Prodrive Racing’s dominance of the 2015 V8 Supercars Championship has continued into the Enduro Cup segment of the season, with championship leader Mark Winterbottom and co-driver Steve Owen leading home Chaz Mostert and Cameron Waters in the sister Pepsi-sponsored Ford Falcon.
The pair crossed the line just 0.6 seconds apart at the end of a gruelling 161-lap race, with Winterbottom’s win helping to marginally extend his points lead over Mostert to 198 points ahead of the year’s highlight event, the Bathurst 1000 in October.
After being beaten to pole position by the #1 Red Bull Racing combination of Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell in Saturday’s two qualifying race heats. Owen and Waters started in second and third place for Sunday’s feature race, with Dumbrell leading from the outset in his Holden Commodore.
Dumbrell and Whincup looked on course to claim an historic third Sandown 500 victory in a row, but they and the sister RBR Holden of Craig Lowndes / Steve Richards were struggling for fuel economy and were under threat of having to run a race-killing five-stop strategy.
Whincup committed to making one extra stop by pitting for a fourth time with 50 laps to go, and then saw their chances evaporate completely when the car suffered a puncture shortly after. Forced to limp back to the pits, they only managed to finish the race in fifteenth.
That handed the race outcome to a battle between the two Prodrive Fords and the TEKNO Holden of Shane an Gisbergen / Jonathon Webb. The two Prodrive cars ran under the ever-present threat of having to double-stack their cars if a Safety Car was called during a fuel window period, and over the course of the race and pit stop cycles the positions between the two cars chopped and changed.
Eventually Winterbottom was able to jump van Gisbergen during the final pit stop phase, while Mostert did likewise thanks to van Gisbergen making a mistake with 30 laps of the race to go.
He was ultimately unable to mount a challenge on his teammate, while the closing laps saw van Gisbergen kept busy trying to fend off the HRT Holden of Garth Tander / Warren Luff.
Tander was unable to find a way past the wily van Gisbergen and had to settle for fourth place, while the top-five was completed by the Prodrive-run Bottle-O Racing Ford of David Reynolds and Dean Canto.
Tim Slade and Tony D’Alberto claimed sixth place, ahead of the sister Walkinshaw Racing entry of Lee Holdsworth and Sébastien Bourdais.
The race featured a number of incidents, but only one retiree – that of the LDM Holden of Nick Percat / Oliver Gavin, which suffered a steering failure during the latter’s opening stint.
Nissan Motorsport driver Alex Buncombe slid into the tyre barries at Turn 9 – causing a brief safety car period – while another full-course caution was triggered when a bolt was found lying on the racing line.
Perhaps the biggest dramas befell the rather fancied Polestar Volvo of Scott McLaughlin and co-driver Alexandre Prémat. Prémat was served a mechanical black flag and subsequent pit-lane drive through penalty when he left his pit bay with a piece of his air jack hose still attached to his car. The punishment dropped the pair a lap down – which McLaughlin only got back by not pitting during a Safety Car period – but their day was ruined en route to a disappointing fourteenth-placed finish.
|2015 V8 Supercars Championship Wilson Security Sandown 500 – Final Classification (161 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Time|
|1.||Mark Winterbottom / Steve Owen||Prodrive Racing||3:19:48.923|
|2.||Chaz Mostert / Cameron Waters||Prodrive Racing||+ 0.670|
|3.||Shane van Gisbergen / Jonathon Webb||TEKNO Autosports||+ 9.658|
|4.||Garth Tander / Warren Luff||Holden Racing Team||+ 9.927|
|5.||David Reynolds / Dean Canto||The Bottle-O Racing Team||+ 11.118|
|6.||Tim Slade / Tony D’Alberto||Walkinshaw Racing||+ 13.184|
|7.||Lee Holdsworth / Sebastien Bourdais||Walkinshaw Racing||+ 17.012|
|8.||Tim Blanchard / Karl Reindler||Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport||+ 19.877|
|9.||Jack Perkins / Russell Ingall||Holden Racing Team||+ 20.758|
|10.||Rick Kelly / David Russell||Nissan Motorsport||+ 21.938|
Images via V8 Supercars Championship