Craig Lowndes claimed his fifth Sandown 500 win

Craig Lowndes and his TeamVodafone co-driver Warren Luff have taken victory at today’s Sandown 500, the V8 Supercars Championship’s first of three endurance rounds of the 2012 season.

For Lowndes, the result marked his series 100th podium visit, while it was a long-awaited maiden win for Luff, who has been an on-and-off figure in the championship for several years, never having previously had the equipment to justify his talents.

Despite fears that Melbourne’s notoriously fickle weather would have a say in the outcome of the championship’s return to Sandown Raceway (in this format, at least), conditions remained dry throughout the 161-lap race.

While Stone Brothers Racing may have had all the glory in yesterday’s two grid-deciding ‘sprint’ races, it was a Team Vodafone / Ford Performance Racing show at the front of the field once again.

TeamVodafone team-mates Lowndes and Jamie Whincup (along with their respective co-drivers Luff and Paul Dumbrell) were at centre stage all race long and monopolised the lead for much of the race, having climbed up the order in the early stages of the race from seventh and nineteenth positions on the grid, respectively.

Their 1-2 formation remained in place after the first sequence of pit stops, and it wasn’t until the final phase of the race that Lowndes began to turn up the wick and put a steadily-faltering Whincup under pressure.

The series veteran grabbed the lead from Whincup with 20 laps and stoked it home to the finish, while Whincup was left to fend off the attentions of a fast-closing Mark Winterbottom, who (along with co-driver Steven Richards) had picked his way through the field after starting the race in sixteenth position.

With two laps to go, Winterbottom made his move, outbraking Whincup at Turn 9 and muscling his way by. The pair made contact, which sent a fuming Whincup through the gravel run-off, and it remains to be seen if the race stewards will take any further action against the Ford driver after the race.

Whincup would cross the line third, unhappy with the outcome by perhaps comforted by the knowledge that his championship lead had been extended to a 32-point buffer ahead of Winterbottom, while Lowndes had vaulted ahead of Will Davison – who had a troubled run to finish 17th – to third overall.

2012 V8 Supercars Dick Smith Sandown 500 – Race Result (161 laps):

Driver Entry / Team Result
1. Craig Lowndes / Warren Luff Holden Triple 8 Racing 3:19:14.8927
2. Mark Winterbottom / Steven Richards Ford Ford Performance Racing + 1.6343
3. Jamie Whincup / Paul Dumbrell Holden Triple 8 Racing + 4.6534
4. Garth Tander / Nick Percat Holden Holden Racing Team + 10.4647
5. Shane van Gisbergen / Luke Youlden Ford Stone Brothers Racing + 13.7949
6. David Reynolds / Dean Canto Ford Ford Performance Racing + 18.6040
7. Tim Slade / Andrew Thompson Ford Stone Brothers Racing + 18.9586
8. Lee Holdsworth / Craig Baird Ford Stone Brothers Racing + 24.7206
9. James Courtney / Cameron McConville Holden Holden Racing Team + 29.3175
10. Jonathon Webb / Scott McLaughlin Holden Tekno Autosports + 31.3135
11. Russell Ingall / Christian Klien Holden Walkinshaw Racing + 31.8105
12. Rick Kelly / David Russell Holden Kelly Racing + 37.7442
13. Jason Bright / Andrew Jones Holden Brad Jones Racing + 47.6531
14. Michael Caruso / Greg Ritter Holden Garry Rogers Motorsport + 52.2985
15. Fabian Coulthard / David Besnard Holden Brad Jones Racing + 54.2196
16. Dean Fiore / Matt Halliday Ford Dick Johnson Racing + 1:02.0332
17. Will Davison / John McIntyre Ford Ford Performance Racing + 1:06.4077
18. Todd Kelly / Tim Blanchard Holden Kelly Racing + 1 lap
19. Alexandre Prémat / Jack Perkins Holden Garry Rogers Motorsport + 1 lap
20. Karl Reindler / Daniel Gaunt Holden Kelly Racing + 1 lap
21. Steven Johnson / Allan Simonsen Ford Dick Johnson Racing + 1 lap
22. David Wall / Chris Pither Holden Brad Jones Racing + 2 laps
23. Tony D’Alberto / Dale Wood Ford Tony D’Alberto Racing + 2 laps
24. Taz Douglas / Scott Pye Holden Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport + 2 laps
25. Steve Owen / Paul Morris Ford Dick Johnson Racing + 2 laps
26. James Moffat / Alex Davison Ford Dick Johnson Racing + 3 laps
27. Greg Murphy / Owen Kelly Holden Kelly Racing + 29 laps
Not Classified    
DNF. Michael Patrizi / Jonny Reid Holden Tekno Autosports 83 laps

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Richard Bailey

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