Tander ends Whincup run in Adelaide
13 March 2010
Toll Holden Racing Team's former V8 Supercar champion Garth Tander is well and truly back after becoming the first man to beat Jamie Whincup in 2010 and taking his first Clipsal 500 win to end what had been a miserable start to a new season.
Tander led the Red Army to an emphatic victory on a dramatic day, in which Whincup's TeamVodafone squad made an uncharacteristic tyre error that cost him a chance of victory, and Jim Beam Racing's James Courtney again proved a street track specialist.
The second of the renowned street circuit experts, Fujitsu Racing's Lee Holdsworth, was third after a daring run of strategy and cunning from his team. Whincup held on for fourth despite his team forgetting to change front tyres at his last pit-stop amongst a frenzy of late safety car confusion.
In front of a huge Saturday crowd of 79,100, Tander reigned supreme and was virtually untouchable across more than two hours of intense racing in difficult conditions, bringing the Toll HRT team back to the winner's circle after returning from the Middle East with just a handful of points.
“We are just a couple of race teams struggling to do the best we can,” Tander said of his Walkinshaw Racing outfit after the horrendous results in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, “It's important for the guys in the garage to understand that they know what they are doing, that they are still a force to be reckoned with and that nothing has changed from the core group of people that won the teams' championship last year.
“From a championship point of view, we know we have a long battle on, and it will be a long way until we are in the mix. Results like that will keep the momentum going and the motivation high.”
Courtney, who won the last race of 2009 at the Sydney Telstra 500 but was unable to convert that form fully in the Middle East, battled low fuel towards the end but now has a car he is becoming happy with.
“We did all our testing in qualifying, where I wasn't happy, so we went another way and it turned into a jet for a while there," he noted, "We just need to make it better again for tomorrow. This year is all about this year finishing as high as we can with the car we have got and not pushing it too hard. To get this result will pick everyone up and get ready for tomorrow. It's good for team morale.”
Holdsworth persisted with a conservative start strategy in order to be strong at the end and, like the men ahead of him, was happy with his result.
“After we got to the point around three-quarters of the race, we could go all out and try to catch these guys,” he said, “I had a very good race car, but it just kept getting stronger and stronger through the race, although we were line ball at the end with the fuel.”
And there we no excuses from Whincup who, despite losing the unbeaten record he brought back from Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, retains a commanding championship lead.
“We found ourselves really low on fuel towards the end of the race, so we took the smart option to finish fourth rather than making another stop like [team-mate] Craig [Lowndes],” the double champion revealed, “Overall, it's important to stay positive, we put up a great fight today and it is what you do on the tough days that helps build a strong team.”
Pure bad luck ended a fantastic run by SP Tools Racing's Shane van Gisbergen ended any chance of a podium, just as the young New Zealander had shifted into third place on the track but with one less pit-stop than those around them. Any strategy was thrown out the window when he shaved a little too much from a tyre bundle, smashing a pin in his front suspension and leaving the left-hand tyre falling off the axle. The subsequent repairs shifted him back to an unrepresentative 23rd.
After a relatively tame start by Adelaide standards, it took a safety car intervention - when Wilson Security Racing's Tim Slade smashed into the turn eight wall - to spice the action up. With the field bunched back together, the race exploded, with passing everywhere and some inevitable carnage. The worst of the mayhem cost Orrcon Steel's Mark Winterbottom his race when he became wedged between Jim Beam Racing's Steven Johnson and TeamVodafone's Lowndes.
Lowndes also spun Tander's team-mate Will Davison, which caused a concertina pile-up. Johnson inadvertently shoved Winterbottom into the back of Lowndes, suffering severe rear end damage. Winterbottom was swamped by the field and ultimately had to come in.
Earlier, Whincup secured his third straight Armor All Pole Position in Adelaide and fourth of the year, having reigned supreme after a tense qualifying session to decide the Armor All Top Ten Shootout.
The field gets a chance to reset tomorrow with a stand alone 20-minute qualifying session followed by race two.