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||Triple 8 Racing||3:19:14.8927|
|2.||Mark Winterbottom / Steven Richards||Ford Performance Racing||+ 1.6343|
|3.||Jamie Whincup / Paul Dumbrell||Triple 8 Racing||+ 4.6534|
|4.||Garth Tander / Nick Percat||Holden Racing Team||+ 10.4647|
|5.||Shane van Gisbergen / Luke Youlden||Stone Brothers Racing||+ 13.7949|
|6.||David Reynolds / Dean Canto||Ford Performance Racing||+ 18.6040|
|7.||Tim Slade / Andrew Thompson||Stone Brothers Racing||+ 18.9586|
|8.||Lee Holdsworth / Craig Baird||Stone Brothers Racing||+ 24.7206|
|9.||James Courtney / Cameron McConville||Holden Racing Team||+ 29.3175|
|10.||Jonathon Webb / Scott McLaughlin||Tekno Autosports||+ 31.3135|
|11.||Russell Ingall / Christian Klien||Walkinshaw Racing||+ 31.8105|
|12.||Rick Kelly / David Russell||Kelly Racing||+ 37.7442|
|13.||Jason Bright / Andrew Jones||Brad Jones Racing||+ 47.6531|
|14.||Michael Caruso / Greg Ritter||Garry Rogers Motorsport||+ 52.2985|
|15.||Fabian Coulthard / David Besnard||Brad Jones Racing||+ 54.2196|
|16.||Dean Fiore / Matt Halliday||Dick Johnson Racing||+ 1:02.0332|
|17.||Will Davison / John McIntyre||Ford Performance Racing||+ 1:06.4077|
|18.||Todd Kelly / Tim Blanchard||Kelly Racing||+ 1 lap|
|19.||Alexandre Prémat / Jack Perkins||Garry Rogers Motorsport||+ 1 lap|
|20.||Karl Reindler / Daniel Gaunt||Kelly Racing||+ 1 lap|
|21.||Steven Johnson / Allan Simonsen||Dick Johnson Racing||+ 1 lap|
|22.||David Wall / Chris Pither||Brad Jones Racing||+ 2 laps|
|23.||Tony D’Alberto / Dale Wood||Tony D’Alberto Racing||+ 2 laps|
|24.||Taz Douglas / Scott Pye||Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport||+ 2 laps|
|25.||Steve Owen / Paul Morris||Dick Johnson Racing||+ 2 laps|
|26.||James Moffat / Alex Davison||Dick Johnson Racing||+ 3 laps|
|27.||Greg Murphy / Owen Kelly||Kelly Racing||+ 29 laps|
|DNF.||Michael Patrizi / Jonny Reid||Tekno Autosports||83 laps|