TANDER TAKES THE FIRST TELSTRA SYDNEY 500 RACE AT THE OLYMPIC STADIUM
Holden Racing Team driver Garth Tander claimed the inaugural race around the streets of Sydney's newest motorsport track at Olympic Park, Homebush. The 2008 V8 Supercar champion topped practice on Friday on the last lap to deny Valvoline Racing's Lee Holdsworth with Ford's Shane Van Gisbergen back in 3rd and Tander's team mate Will Davison in 4th.
Tander came out yesterday during qualifying and was back in 5th spot at one stage when the team slotted on a fresh set of rubber and he went out and produced a "crazy drive" as he put it, landing him on the front row of the grid for the 250 kilometre race. As temperatures reach 27 degrees, it was going to be an energy zapping 74 laps around the village of the 2000 Olympic precinct.
As was the same on Friday, Holdsworth was relegated to 2nd spot with Team Vodafone Jamie Whincup grabbing 3rd whilst team mate Craig Lowndes was eliminated in the second qualifying session and looked totally disappointed. So much so he could barely raise a smile, which is his trademark. Lowdnes ends his association with Ford this weekend and would not doubt have preferred to finish on the podium.
All the focus has been on Whincup this weekend, as expected, however, Holden's number one team were not going to let him have the show to himself with Tander getting off the line ahead of Holdsworth. Whincup sat back as they headed down the long straight to Turn 1, acutely aware that any indiscretion could cost him the championship with the unforgiving concrete walls. Lowdnes was first to pit, which appears to have been the team strategy all season when he has failed to make the top ten with the safety car making matters worst.
The race was not without incident when Greg Murphy and Cameron McConville came together in pit lane rubbing panels. Murphy in his last race for Sprint Gas Racing was deemed the aggressor and was black flagged and copped a drive through penalty. To say the Kiwi was seething is an understatement and his father, who is also team owner questioned officials as to why the episode was not suspended until the end of the race when a proper review could have been undertaken ending any possibility of him standing on the podium.
With fuel and pit stop strategies playing a vital role, Fujitsu team boss and driver Jason Bright threw that out the window deciding on an additional stop which paid off and put him back in 4th behind Whincup who he managed to pass with a handful of laps left. Orcon Steel Racing's Mark Winterbottom was the quiet achiever sneaking into 2nd and was under siege by Bright, although he had to fend off challenges from Whincup in the dying stages.
Tander crossed the line to be the first winner of the Telstra Sydney 500 and have his name engraved on the perpetual trophy for at least the next five years. V8 Supercars Chairman and CEO, Mr Tony Cochrane indicated that this event can only become bigger and expects crowds in excess of 250,000 in years to come. The Olympic venue has hosted world class events and V8 Supercars is no exception with the first two rounds of the series in 2010 taking place at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi and the Desert 400 at the Bahrain International Circuit.