Jason Bright scored one for the battlers and proved to the rest of the V8 Supercar field that it can be done, and Jamie Whincup can be beaten - but everything must go absolutely to plan.
Fresh from his race victory in Perth, the first for the Albury based team, Bright took another one today, beating TeamVodafone’s Whincup and Toll Holden Racing Team’s Garth Tander in an all-Holden 1-2-3.
Bright had the best car on the day and mowed down the field from eighth on the grid and not even the almighty Whincup could stop him. Whincup, though, built further on his Championship lead while Toll HRTs current Champion James Courtney (25th) endured another horror day.
In what has been a roller-coaster of emotion since his driving partner Jason Richards began his battle with cancer it was fitting that Bright dragged the enormously popular Kiwi onto the podium with him, such is the bond of the whole team and not just the two drivers.
When we can win from eighth it means we are doing pretty well.
“It’s one of the smallest teams on pit lane and one of the closest,” Bright said.
“He is one of the fiercest competitors I’ve had as a team-mate. He works incredibly hard and he’s still there as much as anyone. We just want to see him get better and get back out here.
“I was pretty convinced that at some stage we were going to share the front row a few times and get on the podium. It’s a shame that he is not racing because he would be up here for sure.”
Bright still thinks Whincup can be beaten in the Championship race whether it be by him or someone else.
“I keep saying that there is nine or ten things you have to have right in this category and qualifying and starts were our last two. When we can win from eighth it means we are doing pretty well,” he said.
“We are still improving all the time. This bloke (Whincup) has got a fair lead on everyone so it’s going to take a long Championship to catch up. If we can rack up a few more wins and put a bit of pressure on anything is possible.”
Whincup, still, was comfortable with this weekend given Bright’s cracking pace and that he was still able to extend his Championship lead to a considerable margin.
“I’m not surprised. We had a good car, there’s no complaining. Brighty found a little bit of extra and found that in Perth. His was clearly the quickest car. That’s great, it just ups it a level. We will go away, do our homework and try to get to that level as well.”
Tander also believes he can make a difference in the Championship if his team can get everything right.
“Our race pace is fine but our tyre consistency is not what it needs to be. I’m happy to be third considering our tyres fell off so badly in yesterday’s race and we lost I think seven spots in the last five laps. We have certainly got some work to do.
“We will just keep chipping away, grinding the results and see where the year takes us.”
Not so for Courtney who has had no luck and struggled to adjust to the new car since his switch from Ford to Holden, Jim Beam Racing to Toll HRT.
“I need this like a hole in the end,” Courtney said of a busted right front as the result of the only accident of the entire race. “When you are near the back things happen and I just couldn’t get out of the way quick enough.”
Fabian Coulthard was classy and ran the same late stop strategy as Bright to finish fifth clear of Michael Caruso, Craig Lowndes, Steven Johnson, a strong James Moffat and Steve Owen (who started 25th).
Grey clouds late in the race meant all teams had wet weather tyres on standby, but they weren’t needed and the race ran to the chequered flag without showers.
Pole man Mark Winterbottom couldn’t keep pace with the front-runners, the Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon fading badly after leading into the opening corner. He eventually finished a distant 19th, 43 seconds behind winner Bright.
A third-lap multi-car collision eliminated Russell Ingall and Todd Kelly, while Will Davison and Courtney were forced to pit lane for delays and finished many laps down.
Davison was 24th and Courtney 25th, the latter’s title defence in tatters.
Pepsi Max Crew’s Greg Murphy started last but fought his way into the top 10 before ending up 11th, while Lee Holdsworth faded and came home 15th.
The V8 Supercar Championship will recommence in four weeks time to Darwin’s Hidden Valley Raceway for the SKYCITY Triple Crown on June 17-19.
-source: v8 supercar