Having survived a wreckage-strewn race, four safety car interventions and fuel economy concerns, Garth Tander just kept Jamie Whincup at bay to clinch victory in the first race of the Adelaide Clipsal 500.
It was an exciting dash to the finish on the Adelaide street circuit, after Tander and Whincup had both followed similar fuel strategies. On the penultimate lap, the duo were running side-by-side at 200km/hr down the start-finish straight before Tander of Toll Holden Racing just edged ahead to take the win.
Whincup’s Team Vodafone teammate, Craig Lowndes claimed third to round out an all-Holden podium, having a monumental race after starting from 11th.
“It took a long time for me to get my first win here, and so it's a great feeling to win back-to-back,” said Tander. “Those laps we did under the safety car towards the end of the race meant fuel conservation wasn't an issue for anyone, so I knew Jamie would throw everything at me at the end,” he continued.
A poor start by Whincup initially let Kelly Racing's Rick Kelly and Garry Rogers Motorsport's Lee Holdsworth through before the first corner. But Whincup soon had the hammer down to get back ahead of Holdsworth on lap three and Rick Kelly on lap nine. He then closed down on Tander, who was carrying a heavier fuel load, passing him on lap 14.
There was chaos in the pit-lane as the majority of the field headed in to refuel on lap 25. Whincup maintained his lead, but a slow pit stop for Tander saw him slip back to third behind Rick Kelly.
Lap 30 saw the first of the four safety car appearances, as David Reynolds in the Stratco Racing Commodore went off into the sand trap at turn 11. This closed the field up for the lap 33 restart. Tander capitalised soon after, passing Kelly on lap 39 to take second.
The safety car was called on again on lap 46 as Steve Owen in the VIP Petfoods Commodore collided with the wall at turn eight. The impact wrenched the rear left suspension completely from his car. With just 32 laps to run, the bulk of the field dived into the pits, the teams gambling on there being more disruptions and this being a good opportunity to refuel to the end of the race.
The packed pit-lane again caused disruption. Lowndes lost ground queuing behind team-mate Whincup and Ford Performance Racing's Mark Winterbottom was prevented from leaving his pit-box by the two queuing Garry Rogers Motorsport cars.
Leading at the restart were Will Davison, Shane Van Gisburgen, Greg Murphy and Steven Johnson, who had all chosen not to stop. Close behind were Whincup in fifth and Tander in sixth, both of who had pitted.
Whincup and Tander made quick work of dispatching the cars ahead of them, getting up into second and third place behind FPR's Will Davison before he pitted on lap 55.
Tander, trusting he wouldn't have to back off the pace as much as Whincup in the fuel management phase crucially got ahead of the Team Vodafone driver, just two laps later.
Any anxieties about running out of fuel were eased when Jim Beam Racing driver James Moffat spun at turn nine on lap 60, colliding with Tony D'Alberto. Unable to continue, a lengthy safety car period ensued to remove the stricken Ford Falcon.
With just eleven laps left, the safety car retreated and Tander pushed on ahead of Whincup, Team BOC's Jason Bright and Bundaberg Racing's Fabian Coulthard. Lowndes, restarting in seventh sensing the need for urgency, swiftly rounded up Russell Ingall and Courthard in just one lap.
Ingall in the Supercheap Auto Racing car tried to follow Lowndes. Lunging through on Coulthard on lap 69, the two cars clashed causing steering arm failure for Ingall at turn 13. Ingall crashed heavily into the wall and the safety car emerged once more.
Contact with the tyre bundle at turn one meant a nervous few moments for Whincup as the left front wheel of his car began rubbing against the bodywork. But it didn't appear to hinder Whincup at the restart. With a new shortened distance of 76 laps, he attacked Tander, the two cars rubbing door handles across the start/finish line on lap 74. It was Tander though who came out on top, as Whincup appeared to back off.
This was Tander's third Clipsal race win and his 48th career race victory, equalling the late, great Peter Brock's record.
The win moved Tander up to eighth place in the overall standings, with Whincup expanding his lead at the top of the championship to 123 points over Mark Winterbottom.
It was a luckless day for 2010 champion James Courtney who fell victim to the tyre wall at turn seven on lap 20. His Toll HRT team worked quickly to repair a bent steering arm, but the trip to the garage cost Courtney ten laps. His misfortune continued when he was given a black flag penalty for cutting a chicane. He eventually recovered to finish 24th.
Race 3 results:
|Pos||Entrant||Driver||Vehicle||Fastest Lap||Fastest Lap Time||Race Time||Laps||Points|
|1||Toll Holden Racing Team||Garth Tander||Commodore VE2||41||01:22:8227||02:07:57:1302||76||150|
|2||TeamVodafone||Jamie Whincup||Commodore VE2||37||01:22:8626||02:07:57:6722||76||138|
|3||TeamVodafone||Craig Lowndes||Commodore VE2||36||01:23:0237||02:07:59:6016||76||129|
|4||Team BOC||Jason Bright||Commodore VE2||54||01:23:3794||02:08:00:4539||76||120|
|5||Bundaberg Racing||Fabian Coulthard||Commodore VE2||54||01:23:3967||02:08:01:9444||76||111|
|6||Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon||Mark Winterbottom||Falcon FG||37||01:23:2101||02:08:02:2535||76||102|
|7||Jack Daniel’s Racing||Todd Kelly||Commodore VE2||29||01:23:8239||02:08:02:8961||76||96|
|8||Lucky 7 Racing||Tim Slade||Falcon FG||39||01:23:7832||02:08:04:1505||76||90|
|9||Trading Post FPR Falcon||Will Davison||Falcon FG||57||01:22:5050||02:08:04:6229||76||84|
|10||Team BOC||Jason Bargwanna||Commodore VE2||56||01:23:8413||02:08:05:9364||76||78|
|11||Jim Beam Racing||Steven Johnson||Falcon FG||57||01:23:4469||02:08:06:1744||76||72|
|12||Jack Daniel’s Racing||Rick Kelly||Commodore VE2||75||01:23:2057||02:08:06:7563||76||69|
|13||SP Tools Racing||Shane van Gisbergen||Falcon FG||57||01:22:8142||02:08:07:0268||76||66|
|14||Mother Energy Racing Team||Jonathon Webb||Falcon FG||55||01:23:3653||02:08:07:3711||76||63|
|15||Triple F Racing||Dean Fiore||Falcon FG||39||01:24:1799||02:08:08:8992||76||60|
|16||Fujitsu Racing GRM||Michael Caruso||Commodore VE2||38||01:23:7833||02:08:09:2621||76||57|
|17||Wilson Security Racing||Tony D’Alberto||Falcon FG||9||01:23:8469||02:08:10:9653||76||54|
|18||Pepsi Max Crew||Greg Murphy||Commodore VE2||4||01:23:8092||02:08:11:3298||76||51|
|19||Fair Dinkum Sheds Racing||Karl Reindler||Commodore VE2||57||01:23:8753||02:08:11:8567||76||48|
|20||Fujitsu Racing GRM||Lee Holdsworth||Commodore VE2||37||01:23:3134||02:08:12:7982||76||45|
|21||Gulf Western Oil Racing||Warren Luff||Commodore VE2||68||01:24:2132||02:08:14:2402||75||42|
|22||Stratco Racing||David Reynolds||Commodore VE2||4||01:23:9913||02:08:14:6484||74||39|
|23||Irwin Racing||Alex Davison||Falcon FG||34||01:25:0942||02:08:43:2184||71||36|
|24||Toll Holden Racing Team||James Courtney||Commodore VE2||46||01:22:6271||02:08:12:5509||66||33|
|25||The Bottle-O Racing Team||Paul Dumbrell||Falcon FG||42||01:23:5525||02:08:15:5421||63||30|
|DNF||Supercheap Auto Racing||Russell Ingall||Commodore VE2||54||01:23:5161||01:54:05:2320||68||0|
|DNF||Jim Beam Racing||James Moffat||Falcon FG||58||01:23:9776||01:28:57:0876||58||0|
|DNF||VIP Petfoods||Steve Owen||Commodore VE2||42||01:24:1751||01:04:58:7053||44||0|