The first of two races for the Amor All Gold Coast 600 will be remembered for two huge start line crashes that eliminated several cars and required not one, but two full restarts.
The international drivers were charged with the responsibility of starting the race and there was an expectation of fireworks when the 28-car field arrived in the chicane for the first time.
However the field never got that far with a multi-car crash on the start line. James Hinchliffe was slow to get away from the line and was hit in the rear by Antonio Luzzi who in turn was hit by Simon Pagenaud, who was then clipped by RickyTaylor, sending Taylor into a horrifying series of rolls along the front straight with Taylor coming to a halt upside down in the middle of the track. That immediately brought out the red flag and a new start.
Fortunately both Rahal and Andretti in the Jack Daniel’s Racing cars missed all the carnage.
At the second start Nicholas Minassian failed to get away and was clipped by Frank Montagny, tearing the left rear wheel from Montagny’s car forcing another red flag and restart. Once again Rahal and Andretti got through the damage.
Due to all the time lost clearing up both crashes, the race was reduced from 102 to 79 laps.
Third time lucky and Rahal got a great start from his third grid spot and held that position, battling with Marc Lieb until Lap 11 when Lieb snuck through in turn 4 relegating Rahal to fourth, where he would remain until his pitstop on lap 39, putting in competitive lap times and a highly impressive performance.
Andretti made an equally strong start and by lap 5 had moved up from 25th to 17th.The safety car made its first appearance on lap 15 with Morbidelli in the wall. No sooner had racing resumed than the Norton car of Peter Kox was in the wall triggering another safety car.
Marco Andretti was forced to pit at this point with damage to the front and rear of the #7 Jack Daniel’s Racing machine. Regrettably the car was too badly damaged to continue and had to be retired, leaving co-driver Tim Blanchard without any track time.
Rahal and Darren Turner then put on an entertaining battle for many laps until Rahal pitted on lap 39.
Rick Kelly took over the wheel and resumed in 14th place at the same time as Will Davison collected the wall on lap 44 in turn 11.
On lap 48 Kelly posted the fastest lap of the race to that point and by lap 60 Rick had worked his way up to 8th.
He was then in a four-way battle with Ingall, van Gisbergen, Patrizi and Bright to the end of the race and held on to finish 8th in a very strong performance.
Rick Kelly – “I was very pleased with qualifying and that we were able to do those fantastic qualifying times. Alex and the guys gave me a great car to do that. Then in the shootout was even better. Over my career shootouts haven’t been my strongpoint, generally racing is, so I am very pleased we could manage that and have such a good car. The race went well running in fourth, but for us the safety cars and strategy and how the race played out wasn’t quite ideal”.
Graham Rahal – “I don’t think I’ve ever started the same race three times. It was interesting with all the accidents and it’s a shame to see the damaged cars. I thought I drove pretty well but wished I could have kept my rear tyres under me and kept the pace up a little bit. But overall it wasn’t bad”.
Marco Andretti – “The start I nailed I passed five guys and had to give that up in the next start. We managed to stay out of trouble each time; I don’t know how I mean the car basically flipped over me at one point. Then I got caught up in of them and bent the steering, which is why we didn’t have the outright pace and then I came around a blind corner and there was a car in the middle of the road and I caught him and damaged the right front. Hopefully we will have a better more fun tomorrow”.
Tim Blanchard – “I was pleased with my improvement on the green soft tyres in qualifying and obviously bitterly disappointed not to get to race today. But I am looking forward to having a better run with Marco tomorrow”.
Race 22 (Top 10)
10 S.Van Gisbergen/J.Bleekemolen
Championship Standings after 22 races
1 Jamie Whincup 2922
2 Craig Lowndes 2713
3 Mark Winterbottom 2713
4 Will Davison 2353
5 Shane Van Gisbergen 2098
6 Tim Slade 1965
7 Garth Tander 1944
8 David Reynolds 1680
9 James Courtney 1671
10 Lee Holdsworth 1629
16 Rick Kelly 1416
18 Todd Kelly 1263