Nancy Knapp Schilke, V8 Supercars Australia Correspondent
The V8 Supercars Australia have completed the first race of the weekend on the Surfers Paradise Street Circuit in Queensland. For the special Gold Coast event, the season long drivers chasing for the points will have co-drivers for the double endurance races. The co-drivers are International stars who are taking on the challenge; some of them have raced with the V8 Supercars stars in the past and others have raced in other series at the temporary circuit in Australia.
The pole winning No. 88 TeamVodafone Commodore of champion contender Jamie Whincup and co-driver Sebastien Bourdais took the victory – both have won at the street circuit before and in 2005, Bourdais earned his second of four Champ Car championships with the victory at Surfer’s Paradise. For Whincup, this was his fifth series win at the Gold Coast and moves him into the points lead as he notched his seventh win of the year.
I love the streets of the Gold Coast!
After the Bathurst 1000, Craig Lowndes in the No. 888 Commodore had the points lead but today he and his co-driver Andy Priaulx had electrical issues even before the race started. It has been a battle between Lowndes and Whincup this season and they are teammates for TeamVodafone.
"I love the streets of the Gold Coast! Sebastien did an awesome job, he handed it over to me in the perfect position and it was just up to me to bring it home,” Whincup said.
Not far behind by a mere two seconds was the Ford Performance Racing (FPR) No. 6 Falcon shared by Will Davison and his co-driver Mika Salo. In the closing laps, Davison put a move on Whincup but could not hold it as he later said, "I burnt the rear tyres up a bit at the end but it's great for me, Mika and the whole Trading Post Racing team."
Third belonged to the second FPR Falcon of Mark Winterbottom and Richard Lyons. They were not far off the pace of the two chasing for the win. Winterbottom was, no doubt, waiting to take the lead had Davison and Whincup had contact that would slow them down, if not out of the race for good.
James Moffat and Joey Hand for the No. 17 Jim Beam Racing team played a game of chance with their fuel in the middle of the race but in the end, they had to pit to take on fuel. Still it was a good call and had the safety car made more appearances, their gamble might have paid off. For the rookie driver in the series, taking fourth was a highlight of his season. He came up from 13h after the final stop and ended up just missing his first podium. Hand has had a stellar year in the two American sportscar series and had contested other endurance races this year.
"I had nothing left," said a disappointed Moffat. "Another couple of laps and I might have had those FPR cars which would have been pretty sweet. I'm proud of the guys, they took a bit of a gamble in the middle of the race and it almost paid off for us but I've got to hand it Joey, he did an awesome job in the first stint."
Hand said, “I really feel right at home and that is a big deal when you have so much going on at the start of the race. I got my first race out the way and I feel really good about that. Now we can really go for it tomorrow – I really want one of those surfboard trophies."
Bundaberg Racing with Fabian Coulthard and his international co-driver Patrick Long also took the fuel gamble during the race and the duo were able to finished fifth.
The bollards used on the circuit to stop the drivers from cutting corners have been discussed since the first practice sessions. There were times when a car did not even touch one and the electronic sensor would go off causing a penalty to the driver and other times that they were hit but the sensors did not go off and as seen in today’s first race of the weekend, sometimes they fell apart and landed on the racing surface which caused the need for a safety car on track.
The second race on Sunday will also be broadcasted live to other countries. There will be a qualifying session to set the grid for tomorrow’s race.
In other news, an extra prize will be awarded after Sunday’s race and for many of the international drivers, it means more than just a trophy. On Sunday, October 16 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Dan Wheldon died after a 15-car crash in the IndyCar season finale.
Wheldon was not only popular among fans across the world but he was well respected in the motor sports community. On Friday, the Queensland Sport Minister, Phil Reeves and Tony Cochrane, the V8 Supercars chairman unveiled the Dan Wheldon Memorial Trophy. Wheldon was to contest this weekend’s event in the No. 1 Toll Holden Racing Team Commodore James Courtney, the 2010 series champion.
"This is a fitting way to honour the life of Dan Wheldon and what he represented to so many international drivers and those in the V8 motorsport community," said Reeves.
The award will be given to the top international driver of the Gold Coast event. Darren Turner was selected to co-drive with Courtney and he said, “For the first time in my life I have to say I would rather be at home watching this race on television, watching Dan drive the No.1 car,” said Turner. “It’s very hard to describe how I feel. I didn’t know which seat I would be in until I landed in Australia and now I know it is Dan’s, I will do everything I can to do the great job that we all know he would have done, for Dan and his family.”
Turner is also one of the British Racing Driver’s Club who are racing in Australia who will wear black armbands. They include Wheldon’s longtime friend Oliver Gavin, Marino Franchitti, Richard Westbrook and Andy Priaulx. Many of the racers will also have Dan Wheldon’s name on their helmets.