Kelly seals opening Phillip Island race as Skaife hangs on for third
The Holden Racing Team's Todd Kelly has continued his late season surge in the V8 Supercar Championship Series with victory in the first race of the Grand Finale at Phillip Island.
And the good news extended to the other side of the HRT garage, with Mark Skaife fending off charges from Falcon pilots Jason Bright and Craig Lowndes to hang on for third spot.
Kelly started the day in fine form, setting his second pole position of the year with Skaife qualifying the #2 car alongside for an all red front row of the grid.
The race, over 23 laps, started with a close call for the HRT drivers through the opening corner as they fought with Toll driver Garth Tander, though both came out of the other side in the lead and second place.
From there, Kelly dominated the race, leading all the way to record a strong victory in the #22 car. He was unchallenged throughout the race after pitting for right side tyres on lap 10 and took the win ahead of Tander.
Behind them Skaife was in a major fight. After withstanding pressure from Bright, who spun off the road at turn four's hairpin, it was former teammate Lowndes who next threw out a challenge.
With his rear tyres going away badly, Skaife was forced to defend the advances of his rival, the duo running sidebyside through the fast 200 km/h plus Hayshed sweeper.
Lowndes ran out of road and ran through the grass, giving Skaife enough of a gap to hang on and seal third spot.
Todd Kelly (#22 Holden Racing Team Commodore VZ)
"The Shootout lap today was probably a nine out of 10 job. I had to really look after the car and the tyres, because this is a track where if you don't get it right, you cook the tyres. I brought the pace back a little after the pit stop and had enough to get home in front. I didn't get the best of starts and was focused on Mark through the first corner and nearly didn't see Garth! I held out on my pit stop just to make sure of what call to make in terms of tyres, and changing the right side proved to be the right choice. I didn't want to make a mistake, particularly because the guys did a great job on the pit stop."
Mark Skaife (#2 Holden Racing Team Commodore VZ)
"It was quite an interesting race at the end there. The car was quite good in the first stint before the pit stop but it really went away badly in the second one. I had to drive and survive, basically. I lost a race here a few years ago by speeding on the entry to the pits, so I was very conservative with it today and that probably cost me a chance of holding onto second after pitting. Late in the race I had to gather the car up at each corner and drive it off the corner to hang on. I got a bad sportsmanship flag for blocking, which was fair enough because I was doing my best to hang onto the spot and blocking a little. But then I went back to the racing line and we were able to hang onto the spot."