by Ian Hepenstall
Shane van Gisbergen led a double kiwi podium assault in the final V8 Supercar race at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne today.
Van Gisbergen (SP Tools Ford) took out the final of four races at the non-championship MSS Security V8 Supercar Challenge, with Fabian Coulthard third.
Overall Ford’s Mark Winterbottom took out the challenge after winning the first three races from van Gisbergen with Coulthard (Lockwood Racing Holden) fifth and Greg Murphy (Pepsi Max Crew Holden) 10th.
While there were no championship points on offer, it was an excellent boost for the Kiwis ahead of the next stop in Tasmania in two weeks before crossing the Tasman for the ITM400 in Hamilton next month.
Van Gisbergen, who will defend his ITM400 title in Hamilton, said today’s win and the form this weekend was a good boost.
Shane van Gisbergen on his way to victory in the final V8 Supercar race at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Photo: Mark Horsburgh.
“There were no points on offer and we used the weekend to try out some things,” Van Gisbergen said. “But it’s always good to win. And the things we tried worked well. It’s a good boost and now we can concentrate on Tasmania and then set ourselves for a really big push at home in Hamilton for the final time.”
Murphy, who was turned around in the first corner in the final race today, made some progress after a major crash in the opening round in Adelaide.
“We weren't setting any records this weekend but we moved forward and at least we showed a bit of consistency in our Pepsi Max Commodore,” said Greg Murphy.
“Turn 1 ruined our chances and I'm very disappointed with that. At the last couple of events, the amount of carnage that has been out there has been too much and people get caught up in it innocently.
“There have been some wrecks out there and a few people need to pull their heads in and calm down. Especially this weekend because it was a non-championship weekend so that sort of stuff shouldn't be going on.”
The talk centred on the absence of the mighty TeamVodafone Holdens on any of the podiums over the weekend with Jamie Whincup 10th on points and Craig Lowndes 12th, heading to the Championship return at the Tasmania Challenge in a fortnight.
“The Vodafone boys aren’t here because Craig had an engine fail and Jamie had a drama yesterday. They were fast but didn’t put three races, a qualifying race and qualifying together. I don’t think much will change,” GarthTander said.
“(But) we all showed in Adelaide, certainly FPR and my car, that if you put pressure on them they have to react and when they reacted on Sunday (in Adelaide) they didn’t do it properly with fuel and also had an engine drama.
“Anybody up and down pit lane is fallible. You just keep the pressure on and do it to the best of your ability. If you do that you will be there or thereabouts.”
Van Gisbergen grabbed the lead late in the 15-lap race from Tander and Coulthard.
Despite leading for most of the race on a different tyre strategy to his main rivals, Will Davison had to be content with fourth overall ahead of Winterbottom, David Reynolds, Lee Holdsworth, Craig Lowndes, Todd Kelly, and Rick Kelly.
Winterbottom's podium result continues a winning run for Ford Performance Racing, with Will Davison also enjoying success in the opening round of the Championship in Adelaide.
“It’s really good; we were very weak here last year. To win a Championship you’ve got to be good at every track," says Winterbottom.
“We had very good tyre life, so to now know at races where there is a hard and soft tyre how long we can actually run on the tyre is a very good boost for the team too.
"All three cars were very competitive at different stages, so we’re pretty happy with how we’re going, we’ve got good spirit.”
The V8 Supercars will be seen next in two weeks time at Symmons Plains for the Tasmania Challenge.