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||Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Racing||36||56:17:3122|
|2.||Mark Winterbottom||Orrcon Steel / Ford Performance Racing||36||+ 1.4611|
|3.||Will Davison||Trading Post / Ford Performance Racing||36||+ 13.4500|
|4.||Garth Tander||TOLL / Holden Racing Team||36||+ 21.0360|
|5.||Russell Ingall||Supercheap Auto / Walkinshaw Racing||36||+ 21.2195|
|6.||James Courtney||TOLL / Holden Racing Team||36||+ 26.7308|
|7.||Shane van Gisbergen||SP Tools / Stone Brothers Racing||36||+ 30.8694|
|8.||Michael Caruso||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||36||+ 32.0265|
|9.||Jonathon Webb||Tekno Autosports||36||+ 32.7730|
|10.||Jason Bright||Team BOC / Brad Jones Racing||36||+ 32.9410|
|11.||Tony D’Alberto||HIFLEX Racing / Tony D’Alberto Racing||36||+ 35.8713|
|12.||Fabian Coulthard||Lockwood Racing / Brad Jones Racing||36||+ 36.1584|
|13.||David Reynolds||The Bottle-O Racing Team / Rod Nash||36||+ 38.7223|
|14.||Todd Kelly||Jack Daniel’s / Kelly Racing||36||+ 40.9855|
|15.||Michael Patrizi||Tekno Autosports||36||+ 47.6950|
|16.||Tim Slade||Lucky 7 Racing / Stone Brothers Racing||36||+ 49.9326|
|17.||Rick Kelly||Jack Daniel’s / Kelly Racing||36||+ 51.0568|
|18.||David Wall||Wilson Security / Brad Jones Racing||36||+ 55.1999|
|19.||James Moffat||Team Norton / Dick Johnson Racing||36||+ 1:02.5246|
|20.||Steve Owen||VIP Petfoods / Dick Johnson Racing||36||+ 1:09.6493|
|21.||Taz Douglas||Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport||36||+ 1:12.9488|
|22.||Karl Reindler||Fair Dinkum Sheds / Kelly Racing||36||+ 1:14.5091|
|23.||Jamie Whincup||Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Racing||36||+ 1:19.7271|
|24.||Jacques Villeneuve||Pepsi Max Crew / Kelly Racing||36||+ 1:28.4113|
|25.||Dean Fiore||Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing||35||1 lap behind|
|26.||Lee Holdsworth||Irwin Racing / Stone Brothers Racing||35||1 lap behind|
|27.||Steven Johnson||Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing||35||1 lap behind|
|28.||Alexandre Prémat||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||34||2 laps behind|
Our regular V8 Supercars contributor, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, is currently on holidays.