James Courtney has become the first driver since 2009 to claim back-to-back race wins of the 250-kilometre Clipsal 500 race on the streets of Adelaide.
Victory for the Holden Racing Team driver came by dint of a superb strategy from his engineers and some steely nerves inside the cockpit as he weathered a late-race challenge from Shane van Gisbergen. The pair crossed the line just 0.7 seconds apart at the end of the 78-lap race.
After surviving a closely-fought Top-10 Shootout to claim pole position for Sunday’s race, Courtney made sure of the lead with a clean start. An even better start was made by Jamie Whincup, who launched his Red Bull Racing Holden off the second row to slot into second place, while a slow-starting Fabian Coulthard fell from second to fourth.
The final outcome of the race was going to be determined by a mix of pit strategy – at least two tyre/fuel stops were required for this distance – and the predictably unpredictable appearance of the Safety Car. Ford drivers Mark Winterbottom and Andre Heimgartner were into the pits to serve one of their stops by the end of the second lap, no doubt hoping that a run in clear air would yield with some major track position gains later on.
The lead chopped and changed as drivers and teams exercised a range of strategy options, and after the final sequence of stops had played themselves out, it was an HRT 1-2 with Courtney leading teammate Tander, while a fast-charging van Gisbergen was quickly threatening to upset the factory team’s party thanks to a fresher set of tyres.
The Kiwi is a renowned street specialist, quickly disposing of Tander before setting about trying to chase down Courtney. The TEKNO Holden was ultimately quicker, but somehow Courtney had a little more in hand in top-end speed.
Van Gisbergen had a coupled of looks into the Turn 9 hairpin before finally taking a crack with a super late braking effort, but the pair touched at the apex and Courtney was shoved wide over the exit kerbs.
Showing a level of sportsmanship that is all too rarely seen in this series, van Gisbergen immediately throttled off to allow Courtney back into the lead, feeling that he’d not passed his rival fair and square.
The opportunity for a repeat attempt never came over the remaining laps, with Courtney holding his nerve to ensure the weekend would have three difference race-winners. Van Gisbergen was in an HRT podium sandwich with Tander finishing third.
Whincup claimed a fourth after colliding with Chaz Mostert at Turn 10. Mostert turned across Whincup and was sent spinning into the barriers before subsequently being T-boned by an unsighted James Moffat in the Nissan. Both cars sustained extensive damage that could prove very challenging to repair in time for the non-championship races at the Australian Grand Prix in less than two weeks’ time.
Mark Winterbottom survived alarmingly high tyre wear to finish fifth ahead of Saturday’s race 2 winner Fabian Coulthard, while Rick Kelly narrowly avoided the Mostert-Moffat shunt to finish seventh. Tim Slade, Craig Lowndes and Todd Kelly rounded out the top ten.
Series returnee Marcos Ambrose couldn’t maintain his top-ten qualifying form in the race, ultimately slipping back to twelfth after running much of the race inside the top ten.
It was a poor weekend for the Volvo Polestar Racing squad. After suffering a ‘Did Not Start’ and a post-race time penalty in Saturday’s two races, Scott McLaughlin was optimistic of a better showing at the venue where he’d delivered an emotional charge to the podium in Volvo’s debut weekend one year before.
It was not to be. The youngster’s drinks bottle failed on the first lap and his alternator started playing up on the fifth lap, which also meant his cooling vest under his race suit failed as well. He had two lengthy pit stops while replacement batteries were fitted and ultimately finished four laps down in 18th, with his mechanics having to lift the exhausted driver out of the car at the end of the race.
It was a similar story at Erebus Motorsport. Will Davison dropped a cylinder in his Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG early on – he soldiered on to finish 5 laps down in 19th – while teammate Ash Walsh triggered a safety car when he retired mid-race with electrical issues.
The team’s former driver Lee Holdsworth was also out midway through the race, joining the long list of drivers to have come to grief at the high-speed Turn 8.
The series will be back in action in less than two weeks’ time at the Australian Grand Prix, where it will run a series of non-championship races. Courtney’s win ensured he has claimed the championship lead on 258 points, with Coulthard in second on 241 points and Tander in third place on 237 points. The next championship-status round is the Tyrepower Tasmania SuperSprint on March 27-29.
2015 V8 Supercars Clipsal 500 Adelaide – Race 3 (78 laps):
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||James Courtney||Holden Racing Team / Holden Commodore VF||78||1:56:00.510|
|2.||Shane van Gisbergen||Team TEKNO Darrell Lea / Holden Commodore VF||78||+ 0.760|
|3.||Garth Tander||Holden Racing Team / Holden Commodore VF||78||+ 1.896|
|4.||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Racing / Holden Commodore VF||78||+ 13.298|
|5.||Mark Winterbottom||Pepsi Max Crew Prodrive / Ford Falcon FG X||78||+ 13.897|
|6.||Fabian Coulthard||Brad Jones Racing / Holden Commodore VF||78||+ 14.624|
|7.||Rick Kelly||Nissan Motorsport / Nissan Altima L33||78||+ 16.424|
|8.||Tim Slade||Walkinshaw Racing / Holden Commodore VF||78||+ 20.752|
|9.||Craig Lowndes||Red Bull Racing / Holden Commodore VF||78||+ 24.464|
|10.||Todd Kelly||Nissan Motorsport / Nissan Altima L33||78||+ 28.618|
|11.||Jason Bright||Brad Jones Racing / Holden Commodore VF||78||+ 40.831|
|12.||Marcos Ambrose||DJR Team Penske / Ford Falcon FG X||78||+ 41.268|
|13.||Dale Wood||Brad Jones Racing / Holden Commodore VF||78||+ 45.208|
|14.||Michael Caruso||Nissan Motorsport / Nissan Altima L33||78||+ 48.883|
|15.||David Reynolds||The Bottle-O Racing Team / Ford Falcon FG||78||+ 49.281|
|16.||David Wall||Wilson Security Racing Polestar GRM / Volvo S60||78||+ 51.852|
|17.||Tim Blanchard||Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport / Holden Commodore VF||78||+ 1:02.597|
|18.||Scott McLaughlin||Wilson Security Racing Polestar GRM / Volvo S60||74||– 4 laps|
|19.||Will Davison||Erebus Motorsport V8 / Mercedes E63 AMG||73||– 5 laps|
|20.||Nick Percat||Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport / Holden Commodore VF||70||– 8 laps|
|21.||Andre Heimgartner||Super Black Racing / Ford Falcon FG||62||– 16 laps|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Chaz Mostert||Pepsi Max Crew Prodrive / Ford Falcon FG X||77||Collision|
|DNF.||James Moffat||Nissan Motorsport / Nissan Altima L33||77||Collision|
|DNF.||Lee Holdsworth||CS Racing / Holden Commodore VF||31||Accident|
|DNF.||Ashley Walsh||Erebus Motorsport V8 / Mercedes E63 AMG||22||Electrical|
Images via Christian Hartung