Opening lap incident stops Tasman Island charge
Saturday, December 09, 2006 -- A strong qualifying performance by Tasman Motorsport's Jason Richards has been thrown out the window in today's opening race of the Caterpillar Grand Finale at Phillip Island.
After taking the #3 Superservice Menus Commodore to a berth in the Top 10 Shootout and qualifying an eventual sixth, the Kiwi ace was tapped off the circuit on the opening lap by former team-mate Jamie Whincup.
The Falcon driver had dropped two wheels onto the edge of the circuit exiting turn one and collected the Holden as he came back onto the track to regain control.
The hit put Richards off the road and to the tail of the field. He continued to fight on and clawed his way back up to finish 22nd.
Problems struck team-mate Andrew Jones as well. The former Development Series champion qualified 21st and was running in the top 20 when contact with John Bowe bent a steering arm and forced him to pit for repairs.
Rejoining a few laps behind, Jones was forced to simply drive to the end without the hope of making up spots and will start tomorrow's first 140-kilometre race in 30th.
Jason Richards (#3 Superservice Menus/Tasman Motorsport Commodore VZ) "I was happy with our speed in qualifying, but I was really wrapt with my Shootout lap. I was actually faster in the Shootout than I was on my regular qualifying lap, so that was a great sign. I had to drive around a slow starting Jason Bright at the start and his slow getaway helped to make the field congested at the first few corners. I made it through turn one OK, but into turn two Jamie hit me in the back and side at a pretty high speed. I drove around all of the sand traps but it cost me heaps of time."
Andrew Jones (#23 Superservice Menus/Tasman Motorsport Commodore VZ) "The speed early was good and we made it past a few cars. I had a great side-by-side fight with Steven Johnson and he gave me room and I got by into the high speed turn one. I lost five or six spots by being boxed in my pit bay, but heading into MG Corner later on I clashed wheels with John Bowe. It grabbed wheels and damaged my car, so that was that."