Lee Holdsworth Takes Maiden Commodore Cup Victory
28/04/2008 at 1:26:29 AM:

V8 Supercar star Lee Holdsworth took his first-ever Commodore Cup round-win on the weekend in Round 1 of the 2008 Holden Commodore Cup national series. Holdsworth made a one-off return to the category he last competed in during 2003, to support the event dedicated to the life of fellow former-Commodore Cup racer Ashley Cooper, who was tragically killed in a crash in the Fujitsu V8 Supercar Series at Adelaide in February.

Holdsworth’s round-victory was nothing short of annihilation. He qualified on pole position, and won all three 14-lap races, the last by an astonishing 22 seconds.

“I think it was easier to win the V8 Supercars than this one!” Lee joked when asked how his maiden Commodore Cup win compared with his maiden V8 Supercar win, which he also took at Oran Park. “It was a great weekend, great to be having so much fun with the family team instead of the pressure that comes with driving in the V8s.”

Top Shelf Racing’s Michael Tancredi finished second overall, his best result since joining the category half-way through 2007. Tancredi qualified fifth and recorded results of fourth, second and second in the races.

“To be in second behind one of Australia’s best racing drivers is a really good position,” Tancredi said.

Third place for the weekend was Adam Lloyd, who finally scored an overall podium finish after narrowly missing the mark on a number of occasions in 2007. Lloyd also became the first VH Commodore to finish on the podium since 2005, when Ashley Cooper won the opening round of the series in the older car.

“We worked pretty hard this weekend and just drove really hard,” Lloyd said. “I’m a bit worried about getting into the new VS Commodore and going backwards, actually!”

Ross McGregor and Phil Brock rounded out the top-five for the round after consistent performances across the three races.

For spectators, the highlight of the weekend was the second, top-10 reverse-grid format. The new format produced plenty of intense racing without the carnage that some had predicted, and gave plenty of exposure to a lot of drivers.

The weekend was also filled with hard-luck stories. Michael Fairlie blew an engine in practice, Denis Pana blew an engine in Race 1, and both Josh Hughes and Mark Davis blew engines in Race 2.

The professionally-presented Axent Racing team also endured a tough return to Commodore Cup, with team-owner Geoff Fontaine involved in several incidents in the races, and Jason Harewood dropping out of Race 2 with a holed radiator.

Overall, the weekend’s racing was some of the best in recent Commodore Cup history and the battle for the 2008 Commodore Cup title should be more intense than ever.

Practice
The opening 20-minute practice-session was extremely tight, with the top-five cars separated by only half a second. Nick Parker topped the times from Geoff Fontaine and Adam Lloyd, with Lee Holdsworth fourth-fastest despite only completing three laps due to a broken oil-filter.

“One of my back tyres was actually deflated, and I would have gone a lot quicker if it had been fully-inflated, so I’m very confident for qualifying,” Fontaine reported after the session.

Unfortunately, Michael Fairlie suffered a major blown engine, ending his weekend and probably his season. Other drivers to experience problems included Nathan Collins (broken wheel-studs) and Josh Hughes (flat tyre), while local Mark Davis suffered a leaking oil seal.

Qualifying
Nick Parker continued his great run in the first 20-minute qualifying session, recording the fastest time, but Lee Holdsworth bounced back in the second session, setting an even faster time to take his first-ever Commodore Cup pole position.

“I’ve never qualified on pole in anything,” Lee said, “so I’m absolutely rapt.”

Parker slotted into second ahead of Geoff Fontaine and Adam Lloyd, with Michael Tancredi fifth on combined times despite a major differential failure. 17-year-old Josh Hughes continued his impressive rise to prominence with sixth, ahead of Ross McGregor, Jason Harewood, Phil Brock and Nathan Collins.

Race 1
Lee Holdsworth led away ahead of Nick Parker, with Adam Lloyd beating Geoff Fontaine off the line to move up to third. On lap two, Denis Pana suffered a major blown engine in his Lander Toyota Lexen entry, and stopped at turn two. The safety-car was deployed for five laps while Pana’s car was retrieved and the copious amount of oil on the racetrack was absorbed.

On the restart, Holdsworth pulled away from Parker, while Fontaine overtook Lloyd off the bridge. A great battle emerged on the fringe of the top-five, involving Jason Harewood, Ross McGregor, Josh Hughes and Nathan Collins.

Unfortunately, Fontaine’s top-three run came to an end when he hammered the wall exciting the final corner, ending his race. Holdsworth comfortably won the race from Parker and Lloyd, with Michael Tancredi recovering for fourth after a slow start, ahead of Harewood, Collins, McGregor, Hughes, Phil Brock and Daniel Russo.

Race 2
The top-10 reverse-grid format was used for the first time in Commodore Cup for the weekend’s second race. Hence, Daniel Russo started on pole, ahead of Phil Brock and Josh Hughes.

Brock’s experience came to the fore at the start, and he comfortably led the field for the first few laps while some of the faster drivers worked their way through traffic. Michael Tancredi in particular made a great start, moving from seventh to third by the first corner. Once Tancredi cleared McGregor in second, he quickly hunted down Brock and passed the experienced touring-car driver into the last corner on lap three.

On lap four, Nick Parker’s steering rack broke, ending his charge forward, while Josh Hughes and Mark Davis simultaneously blew engines. The safety-car was deployed for six laps while the stranded cars were removed, leaving a four-lap sprint to the flag at the end.

Lee Holdsworth, who had worked his way up to third prior to the safety-car, quickly overtook Brock, and Adam Lloyd followed him past. Holdsworth then pursued Michael Tancredi, rapidly closing down the margin until the last lap. For most of the lap, it looked like Tancredi had Holdsworth’s measure, but Lee made a brave drive down the inside of Tancredi into the last corner of the race. Tancredi braked late and ran wide, handing Holdsworth the win.

Lloyd finished 3rd ahead of Brock and Geoff Fontaine, who charged to fifth from last on the grid.

Race 3
A shower just before the start of this race made conditions extremely greasy, playing right into the hands of Holdsworth. He easily pulled away at the start and was never headed, lapping consistently two seconds faster than everyone else in a performance that closely resembled his V8 Supercar round-win last year.

Tancredi held second from Lloyd, while Geoff Fontaine finished fourth after a broken accelerator-pedal impeded his progress. Fontaine’s team-mate Jason Harewood came home fifth from Ross McGregor and Nick Parker. Kane Millier, the brother of Garry Rogers Motorsport V8 Supercar mechanic Ryan Millier, finished a superb eighth, with Allan Hill and Daniel Russo rounding out the top-10.

“I’ve sorted the front of my car out, but now I need to sort the back out, because it was very taily,” Hill said.

Both Phil Brock and Nathan Collins copped drive-through penalties for jumping the start and finished outside the top-10, with Collins losing a lap after a spectacular spin at the Dogleg.
 
 
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