MELBOURNE, Victoria, Australia — Luke Youlden won an action-packed Race for the Grid on Saturday afternoon at Sandown. Youlden led from start to finish, but the win was slightly overshadowed by a massive crash on the last lap that saw two cars destroyed but no drivers injured.
“I found myself in a really good team, really good car, and fingers crossed they can do it again,” Youlden said. “We start from pole tomorrow.”
“The mates have done a great job with the car. The boys and the girls in this team, lots of girls in this team, have been trying different things over the course of the year and found a bit of a sweet spot in the car, so I think we can only get better.
Luke Youlden and David Reynolds won the pole for this first 20-lap event. Reynolds took the pole from the Scott McLaughlin/Alexandre Premat Shell V-Power Ford. Despite it raining at the end of qualifying, the afternoon was sunny and bright.
Youlden got the jump on Premat, but Dean Canto in the Bottle-O Falcon of Mark Winterbottom jumped up to third. The Matt Campbell/Shane van Gisbergen Red Bull Holden got spun coming out of Turn four, getting collected by Taz Douglas. Youlden had a one-second lead over Premat after the first lap.
Jack Le Brocq had either rear damage or an oil line go on his Nissan, leaving oil all the way down the front straight while Paul Dumbrell went skidding off at Turn seven, saving it from a trip into the Turn nine gravel. Dumbrell did it again the next lap at the same corner, this time bumping into James Golding’s Garry Rogers Motorsport Commodore without much harm to either.
With half the race gone, Youlden led Premat by 1.255 seconds, with Richie Stanaway in the Monster Energy Falcon 2.2 seconds back. Dumbrell was up to fifth in the second Red Bull Holden.
With five laps left, Premat closed in on Youlden, with the gap being just under half a second, and with three to go, the gap was now just 0.430 seconds. Stanaway got under Premat at Turn one for second, and set off to pass Youlden with one-and-a-half laps to go. The gap, however, was 1.5 seconds, and Youlden was going to win, but before he could Jonathon Webb in the Tekno Commodore and Todd Hazelwood in the Tim Blanchard Racing Commodore clashed at Turn six.
Webb got locked up going into Turn six, slammed into Hazelwood, whose car landed on on top of the tire barriers backwards, flipped over, and destroyed most of the sheet metal. The race was red flagged, and Webb and Hazelwood climbed out unhurt, though Brad Jones Racing manager Brad Jones was understandably upset with the incident.
“I think it’s pretty simple to see what happened,” Jones said. “That’s unfortunate, I think that’s a very fast part of the race track, and 20-lap co-driver race, bit opportunistic to be diving into a hole that wasn’t there.”
The race was called, with Youlden winning from Premat, as the results were taken back a lap from the red flag, leaving Stanaway third.
Despite the loss of position, Stanaway was pleased with his result.
“It was a good race,” he said. “No one out there got much dry running because we only got a handful of laps out there at the start of the first practice, so it was just a matter of trying to take advantage of that. It was good to get the car to the front row of Cam’s [Waters, Stanaway’s co-driver] race tomorrow so the mentality was not to take too many risks, I’m sure it was the same for everyone else because you gotta hand make sure you the keys over.”
“It’s easy to say, and then in the closing stages I had a bit of a crack there to get up to second, but yeah, really good race for us.”
1. Luke Youlden
2. Alexandre Premat
3. Richie Stanaway
4. Dean Canto
5. Paul Dumbrell
6. Steve Owen
7. Tony d’Alberto
8. James Golding
9. Chris Pither
10. Dean Fiore