Motorsport: Skirmish costly for Kiwi contenders

Fabian Coulthard at the V8 Supercars Sandown 500. Photo / Getty Images
Fabian Coulthard at the V8 Supercars Sandown 500. Photo / Getty Images

The series chances for Shane van Gisbergen in the Supercars Championship were dented after a skirmish with fellow-Kiwi driver Fabian Coulthard in qualifying for the Sandown 500 in Melbourne.

The pair were racing in fourth and fifth placings late in the second qualifying race which determined the grid positions for Sunday's first of the Pirtek Enduro Cup series.

Van Gisbergen, runner-up in the championship behind Red Bull Racing teammate Jamie Whincup, made a late dive to pass Coulthard. However the DJR Penske Ford driver was forced off the track, losing several placings. Officials instructed Van Gisbergen to redress, pushing him back to seventh behind Coulthard.

A frustrated Coulthard then collided with Will Davison and the resulting redress ordered by race officials pushed the Kiwi out of the top-10 on the grid for tomorrow's 161-lap race.

"You always respect the umpire's decision but you don't have to agree with it," said Coulthard's team managing director, Ryan Story.

The upshot is that instead of starting on the second row of the grid tomorrow, van Gisbergen is back in seventh and Coulthard 11th after both had impressed in today's qualifying.

Meanwhile Whincup sped off for his third straight pole at Sandown along with co-driver Paul Drumbrell, ahead of Garth Tander (Holden Racing Team). In third was the leading New Zealander Scott McLaughlin who showed real pace in the final qualifying race to push the Volvo on to the second row.

Of the other New Zealander main drivers, Andre Heimgartner (Plus Fitness Racing Holden) was solid and will start in 17th tomorrow but it was not such good news for Super Black Racing. Debutant co-driver Richie Stanaway did well in the first qualifier to emerge in 17th place for Chris Pither to take over in the final qualifying race. However officials found that the SBR team had inadvertently run incorrect tyre pressures and relegated them to the back of the grid.

Pither moved the car up to 24th for the race tomorrow, although the irony was that the tyre pressure issues may have caused some of the car's handling issues in the co-drivers' qualifying race.

Tomorrow's 500km race starts at 3.15pm.

- NZ Herald

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