ADVAM Racing / Dick Johnson Racing||53 laps|
|DNF.||Todd Kelly||Jack Daniel’s Racing / Nissan Motorsport||16 laps|
|DNF.||Mark Winterbottom||Pepsi Max Crew / Ford Performance Racing||11 laps|