“Is Skaife’s track design too tough for V8SuperCars or just what the doctor ordered !?”
Sydney, 06/12/09: Some would call it a massacre, as some of the V8 circuit’s best drivers failed to complete the minimum laps required to qualify for the first V8 SuperCars event in Homebush at the inaugural Sydney Telstra500 yesterday!
With almost a third of the line-up failing to finish the race, Skaife may be a little worried as to how many friends he still has after he designed the track to be a `challenge’ !
As a track with 3 different road textures, and tight bends through the streets of the Sydney Olympic Village in Homebush reminiscent of the GMC400 in Canberra, there’s no question it was a challenge. But was it too tough or just what the doctor ordered to add that necessary challenge to a fleet of professional racers that may have been getting a little stale and complacent with the circuits on offer at the moment.
The V8 SuperCar Australia independent board member, and V8 SuperCar champion driver himself, Mark Skaife acted as consultant in design of the track and remained committed to the last minute. Prior to the race, Skaife tested the track `at speed’, in Jason Richard’s Team BOC Commodore.
The result was to re-position tyre barriers and tighten the bends at turns two, three and four.
There were early problems with some of the track breaking up, but that can happen with a road circuit where some parts are heavily used during normal traffic and others get no traffic at all.
During the race though, some of the best drivers found it difficult to find their speed and manoeuvre the circuit without bouncing off the walls.
The Safety Car came out three times in separate incidents, and by the end of the race, almost the entire fleet returned to their base looking like they had come from a war zone!
Team Vodafone’s Craig Lowndes was in amongst it as well with broken steering after a double whammy whack to both the left and right of the Ford front end. In was testament to a brilliant pit crew, manager and communication though, that Lowndes was able to report in the problem and safely drive to the pit, have both steering A-Arms replaced and car repaired in enough time to enable completion of the race minimum laps required to qualify.
But if the track was so difficult to conquer, then that adds more value to the winner ! And in this case, it was Garth Tander in the Toll Holden Racing Team Commodore who beat the odds, in a damaged car to take the first award of the 74 lap event!
Remaining characteristically cool under pressure, Tander lost the lead to Valvoline Cummins pilot Lee Holdsworth as well as Team Vodafone’s Jamie Whincup when he slipped to third.
“It was a matter of holding your cards and playing them when it was the right time to play them”, said Tander in the press, “The car was very fast and once we were able to get past Jamie and in to clear air we were able to pull away.”
Quoting this as the first 250kmr race he’d ever won, Tander said he was ecstatic at the win and plans to complete the weekend by doing it again at the final race today.
With his sights set firm on wrestling the title away from Team Vodafone, Tander is determined to play the same strategy of patience and diligence at today’s event.
So congrats to Tander for the podium finish, and equal kudos also to Ford Performance Racings’ Mark Winterbottom who was able to remain problem free in the carnage that surrounded him.
“It’s a long race and you have to survive. It’s a tough race both physically and on the equipment.” commented Winterbottom at the end but was very happy to claim second place.
In third place on the podium was Fujistu Racing’s Jason Bright who’s risky strategy of an extra pit stop, saw him pass Jamie Whincup for the third spot. The reason being that an additional pit stop during a safety car period meant a shorter time in pits at the end.
To close the day, legendary Australian rock band Cold Chisel rocked the stadium in their original line-up for two hours to the delight of the crowd. Classics included hits Khe Sanh, My Baby and Saturday Night which front man Jim Barnes said reminded him of the ambience of Sydney night life !
Crowd numbers were reported at over 100,000 for the day in various media, however the official number stands at 71,000 for the day. With that same or more returning today, the numbers will be well in advance of 140,000 for the weekend. An excellent result for the inaugural Telstra500 and one we hope remains with Sydney for a long time to come.
Race 25 top 10
Garth Tander Commodore
Championship points top 10
Jamie Whincup Falcon 3286