V8 Supercar budget buster Garry Rogers Motorsport claimed its greatest achievement in years with an emotional win for Michael Caruso in race two of Darwin's SkyCity Triple Crown event.
Caruso elevated the series' quiet achievers to the top step of the podium for the first time since another great GRM product, Lee Holdsworth, claimed a rare win in 2007, some 62 races ago. Another 'new generation young gun', Irwin Tools' Alex Davison, also breathed fresh life into the finish with second place, the best result of his V8 career having been unceremoniously dumped by Larry Perkins a few years ago, while old stager Craig Lowndes - on his 35th birthday - kept the tearaways honest to the finish.
The veteran took third place after stretching as much as he could out of himself in oppressively hot conditions. The race was dominated by all sorts of different team strategies, but it was GRM, as it has shown on occasion, that pulled the surprise by picking the best plan, with Caruso withstanding the pressure of Davison and Lowndes, who both roared through on soft tyres, to pin him down following a safety car with eight laps to go.
“I knew that the guys behind had their sticky tyres,” Caruso said. “[With] eight laps to go, it was always going to be hard staying in front of them, not to mention having a guy like Craig Lowndes in your mirrors, which is always intimidating.
“It's not like I haven't been in this position before, outside of V8 Supercars anyway. I've raced at the top right from go-karts to V8 Supercars and you carry that composure all the way through.
“I'm at the pinnacle of Australian motor racing and I probably haven't come to terms with just how big this is. It's been a long time coming, I've been in motorsport since I was twelve years old. To stand on the top step in V8 Supercars, a sport that is so big in this country and even in the world it's very, very special.
“For Garry Rogers Motorsport, this is a very big thing. We are a very low budget team, so to come away with a race win against teams that have won Bathursts and championships it's very special.”
Likewise, Davison, who has had dramas constantly interrupt his year so far, was awash with emotion.
“I was written off and it's a hard deal to get back into when you get booted out once," he said, "It's a little bit emotional - it took half a lap before I realised. Today was just a great day. It's been difficult for me coming from a completely different car. It's starting to click now. We are starting to gel more and I'm beginning to learn what I can get out of the car.”
Even for Lowndes, it was nice to see the youngsters alongside him, even though he blew his chances with a bad mistake after a pit-stop when he missed the first turn and went off the track.