V8 CHAMPIONSHIP COMES ALIVE
The 2011 V8 Supercars Championship has been thrown wide open following a weekend of surprise results at the ITM400 in Hamilton, New Zealand.
Rick Kelly won Saturday's opening race while local hero Shane Van Gisbergen took out his maiden victory on Sunday.
The weather and narrow confines of the street circuit played havoc with the field on both days, with many drivers being caught out.
One of those was defending champion James Courtney, who crashed his Bridgestone-backed HRT Commodore in qualifying before recovering to finish fifth on Saturday.
"The qualifying incident was really disappointing - I made a mistake, it was my fault, no one else's, and it cost us," Courtney said.
"We proved last year you don't have to win every race, you just have to do the best you can with what you've got on the day - and this turned into a day when we just had to finish, so to come home fifth was pretty good."
It was better than he could manage on Sunday when he crashed out of the race altogether. However teammate Garth Tander put in one of the drives of the season to finish third after starting from 19th.
The result - and miserable weekends for championship runners Jamie Whincup and Mark Winterbottom - keeps Tander in touch in the title race.
"To be only 100 or so points behind in the championship after our horrible start is quite good," Tander said.
"It shows that the other blokes do make mistakes and if you keep on putting pressure on they will slip up."
|1. ||Jamie Whincup (Holden) ||654 points |
|2. ||Rick Kelly (Holden) ||573 points |
|3. ||Craig Lowndes (Holden) ||552 points |
|4. ||Garth Tander (HRT) ||543 points |