Jamie Whincup and Sebastien Bourdais steered clear of high drama and mass damage in the early stages of a bruising race on the streets of Surfers Paradise to continue their winning streak at the ARMOR ALL Gold Coast 600 today.
Whincup today won his 60th career V8 Supercar race, extended his points lead and got co-driver Bourdais half-way to a repeat Dan Wheldon Trophy win – but as always it was only a small part of today’s Gold Coast story.
After an early highly spirited battle with TradingPost FPR driver Mika Salo - the early race leader – that saw the lead swap several times, Bourdais handed his car over to Whincup in once piece with the championship leader assuming a race lead for what would ultimately be the closing 44 laps.
After a brilliant opening stint by co-driver Marc Lieb, Jonathon Webb hustled his Tekno Autosports Commodore into second place in a closing 20-lap dash to the flag, pressuring Whincup all the way.
He got the gap down to less than 0.5s in a sprint to the flag that had nearly as much pressure as the recent Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 – just in completely different surrounds. However, as he did with David Reynolds at Bathurst, Whincup was able to hold out Webb to take another Surfers Paradise win – his sixth on the Gold Coast streets.
With 20 laps remaining, Mark Winterbottom stormed home after the final (of three) Safety Car periods, working from 9th to 3rd in the closing laps to finish on the podium after a slow start from co-driver Will Power saw the car outside the Top 10 in the early stages of the race.
Following his crash in qualifying, Garth Tander and Ryan Briscoe hauled the #2 Holden Racing Team car to fourth place, having started just 20th. A particularly strong stint from Briscoe – that saw him lead prior to stopping – helped get the factory Holden back in contention.
Tim Slade and David Brabham were competitive all day and finished fifth, ahead of Craig Lowndes / Richard Lyons, James Courtney (who again drifted from a potential podium spot in the closing laps, with suspected rear roll bar issues) and Darren Turner, Rick Kelly / Graham Rahal, Russell Ingall / Peter Dumbreck and the Shane van Gisbergen / Jeroen Bleekemolen Ford that completed the top-10.
The race was saw only 79 of a scheduled 102 laps completed after two red flag periods in the first hour were caused by two separate start-line crashes.
The initial start saw James Hinchcliffe slow away in the #34 Fujitsu Racing Holden, the Canadian promptly hit from behind by Tonio Liuzzi in the Team HIFLEX Ford. Damaged, Liuzzi was then collected by Simon Pagenaud in the IRWIN Ford – but that wasn’t the end of the damage.
From further down the grid, a fast-closing Ricky Taylor - in the second Fujitsu Holden - then clipped the left-front wheel of the D’Alberto entry and was tipped into a high-speed rollover, going over twice before landing on his roof.
Taylor emerged unscathed but with the car heavily damaged.
The second attempt to get the race underway was also red-flagged after a slow-starting Nicholas Minassian (In the Lockwood Racing Holden) was hit from behind by Franck Montagny, driving Karl Reindler’s Fair Dinkum Sheds entry.
Both cars were badly damaged and out of the race.
The third attempt proved more successful and a highly competitive race unfolded from there.
Those failing to finish included the #33 (Ricky Taylor / Greg Ritter) and #34 (Michael Caruso / James Hinchcliffe) Fujitsu Racing Holdens, the #4 IRWIN Tools Falcon of Lee Holdsworth and Simon Pagenaud and the #3 Team HIFLEX Ford of Tony D'Alberto and Tonio Liuzzi (all eliminated in the first race start crash) - with the #14 Lockwood Racing Holden and #11 Fair Dinkum Sheds Holden eliminated in the second start line incident.
The Team Norton DJR entry of James Moffat and Dutchman Peter Kox was out on lap 19 after contact with the wall at Turn 11, the incident also taking out the Jack Daniel’s Racing car of Tim Blanchard and Marco Andretti.
Steve Owen and Boris Said were forced out with power steering issues whilst perhaps the most controversial non-finish was the #55 The Bottle-O Ford of David Reynolds and Nick Heidfeld.
A storming early stint from the German ex-Formula 1 ace saw the car well positioned for Reynold’s run to the flag, and a spirited dice with the pair of Holden Racing Team cars for the minor podium spot was waged in the final 20 laps, before contact with Tander broke the steering on the green Falcon.
Reynolds had attempted to dive up the inside at Turn 11 and the two cars made contact when Tander was late in defending the move.
Just 18 of the 28 starters finished, Will Davison and Mika Salo the final classified finishers after contact with the Wall ended their day soon after Davison took the wheel.
Tomorrow will see another 102-lap race and 30-minute qualifying session held – stay locked on to BigPond Sport for all the washout from today’s dramatic race!