Sandown slips through Skaife and Tander's fingers as steering gremlin slows HRT
Today's Sandown 500 in Melbourne will go down as the 'one that got away' for the Holden Racing Team after Mark Skaife and Garth Tander were delayed by a steering problem in the #2 Commodore on lap 121 of 161.
The duo were simply dominant all day, leading 87 of the first 120 laps after Tander completed a strong double stint that proved his pole position speed yesterday was no fluke.
Having started the race and dropped to fourth off the line, Tander charged back through the field and hunted down race leader Jamie Whincup to snatch back the lead on lap 15 and stamp his authority on the race.
But shortly after Skaife stepped aboard the car for the run to the chequered flag when strongly placed, a steering component problem caused the five-time champion to run wide at turn four and he was forced to limp back to the pits for repairs.
The #2 Commodore eventually crossed the line in 26th place and 12 laps behind the winning Falcon of Jason Bright and Mark Winterbottom and the second-placed Toll HSV car of brothers Rick and Todd Kelly.
The #22 HRT Commodore of Ryan Briscoe and Jim Richards was behind the eight- ball right from the opening lap when the latter had a slight touch with another car that forced him to pit to replace a rubbing tyre.
The duo lost a lap later on and endured a tough day all round as they fought to work their way back up the order.
Briscoe was forced to pit on lap 108 after a touch with the second Triple Eight Falcon that damaged his steering.
Brought into the pits to check the damage to ensure it was safe to continue, HRT mechanics found the steering plate to be bent.
However, the steering arms were straight and the car safe to return to the track.
It eventually came home in 21st spot in a race where only one car was a retirement from the 31 that started.
However, the race proved to be valuable experience for Briscoe prior to his debut at Bathurst in five weeks' time.
Garth Tander (#2 Holden Racing Team Commodore VZ)
"It's just so disappointing. We absolutely proved that we had the fastest car in both qualifying and race trim. So for something really small in the steering to fail and put us out of contention for the race, it's just so disappointing. It has hurt my championship and it so easily could have been the day that Mark broke Peter Brock's record. It will be full-on attack now for the rest of the year."
Mark Skaife (#2 Holden Racing Team Commodore VZ)
"It was one of those race meetings where everything went so well and it was making you think that we were looking the goods. I thought we were a big shot today to win the race, which would have been enough to get Brock's record too! But we do know we have a really fast car and we aren't scratching our heads looking for speed going to the biggest race of the year at Bathurst."
Jim Richards (#22 Holden Racing Team Commodore VZ)
"Our speed wasn't bad today but the rub on the first lap meant that the day just didn't pan out for us. For sure, we weren't going to win the race but we certainly would have been up there in the first half dozen. We proved the speed of the car and Ryan and I will mean we should be up there for Bathurst."
Ryan Briscoe (#22 Holden Racing Team Commodore VZ)
"I guess it was a great experience to have my first race in a V8 Supercar. It was one of the toughest races I've done in a long time! When we were a lap down it was always going to be tough. I finished the last 50 or so laps with slightly bent steering so that made the car pretty hard to manage."