Motorsport: Van Gisbergen second as Kiwis fly in Grand Prix opener

Shane Van Gisbergen. Photo / Getty Images.
Shane Van Gisbergen. Photo / Getty Images.

It proved a Ford fanfare as New Zealand driver Shane van Gisbergen was sandwiched between fellow Blue Oval drivers, winner Mark Winterbottom and team-mate Will Davison at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne today.

Winterbottom again helped FPR turn the tides in today's non-Championship MSS Security V8 Supercar Challenge at the 2012 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix from Van Gisbergen and Davison.

Fresh from a dominant display in Adelaide, Winterbottom claimed both his Orccon Steel FPR Ford and Davison's Trading Post machine could well be the pair to beat, not the twin Commodores of TeamVodafone.

The man called `Frosty' won both the first qualifying race and the first of three full races today. It followed Davison's victory in the second leg of the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide after a second to Whincup in the opener. Winterbottom was 9th on Saturday and second on Sunday to his team-mate in Adelaide.

"This was a big test for us,'' Winterbottom said. "We expected to do well in Adelaide and the cars were good. Will was one of the benchmarks. Last year here though I think we qualified tenth and ran around about 15th most of the weekend.

"We needed to do well here to prove how far we had come from last year when we had terrible rear tyre life which was our biggest issue all year. Now we have done that and it will reflect in all the tracks we struggled at last year.

"It really is a big deal for us. What we have done will fix all of those other issues.''

Davison was in the same boat. He ended up sapped of confidence in his final year with the Holden Racing Team and joined FPR last year. Then he had a horrible year of highs and the lowest of lows.

"It's a great place to be right now,'' Davison said. "Through last year it was always a good team but the weaknesses have been getting better and we are making fewer mistakes. We have just got to keep up that effectiveness, organisation and hard work.''

It was a rare glitch from Jaimie Whincup that took the pressure off the Ford trio when a below par pit stop saw him shuffled back down the pack. He finished fifth having led comfortably in the opening laps.

"I got off to a great start but it all ended when I locked up and almost took all of my mechanics out in the pit lane. Tomorrow's another day,'' Whincup said.

Winterbottom won the earlier qualifying race, snatching the lead from Van Gisbergen on the opening lap and holding on to claim victory from Whincup.

He was not so lucky in the second race when off the line he slid badly, a common problem at Albert Park when the tyres contact the pole position starting `box'.

With Winterbottom sliding sideway Whincup got a super clean start to the first corner. His far superior corner exit speed gave him a five-car lead within seconds as the field behind him battled for position.

Almost half the field came in for a pit stop at lap two of the race, including Whincup when his problem struck.

The unique `drop zone' format in the first qualifying race created plenty of interest, with three cars per lap dropped out of the race between laps three and eight.

Safe though were all three New Zealanders with Fabian Coulthard (Lockwood Racing Holden) and Greg Murphy in the rebuilt Pepsi Max Holden finishing in 11th and 12th placings respectively.

There are two further races over the weekend.

- APNZ

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