Marcus Zukanovic has claimed victory in the opening race of the 2017 V8 Ute Racing Series, taking the win from third on the grid through a combination of consistent pace and some opportunistic overtaking moves.
It was Zukanovic's first Utes race victory since 2006 – the year he won the title – and first victory in any motorsport category since Commodore Cup in 2011.
“We bought the car late last year and it’s taken a while to get the setup to where we want it, but this result shows we have the pace to run at the front,” Zukanovic said.
“Our speed was solid over the entire race and I’m enjoying being back in the category, because there’s always close, hard racing.”
Second place went to Kim Jane, last year’s Winton round winner fighting back after an early incident.
“We were struggling with understeer early in the race and there was contact with another competitor at Turn 7, which caused me to spin,” Jane said.
“The car became better as the race went on, and by the end we were back on the pace.”
New Zealand driver Matt Spratt finished third ahead of Keven Stoopman and Michael Sieders, while Tony Auddino and Blake Scibberas became involved in an entertaining contest towards the tail end of the top 10.
One of the spectacular moments of the race occurred when Scibberas clouted the tyre wall on the exit of Turn 2.
The damage to his Western Sydney Motorsport Falcon was significant, but he was still able to continue.
“There was some minor steering damage but it looked a lot worse than it actually was,” Scibberas said.
After the race, the key talking point was a collision between Zukanovic and polesitter Mason Barbera at Turn 12, but the officials deemed it a racing incident and even Barbera did not feel a penalty was warranted.
“We were racing hard and putting on a show for the crowd,” Barbera said.
“Yes, I was the one who spun off the track but I didn’t think it was a major incident and certainly nothing deliberate on Marcus’ part, so I don’t have a problem with it.”
The Bundaberg driver set the fastest lap of the race during his recovery drive to seventh.
Three-time Ute series winner Ryal Harris led early after qualifying second, but dropped down the order mid-race with an intermittent problem.
“The car went into limp-home mode and I lost a lot of time,” Harris said.
“Eventually, we got going again but by that stage we had lost too much time to the race leaders to be a threat.”
Race 2, to be held at 9:50am tomorrow morning, will feature a partial reverse grid; positions for the third and final race will be determined on points from Races 1 and 2.