23 November 2010
Courtney stays top after Sandown drama
James Courtney stays top of the pile after the penultimate round of the V8 Supercar season at Sandown Park
James Courtney has left the penultimate round of the V8 Supercar championship with a 53 point lead over reigning champ Jamie Whincup.
Courtney was able to record a much-needed win for his troubled team in Sunday's 200km race after a difficult 100km Saturday race which saw Paul Dumbrell take his maiden victory.
The Norton 360 Sandown Challenge was drama-packed, with the race on Saturday and then again on Sunday red-flagged after two monster shunts. First, it was Garth Tander nosing into the fence at the end of the main straight on lap one of Saturday's race. That crash came after wheel to wheel contact with eventual race winner Paul Dumbrell broke Tander's right front steering and cut a tyre.
Then, on Sunday, the fellow Toll HRT car of Will Davison was tagged in the rear at the end of the back straight by Michael Caruso upsetting both cars. Caruso drove nose first into the tyre wall while Davison's Commodore backed in, launched 20 feet in the air and came down hard, severely damaging the rear of the car and spraying fuel from the ruptured fuel cell. Caruso apologised for his role in the crash, with Davison calling it a 'brain dead move'.
Both incidents led to red flags, with Sunday's lasting more than half an hour while officials repaired the damaged fence.
Paul Dumbrell backed up his emotional maiden victory on Saturday with pole on Sunday, but was overtaken by stable-mate Mark Winterbottom through turn one on the opening lap while an angry field squabbled behind them.
Russell Ingall was one of only six on the soft tyres for the opening stint, and used them to good effect, moving from outside the top five into the lead on lap 8. In the first round of pitstops Todd Kelly and Lee Holdsworth both elevated themselves ahead of Dumbrell, Whincup and James Courtney, while Russell Ingall held a narrow three-second gap over Winterbottom going in to lap 32, and the monster crash for Davison and Caruso.
After touring under yellow flags for two laps and pit stops, the race was red flagged for half an hour, leaving Shane van Gisbergen and Dean Fiore to start from the front row. That duo wouldn't hold the lead for long, both running wide at the fast, left hand turn one.
With Jason Richards sidelined to tackle a cancerous tumour discovered in his abdomen, Andrew Jones was back for his first non-enduro round since 2008, but when his #8 Team BOC car expired just two laps after the restart, we were back under yellow.
On the restart, the three title contenders filled the top three positions, Winterbottom leading from Courtney and Whincup with Holdsworth harrying in fourth.
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