Tander hits back in Winton practice
1 January 1901
Reigning V8 Supercars champion Garth Tander fired a broadside at current points leader Mark Winterbottom after his Holden Racing Team returned to the top of the leaderboard on the opening day of the series' visit to Winton.
Tander made the most of changeable - and, at time, atrocious - conditions to set the fastest practice time of the day, then made his feelings known about press reports aimed at his section of the 'Red side' during the week. Winterbottom had suggested that Ford has no great superiority over Holden, claiming that the HRT outfit just needed to 'work harder' to keep pace with his Ford Performance Racing team - and Tander certainly noted the comments.
“I read in the press that the Holden teams have to work a lot harder, and we've done that coming into Winton," Tander said in a thinly-veiled reference to his Ford rival's comments, "Certainly there's more Fords up the front at the moment than Holdens, but there's enough of us up there - it only takes one to win."
Tander was, in the end, quite dominant in terms of times on day one, but warned that it was still very early in proceedings.
"I wouldn't have thought there'd be three-tenths [between first and second] tomorrow," he said, "The weather's forecast to be changeable again, so today's probably good practice for when it counts.
"Today was difficult with the weather constantly changing, but we were able to get lots of information with the new tyre at our test circuit. We might have been quickest today, we've got three-tenths, but my car performance wasn't exactly there. I'm happy in the wet, so we're ready for anything tomorrow.”
Winterbottom was second in practice, with young New Zealander Fabian Coulthard in third, resuming the good form he had shown earlier in the season for rising young team Glenford's Racing.
“We started of tip-toeing around in the wet like everybody else but, apart from that, it wasn't too bad," Coulthard said, "Getting further up the grid is what we are attempting to achieve, but it's hard work getting here. It's one of those things – we just need to keeping doing it consistently.”
Winterbottom, meanwhile, continued his unflappable consistency, topping the timesheets for most of the afternoon despite working to resolve an engine misfire for much of the session. He was only edged off top spot in the last few minutes by Tander and remained confident that he will be in the fight for pole.
"We were on top there for the majority of the session, but got out-lapped on the green [tyres]," 'Frosty' said, "We're there or thereabouts though, so I'm not worried. The weather is obviously a bit hard - very tough conditions for strategy and set-up and we had a couple of issues to deal with in that session. Still, we did the changes that we had to do and got second fastest in the process. I'm pretty pleased with that."
Rick Kelly, Craig Lowndes, the resurgent Russell Ingall, Jamie Whincup, Tander's HRT team-mate Mark Skaife, Steven Richards and Lee Holdsworth rounded out the top ten.
Kelly's endurance co-driver Paul Radisich piloted the #15 Commodore for the first 30-minute practice session, and managed to snatch the sixth fastest time before claiming he couldn't be more ready for the enduros - which start next month at Phillip Island. Kelly then took over behind the wheel and kept the car at the sharp end for the rest of the day.
“The last two rounds to say the least have taken the confidence away from myself and the guys in the team, so today to come out and be the quickest in the wet session is great for us," he commented, "We can now walk around with a little bit more of a smile on our faces knowing that the car is quite good and, to be honest with you, I don't think I, as a driver, maximised the car in that session. The car is definitely good enough to be up behind GT.”
TeamVodafone, searching for an improvement on previous years' qualifying at the Victoria circuit, turned to a new suspension set-up for the opening day.
“We tried something in the suspension department that we have never tried before and it gave us quite a positive result,” Lowndes explained, “We still need to finesse and fine-tune the settings a bit more, but we now have some good data to compare with Jamie's car, which was running on a different set-up strategy. I am very encouraged ahead of qualifying."
There was one major casualty from the session amongst the numerous red flags, when SP Tools driver Shane Van Gisbergen hit a wall, severely damaging the right front end of his Stone Brothers Falcon.
van Gisbergen underwent medical checks after the heavy impact, but was cleared to drive again and will return tomorrow - although not before his team spends much of the night repairing the car.
“I was pushing pretty hard when I bounced off a kerb at the sweeper," the youngster revealed, "I shot off the track and into the wall. It was a decent hit, and there was a fair bit of damage to the SP Tools Racing Falcon, but it looks like it will be okay for tomorrow. I'm a bit sore but, hopefully, I'll pull up okay.”
In other news, Winterbottom's team-mate Steven Richards was docked twelve championship points after admitting a careless driving breach after an investigation from the previous round at Queensland Raceway was finalised today.