In 2005, the Holden Racing Team VZ Commodores reigned supreme at the V8 Supercar support races for the Australian Grand Prix, in 2006 the two 'Team Red' Holdens continue to dominate at Albert Park.

Todd Kelly won the race ahead of teammate and 2005 event winner Mark Skaife, and Ford's frontman Craig Lowndes of the Team Betta Electrical outfit.

However despite the short ten-lap sprint, chaos was the agenda of the day with several big names including Clipsal 500 runner-up Rick Kelly and former international hotshot James Courtney retiring.

Toll HSV Dealer Team driver Rick Kelly had started from the second row of the grid, but lasted no more than the first corner of the race, when Tasman Motorsport's Jason Richards had a look down the inside of Whincup's Falcon and forced both the two Clipsal 500 standouts off the race track.

"I didn't have the best of starts, but neither did anyone else," said Kelly.

"I came into turn one on the outside of Jamie Whincup, but unfortunately Jason Richards tried to be a bit of a champion and dive up the inside of us and force everyone on the grass.

"Unfortunately, when I tried to get to the pits the tyre was shredded in the process. Not a great start, but I'm just happy there are no points at stake."

Forced to return to pitlane Kelly was obliged to retire from the race with damage, and will start tomorrow's second race from the rear of the grid. Things weren't much better for James Courtney who, after running inside the top ten during Thursday practice and qualifying, was spun around at the third turn of the race.

"I'm not sure who spun me around. I was coming up to turn three and wasn't in any braking areas and I just felt a hit and it turned me around. Obviously it's another disappointing day," said Courtney, who also was involved in crashes during both Clipsal 500 races last weekend.

"Hopefully the car will be right for tomorrow but I am not sure whether we will have enough parts after the hit we had in Adelaide."

Jason Richards had originally finished in third place in the Tasman Holden, but was penalised thirty seconds after the race for his first lap misdemeanour. This allowed Craig Lowndes to step up into third place (the penalty relegated Richards to the rear of the grid).

For Todd Kelly, the result is one that has him optimistic of a successful 2006 campaign, as he looks to improve on three round wins from last year. However his immediate focus is finishing well at Albert Park, despite no points being on offer.

"We've got a lot of things we're trying in the car and it was certainly a different car than what it was to drive last year, especially once the tyres got a bit of temperature in them," said Kelly.

"We're going to have to have a good look at the data tonight because there's no way it will do 19 laps (tomorrow) with that sort of a setup in it. It's been a good weekend so far and we'll have a bit of a play with it tonight and see what we can do tomorrow."

"This is the only race we do in the whole year where you haven't got the pressure of points so you can actually go and have a bit more fun. In qualifying I went and drove a bit harder than I normally would, because if I wreck a set of tyres it's not going to affect your championship. It's the only race where you get to go out there and just enjoy the track."

His teammate Mark Skaife was just as impressed with the 1-2 finish his team delivered Holden supporters at the Grand Prix this weekend, especially after he had to use a 2004-spec car on loan from the Toll HSV Dealer Team.

"Considering the workload not only in Adelaide but also after Adelaide, to get a car here has been a great job by the boys," said Skaife.

"It's not the latest and greatest car we own but it's doing a good job. It's flowing nicely, and it's a credit to the guys to be able to front with a car here. This race meeting is not for points, but we owe it to the fans and supporters of the category to make sure the Holden Racing Team had cars here.

"It's a great racetrack, I've always liked it. It's a very fast, flowing sort of street circuit, it's almost more like a purpose-built circuit than anything else. It's a really challenging race track with some great fast corners and some tricky slow stuff."

Even though Jamie Whincup slid out of race contention near the end of the race - locked brakes being the reason for his brief encounter with the kitty litter - Craig Lowndes ensured that Team Betta Electrical salvaged a good result from the opening race with a hard fought third place.

"I got a good start today and managed to pick up two spots straight away," Lowndes said.

"This track is notoriously hard to pass on and the shorter race (10-laps) sees it even more difficult to work your way to the front. "I have to say the car was much, much better today but I would be lying if I said we wouldn't like to find a bit more speed.

"Being a non championship round we do have the luxury of being able to play around with car-setup a bit more than we would at a championship round," Lowndes added.

After an exceptional performance at the opening championship round in Adelaide, Paul Dumbrell continued his impressive form for Jack Daniel's Racing by finishing fourth in the first race.

"Fifth is okay, we just tried to be conservative and stay out of trouble," said Dumbrell.

"The first corner of the first lap looked interesting and there could have been trouble there, but we avoided it. Cameron McConville was pushing me hard for a while, but after the restart on lap 8 we seemed to have the better of him."

On the back of a severe crash at the Clipsal 500, Cameron McConville was forced to pilot Super Cheap Auto Racing's spare Commodore, and drove to a commendable fifth place even though there was, admittedly, some luck involved.

"Sixth is a good result - not startling, but good - from a conservative, trouble-free run," said McConville.

"I made up one spot at the start, then picked up another when [Steven Richards] Richo locked a brake, and another just after the restart when Jamie Whincup went off. I made a change to the bars and the car wasn't as good, which allowed Paul Dumbrell to get away.

"We'll do a little more work and hopefully make some more ground tomorrow."

Ford Performance Racing performed significantly better one week after its horrifying season start in South Australia. Qualifying well, and a good clean race for both Mark Winterbottom and Jason Bright netted them a sixth and eighth place finish respectively.

"A good start to our weekend, I jumped three positions at the start and the car was handling very well, said Winterbottom, "There were a couple of small issues during the race but nothing that we cannot easily fix. I'm looking forward to starting from 6th tomorrow in a much longer race that enables more passing."

"We have managed to find some good car pace for that race and after making up two positions at the start we had the pace on Will Davison but I couldn't get past," said Bright.

"We were side by side at one point, but I couldn't make the move stick, he defended position well. With some more set up changes we should be quicker in the longer race tomorrow."

Certainly for Dick Johnson Racing's new prot?g? Will Davison, the result was a credible one. Running in the top ten of the championship, Davison started well and split both FPR Falcons in seventh position.

"It such a good feeling to already be achieving results in the top ten," said Davison.

"I didn't want to make any mistakes, I wanted to keep the car straight, so having the car in one piece plus being so high up in the order is fantastic. "I had a lot of pressure from Bright throughout the race but I stuck in there and held him back.

"We tried a few things with the car that didn't quite work, but we'll press on and make it even better for tomorrow."

The team leaders of Jack Daniels Racing and Dick Johnson Racing were outperformed by their younger co-drivers, but despite that Steven Richards (JDR) and Steven Johnson (DJR) finished ninth and tenth respectively.

"I locked the rears and went off into the gravel, losing four spots," said Richards

"Our speed is okay as we're working through this new car. We've probably got the same speed as the guys I was racing before I locked the brakes - Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup and Jason Richards. Tomorrow's lap is longer, 19 laps as opposed to 10 today, so that's going to give us even more opportunity to learn about the car."

"Everything went to plan today and I'm really happy with the results we produced," said Johnson.

"I nearly got caught up when there was a bit of a touch with James Courtney but I managed to keep out of trouble.

"I'm just glad that I kept the car straight and was able to make up a few positions.

"The car still isn't quite right, we're going to work on it overnight to get some more speed out of it, so I can't wait to get out there again tomorrow."

Tomorrow's second support race for the Panasonic V8 Supercars at the Australian Grand Prix will consist of a nineteen-lapper around Albert Park.

Panasonic V8 Supercars - Race One - Top Ten

1.Todd Kelly Holden Racing Team, VZ Commodore 23:08.8215s
2.Mark Skaife Holden Racing Team, VZ Commodore 23:09.4224s
3.Craig Lowndes Team Betta Electrical, BF Falcon 23:10.8510s
4.Paul Dumbrell Jack Daniels Racing, VZ Commodore 23:11.6702s
5.Cameron McConville Super Cheap Auto Racing, VZ Commodore 23:12.6035
6.Mark Winterbottom Ford Credit Racing, BF Falcon 23:13.4025s
7.Will Davison V8 Telecom Racing, BF Falcon 23:14.1836s
8.Jason Bright Caterpillar Racing, BF Falcon 23:14.4731s
9.Steven Richards Jack Daniels Racing, VZ Commodore 23:14.7086s
10.Steven Johnson FirstRock Home Loans, BF Falcon 23:15.4456s


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