Monday, August 14, 2006
SALVAGING a top 10 result from the weekend's seventh round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series at Oran Park was more than likely the last thing on Jason Richards' mind when the Tasman Motorsport driver was forced to retire from today's reverse grid second race.
But the Kiwi's strong opening race on Saturday that saw him finish sixth, in addition to collisions and dramas that dropped other drivers out of the running, helped lift the #3 Firepower Commodore to 10th spot for the round.
Richards started 23rd for the reverse grid event - the last one of the format for the 2006 series - and had a torrid time in the opening laps, dropping to 28th as the field bunched up in Oran Park's tight first few corners.
He had worked his way forward to 20th spot before contact with Will Davison, who had missed a gear and slowed dramatically on the run to turn three on lap 21, damaged Richards' steering and he was unable to get the car back to the pits, buried in a sand trap.
Richards began the final 53-lapper with a storming drive. The 30-year-old started 14th and, along with Mark Skaife, flew through the field after a first lap multi-car pile-up, to settle in sixth spot prior to his tyre stop.
Race leader Jamie Whincup blew an engine coming over the cross-over bridge and five cars, including Richards, skated off the road on the oil the dead Falcon left behind, dropping significant time and positions in the process.
Managing to rejoin, Richards made his pit stop and settled back in ninth spot, though ran off the road again on lap 35 at turn three, shuffling him again back into the field in 19th.
He would cross the line in 15th spot, though the misfortunes of his rivals helped him still finish in the top 10 at the team's former test circuit.
Team-mate Andrew Jones had a day where he became the innocent victim in separate incidents that damaged the #23 Commodore and left it 22nd overall for the round.
Starting 12th for the reverse grid race, Jones ran in the top five for the first half of the 53 lapper, before innocent involvement a pile-up coming off the bridge on lap 26 caused damage to his car bad enough to park him for the race.
The accident was triggered by Jason Bright spinning Greg Murphy coming off the bridge, Jones left with nowhere to go in the collision.
The Tasman mechanics swung into gear even before the race had finished, replacing damaging panels and mechanical componentry to have the car ready to race.
From 24th in the final race grid, Jones' luck didn't improve and he was involved in the first lap accident that eliminated three of four cars on the spot.
He pitted to rip off a loose rear diffuser and rejoined to claw his way back up to 17th by race's end on what had been a tough day for the Tasman Motorsport crew.
They will now head home before the Betta Electrical Sandown 500 on September 1-3 where Richards and Jones will team up and endurance signings Owen Kelly and Mark Noske will make their debut for the team.
Jason Richards (#3 Firepower/Tasman Motorsport Commodore VZ)
"It definitely wasn't the sort of weekend we were looking for. Oran Park is traditionally a place where we've been able to couple good speed with good results but this weekend the speed was there but the results weren't quite what they could have been.
"We banked a really good first race result, despite a slow sort of a pit stop, and I thought on Sunday we'd be able to keep carrying on that sort of form. But a clash with Will Davison broke the steering and I couldn't get back to the pits. But the car was quick again in the last race, though I got involved in some more drama and that dropped us back in the order.
"I'm pretty surprised that after a weekend like that we still finished 10th - in the usual scheme of things a points haul of 180 would usually put you back in the mid to late teens in terms of round result."
Andrew Jones (#23 Firepower/Tasman Motorsport Commodore VZ)
"I don't think there was a hell of a lot I could do about avoiding any of the incidents out there today. It was a very chaotic weekend, probably the most chaotic since Pukekohe, and even that was light in compared to this weekend.
"In the last race U got a screaming start - it was so good I've already been telling anyone I talk to about it! I was only a few cars behind Jason going into turn three - and he had started five rows in front of me!
"But then the drama happened and I actually stopped on the road before I got hit from behind and drilled into someone else. In the reverse grid race I thought Bright would back out of the move on Murphy but he didn't. I went to the inside thinking they would head to the outside, but that wasn't the way to go and I couldn't avoid the melee.
"The team had high hopes for the weekend but there wasn't really a result to show for anything."
Round 7 Results, V8 Supercar Championship Series - Oran Park Raceway, Sydney, New South Wales
1. Craig Lowndes, #888 Betta Falcon BA, 314 pts
2. Rick Kelly, #15 Toll HSV DT Commodore VZ, 284 pts
3. James Courtney, #4 Jeld-Wen Falcon BA, 266 pts
4. Steven Johnson, #17 First Rock Falcon BA, 266 pts
5. Mark Winterbottom, #5 FPR Falcon BA, 228 pts
6. Lee Holdsworth, #33 Valvoline Commodore VZ, 200 pts
7. Jason Bargwanna, #10 WPS Falcon BA, 196 pts
8. Cameron McConville, #50 Supercheap Auto Commodore VZ, 192 pts
9. Russell Ingall, #1 Caltex Falcon BA, 188 pts
10. Jason Richards, #3 Firepower Commodore VZ, 180 pts
22. Andrew Jones, #23 Firepower Commodore VZ, 128 pts
Championship Points After Round 7
1. Craig Lowndes, #888 Betta Falcon VA, 1918 pts
2. Rick Kelly, #15 Toll HSV DT Commodore VZ, 1881 pts
3. Garth Tander, #16 Toll HSV DT Commodore VZ, 1778 pts
4. Mark Winterbottom, #5 FPR Falcon BA, 1663 pts
5. Russell Ingall, #1 Caltex Falcon BA, 1662 pts
6. Steven Richards, #7 Jack Daniel's Commodore VZ, 1532 pts
7. Jamie Whincup, #88 Betta Falcon BA, 1424 pts
8. Steven Johnson, #17 First Rock Falcon BA, 1403 pts
9. Jason Bright, #6 CAT Falcon BA, 1394 pts
10. Paul Dumbrell, #11 Jack Daniel's Commodore VZ, 1366 pts
12. Jason Richards, #3 Firepower Commodore VZ, 1249 pts
23. Andrew Jones, #23 Firepower Commodore VZ, 960 pts