Alexander wins SuperUtes opener, title fight closes

  • ECB SuperUtes Series
  • |
  • 24/11/2018
  • By Joshua Makhoul

Holden driver Tom Alexander claimed a commanding victory in the opening race for the final ECB SuperUtes Series round at the Coates Hire Newcastle 500.

In the fight for the inaugural title, meanwhile, Craig Woods closed on leader Ryal Harris, the pair finishing third and seventh with the gap now 17 points with two races remaining.

Making the most of his ARMOR ALL Pole Position, Alexander led from start-to-finish to claim his fifth SuperUtes win in the SP Tools Holden Colorado.

As was the case on Saturday morning in qualifying, Alexander finished ahead of newcomer Aaren Russell, who was 0.9482 seconds adrift at the end of the 10 laps.

"We had light contact through Turn 1 but I was able to hold onto the lead," Alexander said of the fight.

"After that, I had to drive 10 qualifying laps and I reckon Aaren was doing the same.

"It’s one of the hardest races I’ve ever won, Aaren was just putting so much pressure on me from behind and I couldn’t afford a single mistake.

"It’s fantastic for the category to have a driver of Aaren’s calibre, and for me to race wheel-to-wheel with him is bringing out the best in my driving."

SuperUtes debutant Russell said: "It was a good hard race, we had strengths and weaknesses in different parts of the track.

"Tom seemed a bit better out of the corners and I was stronger under brakes.

"I kept him under pressure but he didn’t give me any opportunities to pass so he certainly deserved the win."

Woods rounded out the podium, a further 11 seconds behind to make the most of a grid penalty for Harris from qualifying.

Stewards found Harris' EFS 4x4 Mazda to be 4kg underweight, and as a result was sent from third provisionally to the rear of the grid.

He made his way up to seventh, with his points lead over Woods trimmed from 27 points to 17.

At the end of Sunday's finale, each driver will drop their worst round to determine the final points and crown a champion.

Woods finished three tenths ahead of Harris' team-mate Aaron Cameron, the pair battling back-and-forth throughout the race.

"I had a good battle with Aaron and finally had a run on him out of Turn 9," Woods said.

"The Ute was a lot better than qualifying, and we scored more valuable points – it will be a big day tomorrow."

Harris added: "Starting at the back did us no favours at all, especially with it being so hard to pass.

"I was driving conservatively, because I didn’t want to risk damage or penalties."

Ben Walsh was fifth in the Car City Hilux, ahead of Micheal Sieders, who clouted the wall in qualifying in the factory-backed Mitsubishi Triton, and Harris.

Justin Ruggier, who was spun by Walsh mid-race at Turn 11, finished eighth, while Christopher Formosa and Matthew MacKelden rounded out the top 10.

The maiden ECB SuperUtes Series concludes on Sunday in Newcastle, with Races 2 and 3 starting at 8:50am and 11:45am.

Stay In The Know
Sign up to the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship Newsletter