V8 Supercars: Garth Tander Wins Race 32 at Phillip Island

James Pike Featured, Supercars 0 Comments

November 23, 2013 – by RaceChaser staff member James Pike –

Fans of the Australian V8 Supercars always have high hopes for exciting racing when the series pays a visit to Phillip Island.  The first race of the weekend certainly didn’t disappoint. Race 32 was one of the most exciting (if not the most exciting) and without question the most eventful race of the 2013 V8 Supercars season-to- date.

Ford Performance Racing (FPR)’s Mark Winterbottom (better known to regular followers of the series as “Frosty”) claimed pole for the first race of the weekend. Series points leader Craig Lowndes would start next to Frosty in second position. However, Lowndes’ Red Bull Racing Australia teammate and second-place man in the points, Jamie Whincup, only managed to qualify 13th after a sub-par final lap of the group qualifying session.

Whincup had been on pace for a pole-position lap with around three minutes to go in the session but decided to come in and service his #1 Holden Commodore for a final sprint. He killed the fast lap in the process and struggled to get the tires warmed up enough to post a fast time in the end.  This put him in a hole right from the start of Race 32.

Race 32 got off relatively cleanly, with only Jason Bright and Tim Blanchard spinning their tires off of the grid. Whincup used their misfortune to jump up to ninth by the end of lap 1. Whincup would struggle to hold on as David Reynolds pressured and pressured until he finally made the pass coming out of Turn 12 onto the front straight to complete lap 4.

The first on many non-passing events occurred on lap 5 when James Courtney over drove his #22 Holden Racing Team Commodore into turn 4 and connected with Jason Bright, sending Bright spinning off to the outer part of the turn. It was one of three incidents from Race 32 that the V8 Supercars officials were investigating as this story went to press.

Lap 8 was full of incidents involving the V.I.P. Petfoods machine of Shane van Gisbergen. He made contact with Wilson Security Racing’s Chaz Mostert and sent Mostert off into the gravel trap at the exit of turn 8; Mostert was able to hold his momentum and make it through the trap without losing too many positions.

However, van Gisbergen would not be so lucky the second time around.  He would make contact with Will Davison (teammate to Frosty) coming through turn 11 and send Davison spinning around and damage the left front fender of Davison’s car in the process. FPR was in an uproar over the affair; Will Davison was heard over Channel Seven broadcast screaming “BLOODY HELL!” on the radio and Team Manager Tim Edwards said van Gisbergen was “a moron…first, he takes Chaz out, and three corners later, he takes Will out.” Not surprisingly, the incident between van Gisbergen and Davison is also under investigation.

James Courtney’s miserable luck as of late was continued when he was collected in a lap 11 accident that forced him to retire from the race for the third time in a row. The No. 33 of Alex Premat ran wide off of Stoner Corner (turn 3 at the circuit, named after Australian MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner) and through the adjoining gravel trap without any brakes. He spun out of control and careened all the way down into turn four, where he obliterated the right side of Courtney’s car as the No. 22 was innocently taking the corner at a proper slow speed.

All eight tires of the two cars involved went airborne at the moment of impact and it was arguably the most vicious and frightening crash the V8 Supercars has seen in 2013. It was also an incident eerily similar to one that occurred during the Saturday race in 2012 at Phillip Island when Will Davison lost control of his car coming out of turn 3 and spun out at high speed before slamming into the front end of Jamie Whincup’s car as Whincup, like Courtney, was trying to cleanly round the very slow turn 4.

Yet this time, the damage was far worse.  Premat’s left rear corner connected with the right-front door of Courtney’s machine. In a V8 Supercar the right-front door is the driver’s door (remember that this is Australia and that they run on the opposite side of the road) so Courtney was incredibly close to the initial point of impact.  In the past, he likely would have been looking at a broken leg or two and a long period of recovery at minimum. However, he was given a lifeline thanks to the brand-new V8 Supercars’ Car of the Future- one of the major design changes made to the COTF was to move the drivers’ seat closer to the center of the chassis.

This gave Courtney enough space so that he was not crushed and trapped in his own car by the impact although his door was completely and utterly destroyed.   He was able to enlist the help of Premat once both cars had come to a halt and crawl out the passenger-side door on the left. James was in visible pain when he finally got out of the car; however, Channel Seven’s Mark Beretta confirmed that Courtney escaped with only soft tissue damage and muscle pains and would be sent off for precautionary x-rays later that day.

As if the accident between Courtney and Premat wasn’t enough, there were fireworks between championship contenders coming to the end of the race’s “first half”. While fighting for the lead, Craig Lowndes was able to get around Mark Winterbottom coming through turn 11 but Frosty diamonded the #888 coming out of the next corner.

In a case of “selective aggression” (or hard racing depending on one’s perspective),  Winterbottom over drove the exit of turn 12, making contact with Lowndes’ left-front tire. This bent Lowndes’ left-front steering arm, and and sent him sailing wide into the grass outside the corner.

Garth Tander was able to sneak past both drivers on the inside and jump from third to the lead going into the “halftime break”. Frosty was able to wrestle his car back and finish the opening segment in third place.  Lowndes, who had led the entirety of the opening 13 laps- dropped back to finish the opening segment 15th as a result of the incident.

The incident was immediately tabbed for post-race investigation. When both drivers were interviewed during the intermission, Lowndes claimed that it was his error in turn 11 that caused all the mess, and tried to take responsibility for putting himself in such a position.  Although he appeared calm on camera, Channel 7 commentator Mark Skaife claimed that he had never seen Craig so angry and that his typical smile was gone.

Winterbottom, on the other hand, seemed to call it a toss-up.  He stated that he didn’t want to damage his car but that he also wanted to win the race.

The second half of the race was free of major incidents, but it was was no less action-packed than the first. With all of the cars affected by problems in the first half, Jamie Whincup had jumped to seventh by the time the race took the restart.

On lap 14, he drove deep into turn 10 (a downhill run to a tight corner at the bottom of Lukey Heights not unlike turn 1 at Watkins Glen) and got alongside Shane van Gisbergen for 6th. Yet Whincup could not complete the pass and stuck himself on the outside of turns 11 and 12.  Trapped out of the racing line, Whincup was forced to give up 4 positions by the time he made it to the front straight.

The major storyline through to the final few laps of the race was Fabian Coulthard’s attempts to pass Alex Davison (Will’s older brother); Alex’s JELD-WEN Ford Falcon had qualified fourth in a surprisingly strong run, but lacked the race pace to stay up near the front of the field.

As a result, he held up a long train of cars from second to eighth, including Coulthard, Mark Winterbottom, Shane van Gisbergen, Jamie Whincup and a pair of Wilson Security Racing machines running nose to tail all along the track.

Fabian was forced into the difficult task of trying to complete the pass on Davison while holding off Winterbottom (who had the fastest car in the train by a considerable amount) at the same time. Coulthard took multiple looks at Davison and nearly lost his position to Winterbottom after getting loose off of turn 12 and giving Frosty a run on him down Phillip Island’s long front straight.

In the end, Coulthard used the same technique that Whincup had tried at turn 10 earlier and drove deep into the corner to get to Davison’s inside.  With three laps to go Coulthard completed the pass.

Of the non-passing incidents, tire issues were the most prevalent in the race’s second half (and first half as well). Over the course of the race a score of drivers ended up with flat tires, including James Moffat, Scott McLaughlin, David Reynolds, Jason Bright, and Tim Slade.

In almost all of these cases the tires had been cut down via contact with another car’s fender or other body parts.  Although the Dunlop tires that the teams receive are strong, they weren’t strong enough to withstand the beating and banging that took place during the race.

It could be a potential issue in Sunday’s races and should be something that fans are keenly aware of come tomorrow.

The final lap carried a pair of moves with potentially massive championship implications. Jamie Whincup had been struggling for pace all race long, and was slower than Winterbottom for the majority of the race. But Winterbottom’s incident with Lowndes gave Frosty some damage to his machine as well, and that damage finally caught up to him in the closing stages of the race.

His pace slowed and Whincup pulled a surprising dive-bomb into turn 4 on the final lap to get underneath Frosty and take the fourth position away. Meanwhile, Craig Lowndes hustled a semi-wounded car from 15th to ninth by lap 27, and took advantage of a battle going on ahead of him coming out of turn 12 on the last lap to claim eighth.

Lowndes set a new in-race lap record at Phillip Island on that final lap as well- the V8 Supercars lap record at Phillip Island is now 1:32:38 (a record that changed multiple times over the course of the race between Frosty and Lowndes).

Garth Tander would drive a clean second half to pull away from the field and win Race 32 by over three seconds. Fabian Coulthard brought the Lockwood Racing machine home second, and Alex Davison held off Winterbottom and Whincup to claim third.  This was his first podium finish since the 2011 event at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.

Also of note were the finishing positions of the Wilson Security Racing team.  They snuck all three of their machines into the top 11 for the first time in 2013 in what was unquestionably their best race of the season-to-date.

As for the championship standings, Whincup was rewarded handsomely for being one of the few drivers near the front of the field to run a clean race. He returns to the top of the standings after Race 32 with a 22-point margin over Craig Lowndes.

Mark Winterbottom, who was only 70 points back midway through the second half of the race, now finds himself 88 points back of Whincup. He retains third in the points going into Sunday’s doubleheader.

Winterbottom also had some choice words for Red Bull Racing Australia’s Roland Dane after Race 32, saying that Dane “Whinges and moans and probably should be at the Ashes (rather) than at the race track.”

As if the championship fight wasn’t enough drama, the storylines for Sunday’s doubleheader of races will only grow as a result of Saturday’s action. Will Craig Lowndes get revenge on Frosty and challenge for a win he very well may have had in Race 32 had he not been caught up with the FPR man?

Can Jamie Whincup find more speed tomorrow than he had today and hang on to the championship lead going into Sydney?

Or will both RBRA cars run into trouble and allow Mark Winterbottom right back into the thick of the points battle?

We will have the answers to all of these questions tomorrow when the V8 Supercars run Races 33 and 34 of the championship.

Race fans from around the world can catch the action from Phillip Island by logging on to V8 SuperView at http://www.v8supercars.com.au/v8live. Racing action starts at 7:00 P.M. EST on Saturday night, while Race 33 will kick off at 9:45 EST and Race 34 will roll at 12:20 A.M. EST Sunday morning. To watch the live stream, race fans can log on to V8 SuperView at http://www.v8supercars.com.au/v8live.

PHOTO COURTESY:  pbs.twimg.com/media

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