Team Australia performed admirably at its home event to score third with Alex Tagliani and have local hero Will Power star at the Lexmark Indy 300 at Surfers Paradise in Queensland on the weekend.
Tagliani drove a smart and calculated race to take the final step on the podium and give Team Australia its first podium at the Lexmark Indy 300 and the team’s first podium since Long Beach in April this year.
Tagliani moved into the top 10 in the Champ Car World Series standings with the podium result, his second third place finish of the season. Tagliani moved ahead of Paul Tracy in the late stages of the race after Tracy was penalised for cutting the VB Chicane.
Power today confirmed himself as a future star of Champ Car by leading the early stages of the race from pole position. The adoring local fans cheered on Power as he led the first 13 laps of the race before making his first pit stop.
The Toowoomba-born driver met his first incident when exiting the pit lane as Paul Tracy came across and contacted the #5 Aussie Vineyards car, damaging the front wing and rear bodywork.
Power left the pits in second place as new leader Charles Zwolsman elected not to pit. Power was in a comfortable position, showing great car speed and conserving fuel when his chances of a debut podium or quite possibly race win were shattered.
Sebastien Bourdais entered turn three with locked brakes and careered into the front left wheel of Power’s Team Australia Lola. The impact damaged the front suspension of the Aussie Vineyards car and Power lost one lap as the damage took two pit stops to repair.
With his steering and bodywork damaged, Power persevered with his stricken car to collect as many championship points as possible towards not on the championship but also the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year Standings.
His efforts paid dividends with 12th place getting the Australian nine points towards the championship, adding to the two earned for pole position on Friday and Saturday. Power is now eighth in the championship and has extended his lead in the rookie standings to 15 points over Dan Clarke, who crashed out of today’s race.
Frenchman Nelson Philippe won today’s Lexmark Indy 300 marginally ahead of Mexico’s Mario Dominguez. Philippe is the sixteenth winner from 16 events on the Gold Coast, keeping alive the trend of no driver winning the Lexmark Indy 300 twice.
“I have a little bit of mixed feelings for our team because Will was doing really well and I saw his car on the side and I know it's going to take him a while to get over this race,” said Tagliani.
“I've been there in Montreal, being on the pole and could win the race and something goes wrong. So for our team it was quite important to try to come home with a podium finish. There was a new sponsor on board this weekend. I think for the future of the Team Australia program, showing how competitive the team was and finishing with the podium this weekend, especially on a big event like this, was quite important."