Davison wins at 'emotional' Sandown
1 August 2009
Will Davison looked to the grandstands to see his 83-year old grandmother beaming from ear to ear after a 'perfect day' in the Norton 360 Challenge at Sandown Raceway in Melbourne.
It was 34 years ago that Davison's grandfather Lex, an Australian F1 champion, was killed at the very same track - before the young prodigy was even born - and the family history made the Toll Holden Racing driver's first win all the all the sweeter.
“She was waving the scarf and looked pretty happy,” Davison said after spotting grandmother Diana, “To see the smile on her face was just fantastic.”
The young gun put it down as a very personal victory. Father Richard, who also used to race at the track, was on hand to witness the breakthrough, along with fiancée Riana Crehan and little brother Alex, now driving for Stone Brothers Racing.
Davison comfortably beat Jim Beam Racing's in-form James Courtney, a first time winner at the last event in Townsville, and TeamVodafone's Craig Lowndes, at the same time making up 48 points in Championship leader Jamie Whincup.
“What a perfect day - we've really worked together for this one,” Davison said, “It's hard to explain, but it feels like the best win of my career. It's a massive year for me this year and the transition has gone perfectly. It was getting to that phase where I was putting pressure on myself to start winning races, but this is an unbelievable team and we are striving pretty high.
“These are the races you dream of, and I certainly wasn't relaxed out there, but the car speed was fantastic. This sport keeps you on your toes but there's no magic to it, you just work hard. I now know that it's come to that time of the year that, if I am going to win this championship, I can't keep sitting behind [Whincup] in second position. He got me off the start line, but I wasn't going to settle for [second].”
Davison set up the day with pole position, also his first in V8 Supercars, but Whincup nabbed him off the start/finish line before giving up the spot in the opening laps after a great passing move by his good mate.
Whincup's team-mate Lowndes was the big mover amongst the field with a very fast car as he tore through the field. Lowndes and Davison were easily the best on track in the first half of the race as rain clouds moved in, but Lowndes suffered at a pit-stop when he came out in traffic and lost track position to Courtney on cold tyres. However, opting for the harder control tyre during his lap 22 stop proved fruitful for Lowndes, who was able to pass cars struggling with their worn soft compound tyres later in the race.
“Third was a good result considering I made it a bit hard for myself by making a mistake in the [qualifying] shoot-out,” Lowndes explained, “My car was very consistent, but we are still a little bit off the mark in terms of the pace that Will had today. The best thing to come out of today is that I have really reduced the points gap to Garth [Tander] as there are now only 27 points separating us in the standings,”
Whincup suffered even moreso at his pit-stop when the team had trouble with his left-front tyre. The champion went from a comfortable second to come out in seventh and was then passed by Jack Daniel's Todd Kelly and Garry Rogers' Michael Caruso to end up ninth on track and back in a battle for position that also offered Courtney second place and the opportunity to challenge Davison for the lead.
Whincup had been the quickest man in the morning's qualifying sessions, setting a new lap record at 1min 09.6670secs, but started the race from second on the grid after recording a shoot-out lap that was less than three-tenths off that of Davison. Having got the better start, the TeamVodafone driver didn't quite have the pace to stay with the eventual winner, before that lengthy pit-stop ended his hopes of a podium finish.
“I was disappointed with my result today,” Whincup said after crossing the line in sixth position, "Given our success here in the past, I was definitely looking for a better result, but I didn't have the soft tyre pace to match Will Davison, and then a stuck wheel nut during the pit-stop took away any chance of a podium finish. We will go away and have a look at our tyres and data and see where we can improve the car for tomorrow's longer race."
Kelly stormed up the order to grab fourth place, having seen a top three performance in qualifying ruined by a locked brake on the entry to turn one on his shoot-out lap. Undeterred, he consistently set some of the fastest lap times of the race to gradually climb up the order, helped by a charging start that netted him three positions at the first corner and a tactical masterstroke from race engineer Barry Hay, who decided to run the softer option tyre for the entire race and rotate the wheels at the car's compulsory stop.
“I'm still disappointed with the Shootout today,” Kelly admitted, “We had a really good car in qualifying and threw it away into the first corner and lost nine tenths right there. It was a bit disappointing, but the race was alright. I had to try and get past a few cars that were a bit slower because of starting tenth, but our genuine race speed was quicker that at least three or four of the cars in front and, on the soft rubber, trying to keep with those guys and pass them just killed our tyres. Had we qualified where we should have, we would have had good race pace without being held up, so to get back to fourth was a good day - and a better result than we've had the last few races.”
At the back of the field, Davison's Toll Holden Racing Team team-mate Tander was waging his own battle against the backmarkers, having been disqualified from qualifying and starting at the back of the grid. The former champion quickly moved into 13th place in the shorter Saturday sprint race, but finished 17th and lost ground on Whincup in the championship.
The weekend continues on Sunday with a 20-minute qualifying dash followed by the longer 200km race in the afternoon.