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Advantage Kelly in V8 Supercar title race


Toll HSV's Rick Kelly took full advantage of the misfortunes of former leader Craig Lowndes to open a telling lead in the third to last round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series in Tasmania on Sunday ^

Kelly's Holden team-mate Garth Tander repeated the round win he scored at the Ferodo Tasmanian Challenge at Symmons Plains last year with a commanding performance.

Tander, who scored his sixth career win and his second this season, held out the FPR Ford pair of Jason Bright and Mark Winterbottom.

Winterbottom built on his strong form to close the gap to less than 300 points in third place in the Championship with defending champion Russell Ingall (Caltex Racing) in fourth ahead of Tander and Bright.

Most focus was on the 23-year-old Rick Kelly who turned a 38-point deficit to Craig Lowndes (Team Betta Electrical) into a 73 point lead with two rounds remaining at the Desert 400 in Bahrain and Caterpillar Grand Final at Phillip Island.

"We left Bathurst 100 points off the lead and we knew it would be a challenge to get them back," Kelly said.

"Now we have done that we need to go back to the approach we took at the start of the year which was to be a little conservative out there and aim to finish in the top five and hopefully in the top three.

"Finishing fourth here was good consistency and gives us good confidence going into Bahrain. We've shown maturity all year."

The two-time Bathurst Champion said consistency is the key to winning the championship, and his seven podium placings in 11 rounds was testament to that.

"Bathurst is a race you can win with a bit of luck on your side but the Championship isn't. You've got to put together a good consistent, solid year together. So far we have been able to do that."

Kelly did not give any credit to suggestions that the other Holden teams will help him win the Championship.

"Those guys are still out there to race and they've done a good job. They've got their aims in mind which at this stage is winning races and we've got our aim in mind which is winning the Championship."

Kelly makes no excuses for not going all out to win rounds this year.

"We haven't been exactly dawdling around. If you win a Championship you win a Championship and no-one looks at the results throughout the rounds. If you win you win."

The pint-sized circuit at Symmons Plains - at 2.4km the smallest on the V8 Supercar circuit - produced some monumental battles with the morning's second race, that involved changing conditions from wet to dry, safety car periods, drama in the pits and some fiercely competitive driving rated among the best of the season.

Tander, fourth in Saturday's race due to engine problems, won races today, showing the excellent straight-line speed to good effect, especially from numerous safety car restarts and avoiding the debris that was liberally sprinkled around the circuit.

He took advantage of a lightning fast pit stop in the morning race to win race two, and starting off the pole was never seriously threatened although Bright closed up late in the final race.

Tander said his victory was tougher than at Symmons Plains last year.

"The conditions today changed every lap and the win was a lot tougher and probably a lot sweeter as well," Tander said. "Our pace once we got in front was pretty good."

He also praised the slick work by his team in the pits including two sub-nine second stops in changing all four tyres.

"I was charged with the job of going out and get the round win and Rick had to bring the car home and score as many points as he good to extend his lead. As a team we've achieved all our goals this weekend."

While delighted with the repeat victory at Symmons Plains, Tander stopped short at suggestions he would be helping his team-mate towards the championship at the expense of own goals.

"There's no doubt that Rick wants to win this Championship on his own two feet. There's been a lot made of the help that Rick's perceived to be getting from the Holden teams over the last couple of rounds.

"There's no doubt that Holden want to win the Championship. But Rick wants to win it and the team wants to win it on our own two feet."

It proved a major triumph for the FPR team who finished with both drivers on the podium for the first time and Winterbottom continued his run towards the Championship.

"To have both of us on the podium is fantastic. We are chipping away at that title and for me it's the second podium in a row. So I'll take that," Winterbottom said.

"This gives us some confidence as we move on to Bahrain and look to continue this success."

Some teams face a testing few days to repair cars in time for this week's airfreight to Bahrain for the penultimate round of the Championship in two weeks.

The organisers praised the loyal Tasmanian motorsport fans with 58,060 attending the three days; less than 4000 down on last year despite today's wet conditions.

Meeting points:

1. Garth Tander Toll HSV Holden 311

2. Jason Bright FPR Ford 310

3. Mark Winterbottom FPR Ford 306

4. Rick Kelly Toll HSV Holden 290

5. Todd Kelly Holden Racing 277

6= Steven Richards Jack Daniel's Holden 253

6= Paul Dumbrell Jack Daniel's Holden 253

8. Will Davison APVR Racing Ford 240

9. Russell Ingall Caltex Racing Ford 217

10 Jason Richards Tasman Motorsport Holden 203

Series points:

1. Rick Kelly 2861

2. Craig Lowndes 2788

3. Mark Winerbottom 2589

4. Russell Ingall 2428

5. Garth Tander 2416

6. Jason Bright 2298

7. Steven Richards 2235

8. Todd Kelly 2204

9. Steven Johnson 2051

10 Jamie Whincup 2000

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