Kelly victorious and Skaife third as HRT closes out 2006 at Phillip Island
In a brilliant end to the V8 Supercar Championship Series, the Holden Racing Team's Todd Kelly has won his second round of 2006, clinching victory in a controversial final round of the championship at Phillip Island.
After dominating today's first 32 lap race to lead home Mark Winterbottom and Craig Lowndes to the chequered flag, Kelly found himself in major drama on lap two of the final, championshipdeciding race.
Leading the pack into the turn four hairpin, the HRT ace was hit by the Llate braking owndes as the latter received a light touch from Toll LHSV's Rick Kelly.
Lowndes ended up hitting the elder Kelly brother's HRT Commodore, spinning both. th Todd was able to resume, albeit down in 13 , while championship aspirant Lowndes was collected by an unsighted Will Davison and the subsequent damage forced him to limp to the end with a damaged car out of the title fight.
With the round victory up for grabs, Kelly mounted a strong comeback drive to end up finishing fifth in the 31lapper, giving him enough points to hang on and win the round from Winterbottom and teammate Mark Skaife.
Skaife struggled with setup on his #2 Commodore in the first race of the day, unable to do much as he slipped back through the field to finish an eventual sixth.
But the fivetime champ was on song in the last race and he had to be! With the field bunching up under brakes into the hairpin on the opening lap, Skaife elected to stay on the outside to avoid the likely trouble.
He ended up receiving a tap and spun to the tail of the field with a lot of work to do. th Left languishing in 28 , Skaife began a fight back through the field.
He elected to stay out for longer than the leaders before making his compulsory tyre stop, pitting for right side tyres on lap 14 after running in the lead.
Once the pit stop cycle had ended, Skaife was outside the top 10 and ran home in an th eventual 11 place, enough to give him the final spot on the last podium of the 2006 season. th On a strong day for Holden, Todd's brother Rick claimed the championship with 18 place in the final race after receiving a drive through penalty for the Lowndes incident.
Todd Kelly (#22 Holden Racing Team Commodore VZ)
"We tried hard all weekend to get our car to be really well setup. But I have to admit to keeping an eye on Rick's progress over the weekend, as well as Craig's. It would have been nice to get a clean sweep and win all of the races after topping qualifying and the Shootout. In the last race I was heading into the hairpin and I thought Craig was far enough back that I could turn in without any problems. But the next minute I know he was in my door! I don't know what happened behind me, so I'll have to go and take a look at the video to get an idea. I thought the show was over for me after that, but I had no damage. Last year here we really struggled but we nailed the setup from the start and fine tuned it as the weekend went along. Hopefully Dad will buy some beers tonight!"
Mark Skaife (#2 Holden Racing Team Commodore VZ)
"The car in the first race today was the worst it had been all weekend. But by the last race it was very good. On the run into the hairpin I tried to stay to the outside to get clear of the congestion, but I got spun around anyway and dropped to the back of the field. The in and out laps around the pit stop were very good and the car flowed much better in that race, which had been my main area of complaint with the car all weekend. We've won the qualifying award for the year, which proves we have had great pace, but it has just been that slump in the middle of the year that put us in the points in a position where it doesn't look like we've had a good year. We look forward now to coming out of the blocks strongly in 2007 with the new VE Commodore."