Jamie Whincup and co-driver Craig Lowndes have won the Sandown 500 after the sister Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodore of Shane van Gisbergen and Garth Tander tragically suffer a suspension failure whilst leading the race.
Van Gisbergen was on the cusp of victory when the failure forced him to surrender a certain win with twelve laps to go.
The start of the race was delayed while trackside barriers were repaired following a huge crash in an earlier Toyota 86 support race, and when the field formed the grid the majority of the co-drivers were set to start the 161-lap race.
By dint of his and Whincup’s respective victories in the Saturday sprint races, Lowndes had pole position from the Kelly Racing Nissan Altima of Bryce Fullwood. The three-time champion led on the run to the first corner, with Fullwood and Luke Youlden (Erebus Motorsport Holden) tucking in behind. A fast-starting Jake Kostecki rocketed his wildcard entry to fourth from eighth on the grid.
Missing from the pointy end of the grid was the #17 DJR Team Penske Ford Mustang off Scott McLaughlin and Alexandre Prémat (who was driving the first stint). The entry was sent to the back of the grid as punishment for running a non-compliant engine during practice and qualifying for last month’s Bathurst 1000 – the offending engine was changed after qualifying and so there was no penalty to the winners’ race result.
Prémat made up early ground and climbed to 19th on the opening lap, while fellow back-row starter Garth Tander climbed to 16th.
The third lap saw Kostecki attempt a lunge pass on Youlden at Turn 9; the pair made contact and Youlden dropped down to tenth place as a result.
First to make one of their compulsory pit stops was Jack Perkins, with second-placed Fullwood – the latter dropped down to 18th place, however he was subsequently handed a 15-second time penalty for speeding in the pit lane.
Lap 25 saw Lowndes pit from the lead along with Thomas Randle (Tickford Racing), which handed the lead to Kostecki. Perkins’ early stop gave him the undercut, helping him leapfrog Randle’s Ford Mustang and slot in behind effective race-leader Lowndes.
Kostecki continued to be in the thick of the action, with the youngster again making contact with Youlden which pushed the Holden driver wide at Turn 3. Things didn’t improve for the youngster, who made contact with Chris Pither (GRM Holden) as he exited his pit bay.
Also in the wars was Youlden, who tipped and then T-boned Dale Wood along the back straight as the Kelly Racing Nissan driver was trying to overtake Richard Muscat’s GRM Holden. The #15 Wood / Kelly entry sustained heavy damage but would later rejoin the race following an extended repair stint in the pits.
After the Safety Car restart, Kostecki managed to pass Michael Caruso at Turn 4 but failed to give the Tickford Ford co-driver sufficient room at the exit of the corner. The pair touched wheels, with Caruso sent into the cement wall; the Monster Energy-sponsored car sustained considerable steering damage but was able to get back to the pits.
Incredibly Kostecki avoided any sanctions from the stewards for his role in these incidents, but he and cousin Brodie Kostecki would eventually fall down the field and finish sixteenth after an eventful race.
Meanwhile, Tander was putting in a great drive from the back of the field and had climbed to second place. He cut the gap to race-leader Lowndes to less than two seconds before inheriting the lead when the seven-time Bathurst winner pitted on Lap 56 to hand over to Whincup.
Tander stayed out for another 16 laps before pitting and swapping with van Gisbergen, leaving the New Zealander to claw his way back up to second place during his first stint in the car.
Teammates Whincup and van Gisbergen continued to run in close company and before their final pit stops they were nose-to-tail. Whincup pitted for the final time on Lap 134; van Gisbergen put the hammer down and when he made his pit stop three laps later he rejoined with an 8-second advantage.
The race was to be denied a fairytale story. The race was van Gisbergen’s for the taking until disaster struck when his right-rear damper failed. With the car’s bodywork threatening to shred his tyre, van Gisbergen was forced into the pits.
That handed the lead back to Whincup, who cruised to victory and wrapped up the Pirtek Enduro Cup title for he and co-driver Lowndes.
Chaz Mostert and co-driver James Moffat atoned for a difficult weekend by finishing their Tickford Racing Ford in second place, with the sister car of Lee Holdsworth and Thomas Randle rounding out the podium to claim the #5 Bottle-O sponsored car’s first top-three position of the season.
Finishing in ninth after a pit lane penalty was the McLaughlin / Prémat entry. Coming into the race with a 500-point lead over van Gisbergen, McLaughlin simply needed to be a classified finisher in order to wrap up back-to-back Drivers’ Championship titles.
|2019 Australian Supercars Championship Penrite Oil Sandown 500 – Race 30 Final Classification (161 laps)|
|Pos||Driver / Co-Driver||Team||Result|
|1.||Jamie Whincup / Craig Lowndes||Red Bull Holden Racing||3:13:09.997|
|2.||Chaz Mostert / James Moffat||Supercheap Auto Racing||+ 20.631|
|3.||Lee Holdsworth / Thomas Randle||The Bottle-O Racing||+ 24.255|
|4.||Fabian Coulthard / Tony D’Alberto||Shell V-Power Racing Team||+ 28.935|
|5.||Scott Pye / Warren Luff||Mobil 1 Racing||+ 40.091|
|6.||Will Davison / Alex Davison||Milwaukee Racing||+ 41.341|
|7.||James Courtney / Jack Perkins||Mobil 1 Racing||+ 42.735|
|8.||Andre Heimgartner / Bryce Fullwood||Plus Fitness Racing||+ 45.141|
|9.||Scott McLaughlin / Alexandre Prémat||Shell V-Power Racing Team||+ 46.896|
|10.||Anton de Pasquale / Will Brown||Penrite Racing||+ 52.911|
|11.||Nick Percat / Tim Blanchard||7-Eleven Mobil Racing||1 lap behind|
|12.||Mark Winterbottom / Steven Richards||Irwin Racing||1 lap behind|
|13.||Tim Slade / Ashley Walsh||Freightliner Alliance Racing||1 lap behind|
|14.||Richie Stanaway / Chris Pither||Boost Mobile Racing||1 lap behind|
|15.||Simona de Silvestro / Alex Rullo||Team Harvey Norman||1 lap behind|
|16.||Brodie Kostecki / Jake Kostecki||Team Arcoweld Racing||1 lap behind|
|17.||Shane van Gisbergen / Garth Tander||Red Bull Holden Racing||2 laps behind|
|18.||Macauley Jones / Dean Canto||Team CoolDrive||2 laps behind|
|19.||Jack Le Brocq / Jonathon Webb||Truck Assist TEKNO Racing||2 laps behind|
|20.||Todd Hazelwood / Jack Smith||Bigmate Racing||13 laps behind|
|21.||Cameron Waters / Michael Caruso||Monster Energy Racing||16 laps behind|
|22.||Rick Kelly / Dale Wood||Castrol Racing||33 laps behind|
|DNF.||James Golding / Richard Muscat||Boost Mobile Racing||Transmission|
|DNF.||Garry Jacobson / Dean Fiore||RABBLE.club Racing||Brakes|
|DNF.||David Reynolds / Luke Youlden||Penrite Racing||Collision|
Image via Red Bull Holden Racing Team
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