Garth Tander closed the gap to series leader Rick Kelly when he won Race 1 of the Australian V8 Supercar round at Pukekohe today.
April 21, 2007, 7pm. Garth Tander won his fourth successive Australian V8 Supercar race and closed the points gap on his teammate and series leader Rick Kelly at Pukekohe this afternoon.
The Toll HSV Holden Commodore driver fought a near race-long battle with Ford Performance Racing Falcon driver and pole-winner Mark Winterbottom.
Tander, the early race leader, re-took the lead at the hairpin in the closing laps of the 43-lap race as Winterbottom’s tyres lost their effectiveness.
Despite a clutch which disintegrated on the startline – the cars were held for a long period on the grid – Tander led into the first corner. Winterbottom, starting from pole for the first time and on the greasy side of the track, conceded and slotted in behind.
The order changed at the compulsory pitstop where FPR got Winterbottom back on to the track faster than Tander.
Tander said the stop itself had gone well, but when the car dropped back on to its wheels, it hung up for a few seconds before the damaged clutch bit and he got going again.
He closed in on Winterbottom as the Ford’s tyres lost their grip. He had one look at the hairpin but Winterbottom kept him at bay. He repeated the move on lap 38 and made it stick. From then on he opened a gap that was 1.2 seconds at the chequered flag.
Rick Kelly finished third in the second HSV car after getting the better of NZ-born Steven Richards in the second FPR Falcon, again as Richards’ tyres lost grip. That allowed first Kelly and then Vodafone Falcon racer Jamie Whincup to get ahead of Richards who finished fifth.
Kelly had run third behind Winterbottom in the opening laps, but the FPR pit crew got Richards back on to the track ahead of him. From then on, he stalked Richards whose tyres were deteriorating.
The Ford driver put up a solid defence before he went off the track to one side and then the other, and Kelly found a way through, with Whincup intent on following him.
Richards and Whincup fought side-by-side up the Pukekohe hill before Whincup got ahead.
Todd Kelly brought the #22 Holden Racing Team Commodore into sixth place.
He was one place ahead of Kiwi Jason Richards who drove an excellent race to bring the Tasman Motorsport Commodore through from an 11th place start.
Richards had trailed teammate Greg Murphy in the opening laps: Murphy eventually finished 12th, three places ahead of Paul Radisich’s Team Kiwi Racing Ford Falcon, in the final points-scoring position.
Fabian Coulthard was the fourth Kiwi home, in 22nd place in the Sirromet Commodore.
Russell Ingall finished eighth in the Caltex Falcon, one place ahead of James Courtney’s Jeld-Wen Ford.
The 2006 round winner Mark Skaife completed the top 10 in the lead HRT Commodore.
Skaife fought back from a disastrous pitstop in which a wheel nut got stuck in the wheel centre during a tyre change.
Rick Kelly now leads the series with 132 points, from Tander (126), Todd Kelly (96), Skaife (83), Steven Johnson (13th today in the Jim Beam Commodore) on 78.
Winterbottom completes the top six, with 73 points.
Record crowds at Pukekohe
April 21, 2007, 7pm. Organisers of the V8 Supercar round at Pukekohe say record crowds have flocked to the south of Auckland track as the V8s bid farewell to the ultra-fast circuit.
Today’s crowd of 46,083 was almost 11,000 up on last year’s 35,389.
Yesterday’s practice and qualifying, when there was only one race for the NZ Production Series, attracted 34,806. That compares with 25,207 for the same day last year.