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Courtney doubles up at Queensland Raceway
2 May 2010
Jim Beam Racing's James Courtney has become the first to threaten the stranglehold of Jamie Whincup in the V8 Supercar Championship Series this year, intent on seeing how the pressure will affect the TeamVodafone ace in the coming weeks.
Courtney recorded his first clean-sweep of an event weekend at the City of Ipswich 300 at Queensland Raceway today when Whincup failed to finish for the first time in recent memory with an engine problem that ended his day midway through the second race.
With Whincup's fate sealed, Courtney's complete domination of the weekend moved him to within just 24 points of the Championship lead. Toll Holden Racing Team's Garth Tander was second today with ever-impressive youngster Shane van Gisbergen third in the SP Tools Falcon.
“It would have been nice to have some poles in there too but I'm happy with two wins that's for sure. Everything is just snow-balling this year. It started to click from about halfway through last year and it's just been getting better,” Courtney said. “It's good to have that points gap closed to Jamie. Now hopefully we can put some pressure on him and see how he operates under it, it's going to be interesting.”
Courtney was far and away the best on both days with margins of more than 10 seconds, with the Dunlop SP Sport Maxx Sprint tyre suiting the racer, as well as a near perfect car, ahead of the next event at Winton Raceway in Victoria in a fortnight.
“At the moment it's working really well with the soft tyre but it might be a little different at Winton. I've never looked so forward to going to Winton in my life, I'm already counting down the days,” he said.
“It was a big test on the tyres this weekend to see how they would last and I think they surprised a lot of people. A lot of people thought we'd be wobbling around and falling off the track but they produced some good racing in the end.”
Whincup was optimistic about returning to the fold after his great run of yesterday when going from 12th to fourth and the problem of today which could not be avoided.
“Obviously I am very disappointed with the outcome today, and it felt like quite a difficult weekend as we initially lacked good car speed and then the improvements of today were holding us in good stead for a podium finish,” he said.
“Leading when the engine let go is particularly painful, but such a rare occurrence is very difficult to prepare for. I'm comfortable that my engineer has conquered the soft tyre setup and I am looking forward to another weekend where we can use the information gained today.”
One of the most remarkable comebacks is that of Tander who is now within sight of Whincup despite gathering next to no points in the first two events of the year in the Middle East.
“It's a great opportunity for all of us to chase Jamie in the Championship. It's a very long year and there are still plenty of stories to be told. This is just one chapter. I'm sure James (Courtney) realises that and ours was a good haul as well,” he said.
Likewise Van Gisbergen is in the mix with his great consistency. At just 20 he appears a Championship contender somewhere down the track, not that he is thinking that.
“That's a big call,” he said. “At the moment I'm focused on keeping getting these podiums and Ill look at all the latest stuff before Winton to see what I can learn there. The boys are pretty happy with that result so we'll try to stay with that mindset.”
The start today was all but false when Lee Holdsworth got away at a crawl midway on the grid leaving half the field having to negotiate around him. One of those was FPR Orccon Steel Racer Mark Winterbottom who snuck up the inside only to clip the Holden on the way through.
It appeared Holdsworth had attempted to move to the inside without seeing Winterbottom who was travelling at virtually double the speed. The cars clipped and Winterbottom went careering into the fence. His day and a forgettable weekend was done.
“I had a pretty good start and obviously the Holdsworth car was slow off the start,” Winterbottom said. “It looks like he tried to move to the inside to defend, the cars clipped and I smacked into the wall. I guess we re-group and head to Winton now, there's not too much more we can do.”
In stark contrast to Holdsworth's start his team-mate Michael Caruso had an extraordinary day in moving from 27th to sixth in what was easily the drive of the day. Caruso was on absolute fire with a cracking display in the Fujitsu Commodore.
The Championship now continues at Winton Motor Raceway in two weeks time.
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