Rick Kelly driving the ‘Commitment’ Holden Commodore finished 9th in an action packed race on the 5.5km Yas Marina circuit.
Jamie Whincup made it three-from-three with another victory over Will Davidson, with Tim Slade completing the podium positions.
Whincup made a great start and despite a coming together with Will Davidson into turn 1,immediately started to build a lead.
Rick Kelly also made a strong start from 10th on the grid and found himself in a huge pack that included James Moffat, Mark Winterbottom, Lee Holdsworth, Garth Tander, Craig Lowndes, Fabian Coulthard and David Reynolds, battling for fifth place. The battling was fierce with the pack running three wide down the long straights.
Rick passed both Coulthard and Reynolds to move to 9th on lap two, but later that lap chaos ensued at turn 17 when Jonathon Webb crashed into the rear right corner of Jason Bright (BOC), sending Bright into a spin.
Bright’s car spun back into the path of oncoming traffic and was slammed into by Karl Reindler who was then hit in the rear by Dean Fiore.
As a result of a split fuel cell, Reindler’s car erupted in flames, but Reindler was quickly out of the car and okay.
The field then spent four laps behind the safety car, as officials cleaned up the mess and removed the damaged cars.
The safety car pulled in, leaving the field with a six-lap sprint. Once again Whincup led the pack from Slade and Davidson.
Kelly was still battling the pack for fifth while Tim Blanchard, getting more comfortable on the soft tyres, moved up to 19th.
On lap seven, veteran V8 Supercar driver Greg Murphy retired after puncturing a right rear tyre.
On the penultimate lap Will Davidson lunged past Tim Slade to grab second place, the same finishing position he achieved for the previous two races.
Kelly continued to battle to the flag with the big pack and ended the race ninth, despite the best efforts of Fabian Coulthard to pass him.
Tim Blanchard was passed by Jonathon Webb in sight of the chequered flag, and finished 22nd.
After the final interrupted, twelve-lap race, Whincup’s win gave him a 296 point lead over Mark Winterbottom with four races to go.
Rick Kelly – “Rick Kelly – “Today was pretty good for the last race. We made a few changes for today, which really helped us. We’re having trouble getting the old girl off the line at the moment, because of a couple of small things we need to tune up and I lost three or four spots off the start, but got them all back by the end of the first lap and moved up one to put us ninth. I was a little concerned about our pace after the restart but everything stabilised so it was good. It was a good result to sneak back up to ninth, as a top ten is always good for us. I’m very pleased for the whole team”.
Tim Blanchard – ” I pretty happy with the last race and made up a number of spots before the safety car restart. I was probably a bit too aggressive with the tyres before the safety car, which left us vulnerable for the last few laps. But I was really happy with today and to be able to move up a few positions and now I am really looking forward to Winton”.
1 Jamie Whincup
2 Will Davison
3 Tim Slade
4 Shane Van Gisbergen
5 Mark Winterbottom
6 James Moffat
7 Garth Tander
8 Lee Holdsworth
9 Rick Kelly
10 Fabian Coulthard
22 Tim Blanchard
CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS AFTER 26 RACES
1 Jamie Whincup 3360
2 Mark Winterbottom 3064
3 Craig Lowndes 2971
4 Will Davison 2779
5 Shane Van Gisbergen 2434
6 Tim Slade 2319
7 Garth Tander 2232
8 Lee Holdsworth 1913
9 David Reynolds 1875
10 Fabian Coulthard 1843
15 Rick Kelly 1606