With the Car of the Future making its racing debut at the Clipsal 500 four weeks earlier, it was another first for V8 Supercars at the weekend with the introduction of the all-new 60/60 Super Sprint race format and the double-file rolling restart on Saturday.
Symmons Plains, Tasmania played host to the Tasmania Microsoft Office 365 – two 60-km (25-lap) races, split by a half time 15-minute break on Saturday and two 100km races on Sunday.
Reigning champion Jamie Whincup took pole for the ‘first half’, and kept fellow front-row starter Fabian Coulthard at bay, but it was the Lockwood Racing driver, picking up from where he left off in Melbourne, that took the points. With the grid order determined by the finishing positions from the first half, Coulthard made his move after the trouble-free ‘second half’ double-file restart. Diving underneath the Red Bull Holden on the second lap and standing firm after a late safety car and a small rain shower, Coulthard took his first Championship points win, coming home one second clear of Whincup and Mark Winterbottom.
It was a day to forget for Craig Lowndes after he was muscled off the road by Shane van Gisbergen and a punctured a rear tyre sent him into a spin. His problems were further compounded when he lost first gear and he finished a lap down in 26th and last place.
Brad Jones Racing has shown blistering pace this season and it was Jason Bright’s turn to spark in the second race. The Team BOC driver led the 100km (42-lap) race from pole to finish for his first V8 Supercars victory in almost two years.
It had been an all Brad Jones Racing lock out at the front of the grid, but Holden Racing Team’s Garth Tander split the pair, with Coulthard resisting pressure from Whincup in the final stages to take third, and Pepsi Max Crew team-mates Will Davison and Mark Winterbottom taking fifth and sixth respectively.
There was early drama when David Reynolds, David Wall and Michael Caruso ran three-wide at the exit of the hairpin. Pushed wide and with nowhere to go, Reynolds’ Bottle-O Racing Falcon rode the guard rail, ripping the front-suspension from the car and bringing out the Safety Car.
In the final 42-lap sprint, Winterbottom led away from pole and held the lead for much of the race, until a late-race safety car period bunched the field. With three laps remaining, Coulthard swooped for the lead at the Turn 4 hairpin, but made contact with the Pepsi Max Ford on his way through. The impact caused a slow leak to Winterbottoms’ left-front tyre which then let go in the closing stages of the final lap. Incredibly, Winterbottom held firm and crossed the line just ahead of third placed James Courtney, who scored his first podium of the year after jumping Jamie Whincup off the line. Coulthard’s second win made it a clean sweep of victories for the Brad Jones Racing team.
The race had earlier been marred by a huge crash involving rookie Scott Pye, whose ekol Racing Holden suffered brake failure and smashed head on into the Turn 2 exit wall. Pye emerged with just an injured wrist and headache, but the damage to the car rules Pye out from next weekend’s round in New Zealand.
Whincup’s second, fourth and fifth placings keep him on top of the drivers’ championship, 63 points clear of Will Davison and a further 52 points clear of James Courtney.
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