Kiwis on the pace at Pukekohe ITM 500
Whincup, Reynolds collect victories as crashes and Kiwis feature at Pukekohe ITM 500
A day that looked likely to be dominated by the Red Bull Racing Australia squad ended in spectacular fashion — Craig Lowndes' Commodore firing into turn one's concrete wall after his right-rear tyre failed while flying along turn one.
The day began near-perfect for the Bathurst-winning squad after Jamie Whincup was able to convert pole position to victory in the category's opening race. Lowndes looked set to repeat the process in race two, until the crash took him out of both the race, and second position in the championship.
Craig Lowndes, taking on Pukekohe's kerbs. Photo / Velocity NZ
In both cases, the main benefactor was Bottle-O Ford driver David Reynolds, claiming the win and the championship position.
"It was like a missile hit [Lowndes'] car and exploded. It was huge — I was a little bit scared when it happened," said Reynolds.
"After that I was driving a meter off the kerbs to make sure that it didn't happen to me. You've just got to do the best job you can as a driver to minimize the stuff ups."
"There's 750 points up for grabs, and I'm 286 points behind [Winterbottom] — not that I'm counting. But anything can happen, as we saw today."
Reynolds' win did not come easily. In fact it looked like Red Bull's Jamie Whincup had taken away the place on the second-to-last lap after diving inside the Bottle-O driver, but Reynolds was able to fend both him and the fast-approaching Scott McLaughlin off on the final lap.
McLaughlin and team boss Garry Rogers relaxing on the grid. Photo / Velocity NZ
McLaughlin's third place was deserved, and the second podium placing for a Kiwi driver after Shane van Gisbergen grabbed second place in race one.
"I've never seen a crowd so happy with someone finishing in third. They were going off, and I was pretty pumped as well," said McLaughlin.
"[Reynolds and Whincup] gave each other room, and what Jamie did was exactly what we were told in the driver's briefing — to give room on exits. I was hoping they'd go side by side for a bit longer and I could creep up on them, but it was just one of those things.
"To be part of it all and to finish third after the year we've had is awesome."
Consistency across the two opening races has resulted in Whincup leading the charge for the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy; a driver who he was teammates with in 2005.
Craig Lowndes, Scott Pye, Michael Caruso, Mark Winterbottom, James Courtney, Scott McLaughlin, and Garth Tander completed the the top ten in race one, while in race two it was Winterbottom, van Gisbergen, Courtney, Tim Slade, Scott Pye, Fabian Coulthard, and Garth Tander who rounded out the top runners.
Simon Evans drove to NZ Touring Car victory earlier in the day. Photo / Velocity NZ
Meanwhile in the BNT New Zealand Touring Car Championship, Smeg Racing's Simon Evans proved too good — leading a flag to flag victory over fellow Holden pilot Tim Edgell, and Mitchell Cunningham.
Former NZV8 champion Angus Fogg looked to have second place sown up, but spun at high speed while navigating the final corner. After performing a 360-degree pirouette, the Property Tutors Commodore eventually recovered to claim fourth. Round one victor Jason Bargwanna ended the race fifth, ahead of Tom Alexander, Scott Taylor, Lance Hughes, Andy Higgins, and Blair McDonald.
Class two was won by Kevin Williams in his Strapping Systems Commodore, ahead of Brock Cooley and Brad Lathrop.