The second running of the V8 Supercars’ Pirtek Enduro Cup kicks off this weekend with the first of its three events: the Sandown 500. It will be the first of four races (the round on the Gold Coast has twin races) where the series’ regular drivers are supported by co-drivers, and all pairings will be vying for the title which is awarded to the highest points-scorers across the three rounds.

But overall championship honours still remain at stake, and with huge points hauls up for grabs, a slip-up could drastically change the outcome of the Drivers’ Championship title.

The Circuit


Sandown Raceway

Date: 12-14 September 2015
Lap Length: 3.104km
Free Practice Session 1 Fri 10:35-11:15
Free Practice Session 2 Fri 12:35-13:15*
Free Practice Session 3 Fri 14:35-15:15*
Free Practice Session 4 Sat 10:05-10:45
Preliminary Qualifying Sat 12:15-12:35
Heat Race 1 (20 laps) Sat 14:45-15:20
Heat Race 2 (20 laps) Sat 16:40-17:15
Race Warm-Up Sun 10:35-10:55
Feature Race (161 laps) Sun 13:40-17:10

* Denotes co-driver only sessions. Session times are quoted in Australian Eastern Standard Time (UTC +10:00 hrs)

For the third year in a row, Melbourne’s Sandown Raceway plays host to the traditional 500-kilometre race that acts as the curtain-raiser to next month’s iconic Bathurst 1000.

Located about 25km south-east of Melbourne’s city centre, the circuit is an institution on the Australian motorsport landscape. Along with the racing circuit, the facility also houses Sandown Racecourse, Melbourne’s second-largest horse-racing facility.

The circuit was first opened in 1962, the track played host to the non-championship Australian Grand Prix on six occasions. In 1964, the venue staged a six-hour international touring car race, which would eventually gain fame as the Sandown 500.

Featuring two long straights, the track is known for its high speeds and great slipstreaming battles, with the best overtaking spots being at the Turn 1 and Turn 9 left-handers, which are the track’s heaviest braking zones.

As it’s built within the confines of the horse-racing facility, its safety barriers are positioned very closely to the margins of the circuit at some points, and circuit run-off is limited. A high-speed shunt will guarantee a hefty repair bill.

2014 V8 Supercars Sandown 500 Entry List:

Entry Primary / Secondary Driver(s) Team / Entry
1. Jamie Whincup / Paul Dumbrell Holden Red Bull Racing / Holden Commodore VF
2. Garth Tander / Warren Luff Holden Holden Racing Team / Holden Commodore VF
4. Lee Holdsworth / Craig Baird AMG Erebus Motorsport / Mercedes E63 AMG
5. Mark Winterbottom / Steve Owen Ford Pepsi Max Crew FPR / Ford Falcon FG
6. Chaz Mostert / Paul Morris Ford Pepsi Max Crew FPR / Ford Falcon FG
7. Todd Kelly / Alex Buncombe Nissan Jack Daniel’s Racing / Nissan Altima
8. Jason Bright / Andrew Jones Holden Team BOC / Holden Commodore VF
9. Will Davison / Alex Davison AMG Erebus Motorsport / Mercedes E63 AMG
14. Fabian Coulthard / Luke Youlden Holden Lockwood Racing / Holden Commodore VF
15. Rick Kelly / David Russell Nissan Jack Daniel’s Racing / Nissan Altima
16. Scott Pye / Ashley Walsh Ford Wilson Security Racing / Ford Falcon FG
17. David Wall / Steven Johnson Ford Wilson Security Racing / Ford Falcon FG
18. Jack Perkins / Cameron Waters Ford Jeld-Wen / Ford Falcon FG
21. Dale Wood / Chris Pither Holden Team ADVAM / Holden Commodore VF
22. James Courtney / Greg Murphy Holden Holden Racing Team / Holden Commodore VF
23. Russell Ingall / TBA Holden Repair Management / Holden Commodore VF
33. Scott McLaughlin / Alexandre Premat Volvo Valvoline Racing Polestar GRM / Volvo S60
34. Robert Dahlgren / Greg Ritter Volvo Valvoline Racing Polestar GRM / Volvo S60
36. Michael Caruso / Dean Fiore Nissan Nissan Hornets / Nissan Altima
47. Tim Slade / Tony D’Alberto Holden SuperCheap Auto Racing / Holden Commodore VF
55. David Reynolds / Dean Canto Ford The Bottle-O Racing Team / Ford Falcon FG
97. Shane van Gisbergen / Jonathon Webb Holden TEKNO VIP Petfoods / Holden Commodore VF
222. Nick Percat / Oliver Gavin Holden Walkinshaw Racing/ Holden Commodore VF
360. James Moffat / Taz Douglas Nissan Nissan Hornets / Nissan Altima
888. Craig Lowndes / Steven Richards Holden Red Bull Racing / Holden Commodore VF

The Form Guide

Another troubled run for Ford Performance Racing’s Mark Winterbottom saw ‘Frosty’ slide to second in the Drivers’ Championship standings behind defending champion Jamie Whincup. The margin between the two is now 135 points, and when you consider that Winterbottom held more than a 100-point advantage just a few short months ago, it represents a shocking dip in form at the worst possible time.

But the endurance rounds are historically where FPR comes good. Paired this year with Steve Owen – after long-time co-driver Steven Richards defected to Red Bull Racing – ‘Frosty’ should be in the mix with the very capable Owen as his sidearm.

In truth, the two Red Bull Racing cars are probably the favourites for honours this weekend. Whincup will again drive alongside Paul Dumbrell, who this year made the sensible decision to keep his racing skills sharp with a number of successful hitouts in the V8 Development Series. Teammate Craig Lowndes is the defending Piretk Enduro Cup champion and will partner Richards in a fresh driver pairing. For Lowndes, the next rounds will be critical if the wily veteran hopes to recover some of the 213-point deficit to Whincup.

After victory in the recent Feature Race at Queensland Raceway, the Holden Racing Team is having something of a purple patch. James Courtney and Garth Tander will be paired with Greg Murphy and Warren Luff (the latter moving from RBR) respectively and will be among the strongest driver pairings in the field.

Single-car team Tekno Autosports will be another outfit to keep an eye on. Shane van Gisbergen won both rain-affected Sprint Races last time out at Sydney Motorsport Park, and given Sandown’s reputation for wet weather, he would undoubtedly be someone to keep an eye out for in low-grip conditions. He’ll be partnered by team owner Jonathon Webb, who is himself a very quick driver.

Fellow Sydney winner Scott McLaughlin and his bright blue GRM Polestar Volvo will definitely be in the mix as well. The S60 has proven to be one of the quickest cars in the field and, partnered with 2013 teammate Alexandre Prémat, the pair should be a podium contender. Reliability, however, has been a concern.

Also keep an eye out for the two Erebus E63 AMG Mercedes-Benz racers, which have shown a sustained improvement in speed over recent events. Last year saw Lee Holdsworth and co-driver Craig Baird come oh so close to claiming the team’s first podium finish, but with Holdsworth having already tasted victory this year at Winton, the driver and team have solid form coming into this event.

The event’s format will see a 20-minute qualifying session that will determine the grid for the first of two 20-lap heat races on the Saturday afternoon; the lead driver and co-driver will be split across both races. The finishing order of the first race will determine the starting grid for the second heat race. In turn, it’s finishing order will decide the final grid for Sunday’s 161-lap race. The emphasis will be on keeping it clean over the pair of 20-lap races, but past events have shown that’s rarely a possibility when the lights go out!

In a bid to ensure some level of parity across the five different manufacturers, the V8 Supercars rulemakers have declared that a minimum of four fuel pit stops will have to be performed over the course of the race, mirroring the rule introduced last year when Nissan and Erebus raised concerns that their higher fuel consumption would drastically handicap them in the longer-form races.

Imag via V8 Supercars Championship Media

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Geoff Burke

Journalist at MotorsportM8
Site co-founder. Social Media guru. All-round trouble-maker.