After many years of great promise for factory-backed Ford Performance Racing Will Davison has stepped up to the mark to lead the V8 Supercar Championship for the first time in his career.
Albeit only the first weekend of a long year, Davison won his first race since taking Bathurst with Garth Tander in a Holden in 2009 - the first Clipsal 500 win in Adelaide for an FPR team that has been constantly thriving for lead status in the shadow of TeamVodafone.
Davison’s team-mate Mark Winterbottom was second today in the Orccon Steel FPR Falcon meaning they are 1-4 in the Championship. Holden Racing Team’s Garth Tander was third today and in the same position in the Championship. Current Champion Jamie Whincup is second in the points after today’s race and a win yesterday.
Kiwis Fabian Coulthard and Shane van Gisbergen enjoyed top-10 finishes to seal a solid opening weekend of the V8 Supercar season.
Van Gisbergen was sixth in the SP Tools Falcon and Coulthard grabbed his second top-10 with ninth in his debut with the Lockwood Racing team Commodore.
Coulthard is seventh and Van Gisbergen eighth in the championship rankings, while Greg Murphy’s poor start got worse with a serious crash in practice.
Coulthard’s effort was more meritorious when his cool-suit failed early in the race with 50C deg temperatures inside the car.
“They talk about the car being like a mobile sauna when we do PR work, but that race brought it to another level,” said Coulthard. “At the end of the day, it's my job and I've got to do it. We train outside the car to be able to cope with all circumstances and that race shows that the training pays off.
"Clipsal is one of those events that, if you have a good round here, you can hold that position for many rounds to come. It's a good starting block and it's encouraging for me having just joined the team. I'm leaving pretty happy,” said Coulthard who is targeting his return to New Zealand for next month’s ITM400 in Hamilton.
The remains of Greg Murphy's car after his crash at the opening races of the V8 Supercar Championship in Adelaide. Photo: Mark Horsburgh.
Davison defected to Ford in 2010 from HRT and had a horror year. It was more shattering given the year before he had pushed Whincup all the way in the 2009 year.
He admitted to having his confidence absolutely shattered in 2010.
“In 2010 I did, that was just an absolute nightmare,” he said. “All of last year proved to me that things will come right. In the back half of last year there were a lot of races I was in contention to win. As long as you are a contender every weekend and consistently your time will come.”
With FPR flying home late last year they have clearly continued that form. TeamVodafone might well have a team challenger.
“We know we have got good cars. We’ve had a year of hard work last year with good and bad results. We knew we would start the year well but it’s never guaranteed, let alone a whole team of results,” said Winterbottom.
“You need all those cars doing well. When you finish 1-2 it doesn’t get much better.”
It was a solid weekend for Tander as well. He has finished the last two years in the Middle East with next to no points before Adelaide was restored to the opening event of the season.
“Whenever we go to the Middle East it’s a sour start for me,” Tander said.
“So I’m very happy to be here third in the points with two solid podiums this weekend. Just happy to get this behind us and get on with the Championship. Everyone has talked a big game in the off-season but now we know where the level is at.”
Tander’s team-mate James Courtney had a bad start to the day when he caused a red flag in qualifying with a mechanical issue that followed an overnight rebuild of his car by his Holden Racing Team.
Further issues just before the race meant he started from pit lane. The nightmare continued with further dramas and he scrambled to complete 65 of the 78 laps.
The day ended early for Jonathon Webb in his Tekno Autosports Commodore and Greg Murphy in the Pepsi Max Holden with a heavy crash in qualifying that took them both out of the later race.
Only 13 cars finished on the lead lap in today's 78-lap marathon which, amazingly, went from start to finish without the appearance of a Pedders Safety Car.
Craig Lowndes was fifth from Shane van Gisbergen, David Reynolds, Lee Holdsworth, Fabian Coulthard and Tim Slade.
Just one car - James Moffat - failed to finish with power steering problems in his Norton Falcon, while Courtney had a second tailshaft failure and limped home in 25th, 13 laps down.
The V8 Supercars teams will move to Albert Park for the non-championship event at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix in a fortnight's time.
The next championship event will be at Symmons Plains in Tasmania on March 30-April 1 before heading to the ITM400 in Hamilton.
2012 V8 Supercars Championship
Drivers Points Standings after Series Race 2
1. Will Davison 288
2. Jamie Whincup 270
3. Garth Tander 258
4. Mark Winterbottom 222
5. Craig Lowndes 206
6. Lee Holdsworth 201
7. Fabian Coulthard 186
8. Shane Van Gisbergen 174
9. Rick Kelly 168
10. Tim Slade 147
26. Greg Murphy 33
RESULTS: Race 2 (Series Race 2)
1. #6 Will Davison 78 laps
2. #5 Mark Winterbottom
3. #2 Garth Tander
4. #1 Jamie Whincup
5. #888 Craig Lowndes
6. #9 Shane Van Gisbergen
7. #55 David Reynolds
8. #4 Lee Holdsworth
9. #14 Fabian Coulthard
10. #47 Tim Slade
DNS #51 Greg Murphy
RESULTS: Sunday Qualifying
1. 1 Jamie Whincup 1:20.5353
2. 2 Garth Tander 1:20.6395
3. 5 Mark Winterbottom 1:20.6436
4. 888 Craig Lowndes 1:20.8034
5. 15 Rick Kelly 1:20.8160
6. 6 Will Davison 1:20.9112
7. 4 Lee Holdsworth 1:20.9115
8. 47 Tim Slade 1:20.9172
9. 9 Shane Van Gisbergen 1:20.9816
10. 34 Michael Caruso 1:21.0460
27. 51 Greg Murphy 6:38.1826
RESULTS: Race 1 (Series Race 1)
1. #1 Jamie Whincup 78 laps
2. #6 Will Davison
3. #2 Garth Tander
4. #888 Craig Lowndes
5. #4 Lee Holdsworth
6. #14 Fabian Coulthard
7. #15 Rick Kelly
8. #7 Todd Kelly
9. #5 Mark Winterbottom
10. #17 Steven Johnson
11. #9 Shane van Gisbergen
24. #51 Greg Murphy 67 laps
RESULTS: Saturday Qualifying (Top 10 times in Shootout)
1. #888 Craig Lowndes 1:21.2738
2. #2 Garth Tander 1:21.2908
3. #6 Will Davison 1:21.4194
4. #19 Jonathon Webb 1:21.5164
5. #1 Jamie Whincup 1:21.5468
6. #47 Tim Slade 1:21.6288
7. #5 Mark Winterbottom 1:21.7093
8. #55 David Reynolds 1:21.8078
9. #14 Fabian Coulthard 1:22.0289
10. #9 Shane Van Gisbergen 1:22.3105
21. #51 Greg Murphy 1:21.7964