x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Courtney fuels his V8 Supercars title challenge

Toll Holden driver leaves it late to take victory in V8 Supercars in Abu Dhabi.

V8 Supercars tear round the track at the floodlit Yas Marina Circuit last night.
V8 Supercars tear round the track at the floodlit Yas Marina Circuit last night.

ABU DHABI // On the penultimate lap of a thrilling contest under the floodlit Yas Marina Circuit, James Courtney, the reigning V8 Supercars champion, recaptured the race lead and ultimately recaptured the taste of victory as he secured his first win since joining Toll Holden Racing Team.

It was no easy task last night, however, with the Australian being forced to negotiate crash carnage, as well as confusion sparked by a slow-moving safety car.

As the chequered flag neared, Courtney was not only battling wheel-to-wheel with Jason Bright, but also the possibility of his Commodore's fuel tank running dry due to the number of laps the cars had been forced to complete behind the safety car.

"It was just an amazing race; it was great," said Courtney, who joined Toll Holden in the summer but endured a disastrous first race on Friday that saw him receive a 50-point penalty.

"A lot of thanks need to go to the guys.

"Credit to the team; they did a great job with the fuel and that's why I joined them."

Jamie Whincup, who in winning Friday's season-opener had triumphed in three successive Abu Dhabi races, started on pole after dominating qualifying yesterday afternoon.

But having chosen to refuel late, he found himself entangled in traffic and finished third, behind Bright.

"It was a bit of a weird race," Whincup said.

"It was a fuel race, really. It was taking the biggest risk you are comfortable with and trying to get to the end on fuel.

"We were as lean as we could be, but that's why the rules have been changed - to create that scenario."

The result means Whincup has finished on the podium every time he has visited the UAE, but brought an end to his hunt for a 12th successive overseas victory.

In the day's earlier race, Stefano Coletti secured his first GP2 Asia victory with a flawless performance for Trident Racing.

The Monaco-born driver started on pole and retained the lead for 26 laps to cross the finish line more than 2.5 seconds ahead of Arden's Josef Kral.

Marcus Ericsson of iSport finished in third place.

"To win [my first GP2 race] on the first weekend of the year is great," said Coletti, who earned pole after finishing Friday's season-opening race eighth.

The top eight drivers in the weekend's first race are positioned in reverse order on the grid for the second event.

Jules Bianchi, who won Friday's race, finished fourth yesterday.

Added Coletti: "I knew I had to be first after the first lap and then I could pull away, and that's exactly what I did.

"Thankfully, there was no risk at all on the first corner.

"I had fresh air the whole time and never struggled so it shows that it is very important to be at the front from the start and to try to be alone for as long as you can be."

Sam Bird started alongside Coletti on the front row, but spun out with only a few laps remaining, while Romain Grosjean, who finished second in Friday's season-opening race behind Bianchi, was forced to retire after spinning out on the first lap. Bianchi finished fourth.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

 

Looking to form a bond between drivers and spectators at Yas