Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Aussie V8s' dramatic finale

The Australian V8 Supercar season is over, and its conclusion was nothing short of incendiary. As I'd mentioned before, Ford's experienced Craig Lowndes, a 3-time championship winner, trailed Holden's 23-year old phenom Rick Kelly by a mere seven points. These aren't seven Formula 1 points - in V8s, a sprint race win is worth is 107 points, so you can see how slim the margin was.

In Race 1, Lowndes was able to claw back four points.

In Race 2, despite the efforts of Kelly's team-mate Garth Tander to block Lowndes (which earned him a controversial late race drive-through penalty), Lowndes pulled back the remaining three points. This set up a thrilling conclusion with both drivers even on points and next to each other on the grid.

Now, for the sake of anyone who hasn't seen this yet but plans on watching it (I'm thinking those in the USA with Speed Channel) I'm going to describe the action in the race but not name the drivers. Let's call them Ayrton and Alain instead. Scroll down for the key.

Ayrton got a good start and nearly claimed the lead, whilst driver Alain got boxed in. However, he still managed to get into third and slotted in behind Ayrton. On lap 2, whilst TV was replaying the start, Alain got a run on Ayrton coming into the tight hairpin before Siberia corner. As both braked, Ayrton moved over a little, whilst Alain couldn't quite slow up enough, and Alain nudged the back of Ayrton. Ayrton missed the apex and slammed into the leader of the race, causing both to spin. Alain emerged unscathed and took the lead. Meanwhile Ayrton ended up being hit solidly in the right front and started losing 4 seconds per lap. The inevitable question was raised: would Alain incur a penalty? Sure enough, Alain was issued a drive-through, and returned to the track ten seconds behind the limping Ayrton. Before long, Ayrton was in to replace his tyres, and it was clear that the damaged steering arm would destroy any tyre after 5 or 6 laps. For the rest of the race Ayrton bounced in and out of the pits, whilst Alain gradually moved up the order.

Ayrton's team were hurriedly preparing a post-race protest, since they felt Alain's punishment was not sufficient. No sooner had Alain crossed the line and taken the title provisionally than Ayrton's protest was lodged.

In a hearing yesterday, the protest was dismissed and the result stands.

Although I have more to say on the topic, I don't want to spoil it for any US readers, since it's a MUST SEE race. Perhaps after it has finally aired over here I'll revisit the controversy, because it raises a lot of questions about how V8 Supercars applies its rules.

If you don't mind knowing who won, scroll down....

Driver A is Craig Lowndes. Driver B, and this year's V8 Supercar champion, is Rick Kelly. Since I'm a Holden fan, this pleases me, although the Aussie blogosphere is full of angry Ford fans venting frustration.

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