Ryan Briscoe added to the legacy of Surfers Paradise by extending the list of different winners and becoming the first Australian driver to win on the streets of the Gold Coast as he triumphed on the IndyCar Series first - and maybe only - visit 'down under'.

Briscoe, one of two Australians in the field, held off Australian-born but New Zealand 'native' Scott Dixon to claim the non-championship exhibition event by a mere half-second, while Ryan Hunter-Reay returned Rahal Letterman Racing to the podium several years after co-owner Bobby Rahal's last race at the circuit.

Briscoe started third in the #6 Team Penske car and led for nearly two-thirds of the race's 60 laps, once fellow countryman - and polesitter - Will Power had snagged a barrier and damaged his KV Race Technology/Team Australia car. In all, Briscoe led three times for 39 laps, retaking the point for the final time on lap 43 after the final round of pit-stops and holding off new champion Dixon as he dealt with traffic in the final stages.

"What a way to cap off the year - and in my home country too," Briscoe bubbled, after taking a third win of the year to add to previous successes at Milwaukee and Mid-Ohio, "It doesn't get better than this."

The win was Penske's second at Surfers, but its first in a long while following its defection from Champ Car to the IRL. Emerson Fittipaldi took the team's only other success 'down under' at the second-ever running, back in 1992.

"I have to give credit to the guys at Team Penske. My new engineer Eric [Cowdin] did a great job all weekend, and I'm just so happy for all the [Australian] fans. It was a great event and we're going to turn up the wick tonight."

Having missed out on winning the season finale at Chicagoland by 0.0033secs, Dixon finished just 0.5019secs behind Briscoe on the punishing street circuit, which claimed four accident victims during the 60 laps. The Kiwi, however, led for a single lap around one-third distance, but took advantage of the traffic to close in on the leader as the chequered flag neared.

"We had a bit bad start and short-cut the track, so we had to give Briscoe a position back," the Ganassi driver revealed, "It was unfortunate because it's so hard to pass on track. The traffic at the end made it exciting though. We were quicker in different spots - he was quicker than me, but we were quicker on the backside. I don't know [if i could have passed him] - maybe, if he had made a mistake, we could have got him."

Hunter-Reay put an exclamation mark on a solid season for Rahal Letterman Racing by returning to the podium in the Team Ethanol car at a circuit where he won the 2003 Surfers Paradise Champ Car race. The American's only other win since that time came earlier this year when he triumphed in an unpredictable Watkins Glen race - after Briscoe and Dixon were eliminated by a rare mistake from the Kiwi.

"It was a long race with those kerbs - they beat the hell out of you," he winced, "but it was nice to get by Dario [Franchitti] in the beginning. From there, I picked off good laps but, unfortunately, I got held up by [Alex] Tagliani for good while. The guys did a great job in the pits to get us by him, and then I did my usual deal at Surfers. I've never been out of the top-five here."

Tagliani held on to claim fourth in only his third start in the #36 Conquest Racing car, adding weight to his claim to a full-time seat with Eric Bachelart's outfit next season. Although he missed the podium, the Canadian still achieved Conquest's best IndyCar finish since Laurent Redon claimed third at California in March 2002, and was pleased to have run with the series' big-hitters.

"I'm very happy with this result - Brandon [Fry] and Eric [Zeto] worked so hard on the engineering aspect of the car, they saw potential in Detroit and were very excited with the feedback they received," he commented, "They were able to take that preparation for this race in Australia, and I'm pretty sure that the winter will be much sweeter with this good result.

"Coming here and fighting with Dixon, the champion of the series, Briscoe with Team Penske, it was a great showing for our team. The last pit stop is kind of what cost us a podium. We had a problem with the fuel going in the car and Ryan Hunter-Reay passed us. I think the team finished the season the way we wanted and now we will continue working over the winter."

On what proved to be a good day for the former Champ Car teams and drivers, Oriol Servia completed the top five, bringing a little solace to a Team Australia after Power's early exit.

"I've finished the season with another top five, which is great, but it was a race where I think KV Racing Technology and Team Australia had the dominant car," the Catalan sighed, "KVRT has shown that, on road and street courses, we have everything it takes to win. It's just tough racing out there and everything has to go your way.

"Again, we got very close to a great race and, actually, I think we had a good race, going from 15th to fifth. We passed a lot of cars on track, which is not very easy these days, so I am very happy with the race. We have the potential to win races together, but we just need to keep working hard."

Team-mate Power led the initial 16 laps, but a mistake in the quick backstretch Esses ended his day when the #8 car's front-left corner made contact with the inside barrier. A disappointed Power, who has now qualified on the Surfers' pole three times but suffered appalling luck in the race, immediately held up his hand and accepted the blame for his retirement this time around.

"Obviously, I'm very disappointed," he sighed, "The car was very quick - you could see how fast we were at the start of the race. [At the time of the accident], I had backed off to save a lot of fuel, wasn't pushing hard and then got caught out and clipped the inside wall and ricocheted into the next one. It was a really bad mistake, the worst of my life. It's was a very bad day for me."

Rookie EJ Viso posted his second best result of the season, following fourth on the road at St Petersburg, by bringing the sole HVM Racing car home in sixth place. The Venezuelan ran as high as second, but was twice instructed to give up the place, once to let Servia by because he had cut a corner, and later to relinquish the position again because he had blocked cars behind him. Viso led one lap during the race.

Helio Castroneves bid to lighten his mood during ongoing court proceedings into tax evasion accusations ended with a frustrating seventh places, while Hideki Mutoh, Graham Rahal and Buddy Rice rounded out the top ten. Mutoh was the best of the Andretti Green Racing quartet on a disappointing day for former winner Michael Andretti, with Tony Kanaan suffering the race's only mechanical retirement and both Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick finishing well down the order.

"Unfortunately, our right rear suspension broke and it's a real shame," Kanaan commented, "I didn't hit anything and I think it was just the stress on the part. We worked really hard after struggling the first couple of days and the Team 7-Eleven car was very good for the race - I think we could have finished on the podium...."

Rice completed the top ten by just 0.0001secs, pipping Dan Wheldon on the Briton's return to Panther Racing, and there was equally disappointing news for returnee Dario Franchitti, who managed only a lapped 16th on his debut with Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

Rice had taken the flag in twelfth, but was moved ahead of both Wheldon and Justin Wilson on the results after they were deemed to have passed him under yellow flags.



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