V8 Supercar points leader Jamie Whincup extended his record start to 2009 by winning leg one of the SkyCity Challenge, but Holden young gun Will Davison is confident he has enough left in the tank to beat his best mate and halt the momentum of the TeamVodafone outfit.
The Toll Holden Racing recruit firmly believes he has what it takes to return the championship to the red side for the first time since current team-mate Garth Tander took it two years ago, even though he finished behind Whincup and Mark Winterbottom in the first race of the weekend at Hidden Valley Raceway in Darwin.
Both Winterbottom and Davison - who currently sits 117 points shy of Whincup - were gifted a place when Team BOCs Jason Richards, who took his first pole position earlier in the day, lost brakes and careered off the track with just two laps to go.
“Our race strategy was good, the boys gave me a great pit stop to jump HRT in pit-lane and, although the car didn't have the pace of the first two early in the race, we were quick on the hard tyre until something broke on the front left with three laps to go," Richards reported, "The car wouldn't turn or stop, and it was obviously disappointing to give up a possible podium so close to the end of the race.”
He had been running second to Whincup at the time, having been rounded up off the line despite a strong start. Whincup found better air on the left-hand side of the grid, a well known trait of the Hidden Valley circuit, and managed to hold station from there. Tander followed to begin a great battle with the leaders as, with both the Vodafone Ford and Toll HRT Holden on soft tyres, they diced for several laps early before Whincup pitted.
When Tander stopped on the next lap, he lost three positions to Davison, Winterbottom and Richards, as Whincup went on to extend his points advantage.
“It's tough out there, it's hot - it might look easy, but it's certainly not,” the winner said, “It was great to have a green race and get out there and battle, but there are a few concerns. It's a long way, the heat's there and the pedal get hot - you wake up with sore legs and a sore shoulder, so it's going to be very tough.”
While Davison was surprised, he was still sitting in the hunt for well-earned points.
“We've got a good team and we are working very hard,” he said, “Until the endurance events are done, there's no point looking at the championship, as Jamie and Craig [Lowndes] have used those to their advantage in the last couple of years. Who knows, the complete opposite could happen this year - we all know that's a real possibility. We are not far away, that's for sure.”
Davison has recovered from the odd glitch so far this year to stay in touch with the leader but, as he says, consistency alone is not going to get him the lead.
“It's very early days and I've got to keep the points ticking over, which we are doing really nicely at the moment," he conceded, "Hopefully, we can really hit our straps soon and improve our pace and performance. I've certainly got potential to improve and I think I can do it. The rate we are going at now is going very good but, if we stay at this rate, we are not going to win the championship."
With Richards' exit, Tander was able to claim to fourth, comfortably four seconds ahead of Jack Daniel's Racing's Todd Kelly, Lowndes, the recovering Richards, James Courtney, Cameron McConville and Lee Holdsworth.