Garth Tander has finally broken a victory drought spanning over 70 races when he and his Holden Racing Team co-driver Warren Luff claimed victory in a thrilling Sandown 500 endurance race.
The duo – who won last year’s Pirtek Enduro Cup despite not winning a race – kept their heads while a number of other competitors struck trouble in a time-limited race hit by an early red flag and constant rain showers.
The pair had a nervous run to the finish when the front left guard of their #22 Holden Commodore blew apart with a little over 20 minutes to go while Tander led the race, prompting a nervous wait to see if Race Control would instruct the team to pit the car over safety concerns.
The errant part was fastened in by enough bolts to ensure that it wouldn’t come off the car, but it did nothing for the car’s straight-line speed. Tander was being caught hand over fist by a charging Shane van Gisbergen, but the New Zealander ran out of time and crossed the finish line just 0.3 seconds behind the West Australian.
The victory was Tander’s first Sandown 500 triumph, while also ending a winless streak that extended to the Townsville 400 in 2014.
The final podium slot went to the TEKNO Autosports Holden of Will Davison / Jonathon Webb, which narrowly held out the GRM Volvo of Scott McLaughlin / David Wall – the latter were in contention for victory for much of the race until McLaughlin locked up on cold tyres as he approached Turn 1 on his out-lap from his final pit stop.
McLaughlin had, until that stage, managed to hold his own against an aggressive Tander after overtaking the HRT driver during the fourth stint of the race. McLaughlin held off Tander and van Gisbergen in a tense nose-to-tail battle until HRT called Tander in to the pits on Lap 104; McLaughlin and van Gisbergen responded by pitting a lap later, but the undercut proved successful.
The race was over just two-thirds through the opening lap for the sister Volvo of James Moffat and co-driver James Golding. With Golding starting the race, a poor getaway saw him tag the back of the sister James Courtney / Jack Perkins HRT Commodore on the sprint to Turn 1.
The contact triggered a slow front-right puncture for Golding, and the tyre failed as he approached the Dandenong Road sweeper at the fastest point of the circuit. The youngster had a spectacular and heavy accident as his car plowed headlong into the tyre wall, causing major front-end damage to the car but thankfully nothing more than a shaking for the rookie driver.
The race was suspended while repairs were carried out to the trackside barriers, ensuring that the race would run to a three-and-a-half hour time limit rather than its scheduled 161-lap distance.
The race resumed after the delay, but the majority of the field pitted for wet tyres when a rain shower lashed the circuit on Lap 37. A number of drivers slid off the circuit at Turn 4, with one of the highest-profile victims being Dean Canto, co-driver of reigning champion Mark Winterbottom.
Canto’s spin into the barriers required a Safety Car intervention so their Ford Falcon could be extricated, consigning Winterbottom to a low-scoring afternoon as the last of the classified finishers.
Winterbottom could perhaps console himself that the incumbent championship leader, Jamie Whincup, only finished thirteenth thanks to a drive-through penalty awarded to co-driver Paul Dumbrell (who started the race from pole position) for unfastening his seat belts on the approach to swapping with Whincup in the pits – the updated regulations state that the belts must remain fastened until the car is stationary in its pit bay.
Whincup’s dramas and a second-placed finish for van Gisbergen kept the Triple Eight Race Engineering team with a 1-2-3 in the Drivers’ Championship standings, albeit with van Gisbergen back on top with a 7-point lead over his six-time title-winning teammate.
|2016 Australian Supercars Wilson Security Sandown 500 – Final Classification (143 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Result|
|1.||Garth Tander / Warren Luff||Holden Racing Team||3:30:56.770|
|2.||Shane van Gisbergen / Alexandre Premat||Triple Eight Engineering||+ 0.349|
|3.||Will Davison / Jonathon Webb||TEKNO Autosports||+ 14.757|
|4.||Scott McLaughlin / David Wall||Polestar GRM Volvo||+ 15.916|
|5.||Chaz Mostert / Steve Owen||Rod Nash Racing||+ 16.311|
|6.||Fabian Coulthard / Luke Youlden||DJR Team Penske||+ 22.674|
|7.||Todd Kelly / Matt Campbell||Nissan Motorsport||+ 25.846|
|8.||Craig Lowndes / Steven Richards||Triple Eight Engineering||+ 33.330|
|9.||Nick Percat / Cameron McConville||LD Motorsport||+ 36.145|
|10.||Rick Kelly / Russell Ingall||Nissan Motorsport||+ 37.530|
|11.||James Courtney / Jack Perkins||Holden Racing Team||+ 38.360|
|12.||Lee Holdsworth / Karl Reindler||CS Racing||+ 43.062|
|13.||Jamie Whincup / Paul Dumbrell||Triple Eight Engineering||+ 43.069|
|14.||Michael Caruso / Dean Fiore||Nissan Motorsport||+ 48.790|
|15.||Scott Pye / Tony D’Alberto||DJR Team Penske||+ 2 laps|
|16.||Tim Slade / Ash Walsh||Brad Jones Racing||+ 2 laps|
|17.||Chris Pither / Richie Stanaway||Super Black Racing||+ 2 laps|
|18.||Dale Wood / David Russell||Nissan Motorsport||+ 2 laps|
|19.||Andre Heimgartner / Aaren Russell||LD Motorsport||+ 1 lap|
|20.||Tim Blanchard / Macauley Jones||Brad Jones Racing||+ 2 laps|
|21.||Jason Bright / Andrew Jones||Brad Jones Racing||+ 2 laps|
|22.||Shae Davies / Chris van der Drift||Erebus Motorsport||+ 2 laps|
|23.||Mark Winterbottom / Dean Canto||Prodrive Racing||+ 5 laps|
|DQ.||David Reynolds / Craig Baird||Erebus Motorsport||Excluded|
|DNF.||Cameron Waters / Jack Le Brocq||Prodrive Racing||Engine|
|DNF.||James Moffat / James Golding||Polestar GRM Volvo||Accident|
Images via Motorsport.com and Supercars Championship
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