Craig Lowndes has won his third race in a row

Brilliant tactics and outright speed combined to give Craig Lowndes his third win on the trot as the V8 Supercars Championship made its long-awaited return to the newly-renamed Sydney Motorsport Park.

The TeamVodafone driver’s fortunes were in direct contrast to those of team-mate and incoming championship leader Jamie Whincup, who had a disastrous race and lost the outright points lead to Ford driver Mark Winterbottom.

Despite a last-minute run to snatch pole position, Whincup’s race fell apart almost from the get-go. The reigning champion fluffed his start and fell to eighth place, while fellow front-row starter Jonathon Webb skipped away to an early race lead, being the only frontrunner to opt to start the 36-lap race on Dunlop’s quicker soft-compound tyres.

The Tekno Autosport driver quickly skipped away to an early lead while the chasing pack squabbled behind him in the early laps.

Lowndes elected to remove himself from the fight with a bold strategy gamble, switching to the soft tyres on just the eleventh lap and giving himself a long run to the chequered flag on this not-so-durable rubber.

But it proved to be a masterstroke. When the rest of the field had pitted, Lowndes was at the front of the chasing pack and quickly set about catching and passing the now hard-shod Webb for the effective lead.

From that point, he was never headed, and stroked it home to win by 1.4 seconds from Mark Winterbottom, who clamed the championship lead for the first time after Whincup’s race completely fell apart in the closing stages.

While Whincup had managed to scramble back into fourth place after the pit stop had shaken out the order, he suffered a delaminating tyre in the closing stages.

Rather than electing to pit for a replacement tyre – a move that would simply hurt his prospects for tomorrow’s qualifying and race sessions, as he would have fewer tyres at his disposal – Whincup tried to limp the car home, plummeting to 23rd by the chequered flag.

Webb’s strategy gamble didn’t pay off either, and the Teko driver progressively dropped down the order to finish in ninth place.

Behind the Lowndes-Winterbottom scrap for the lead, Winterbottom’s FPR team-mate Will Davison finished third, while the Walkinshaw Performance stable claimed an impressive 4-5-6, with Garth Tander and James Courtney showing impressive race pace to sandwich their stablemate Russell Ingall in the final classification.

2012 V8 Supercars Sydney Motorsport Park 360 – Race 1 Result (36 laps):

Driver Entry / Team Laps Result
1. Craig Lowndes Holden Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Racing 36 56:17:3122
2. Mark Winterbottom Ford Orrcon Steel / Ford Performance Racing 36 + 1.4611
3. Will Davison Ford Trading Post / Ford Performance Racing 36 + 13.4500
4. Garth Tander Holden TOLL / Holden Racing Team 36 + 21.0360
5. Russell Ingall Holden Supercheap Auto / Walkinshaw Racing 36 + 21.2195
6. James Courtney Holden TOLL / Holden Racing Team 36 + 26.7308
7. Shane van Gisbergen Ford SP Tools / Stone Brothers Racing 36 + 30.8694
8. Michael Caruso Holden Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport 36 + 32.0265
9. Jonathon Webb Holden Tekno Autosports 36 + 32.7730
10. Jason Bright Holden Team BOC / Brad Jones Racing 36 + 32.9410
11. Tony D’Alberto Ford HIFLEX Racing / Tony D’Alberto Racing 36 + 35.8713
12. Fabian Coulthard Holden Lockwood Racing / Brad Jones Racing 36 + 36.1584
13. David Reynolds Ford The Bottle-O Racing Team / Rod Nash 36 + 38.7223
14. Todd Kelly Holden Jack Daniel’s / Kelly Racing 36 + 40.9855
15. Michael Patrizi Holden Tekno Autosports 36 + 47.6950
16. Tim Slade Ford Lucky 7 Racing / Stone Brothers Racing 36 + 49.9326
17. Rick Kelly Holden Jack Daniel’s / Kelly Racing 36 + 51.0568
18. David Wall Holden Wilson Security / Brad Jones Racing 36 + 55.1999
19. James Moffat Ford Team Norton / Dick Johnson Racing 36 + 1:02.5246
20. Steve Owen Ford VIP Petfoods / Dick Johnson Racing 36 + 1:09.6493
21. Taz Douglas Holden Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport 36 + 1:12.9488
22. Karl Reindler Holden Fair Dinkum Sheds / Kelly Racing 36 + 1:14.5091
23. Jamie Whincup Holden Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Racing 36 + 1:19.7271
24. Jacques Villeneuve Holden Pepsi Max Crew / Kelly Racing 36 + 1:28.4113
25. Dean Fiore Ford Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing 35 1 lap behind
26. Lee Holdsworth Ford Irwin Racing / Stone Brothers Racing 35 1 lap behind
27. Steven Johnson Ford Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing 35 1 lap behind
28. Alexandre Prémat Holden Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport 34 2 laps behind

A double-billing of F1 and V8s at Abu Dhabi!

Our regular V8 Supercars contributor, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, is currently on holidays.

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.