'Dream team' V8 Supercars veterans Craig Lowndes and Mark Skaife came through the 500km race at Phillip Island on Sunday to secure the back-to-back victory and their third straight endurance win. The pair were followed by team-mates Jamie Whincup and Andrew Thompson, with pole-sitters Will Davison and Luke Youlden crossing the line third. Lowndes' win closes Whincup's championship standings lead to just 92 points.
The victory didn't come easily though. In a dramatic race that began with an aborted start, the Team Vodafone pairing had to withstand challenges from Whincup and Garth Tander before facing a late-race threat from Shane van Gisbergen.
With Skaife handing over in second place to Lowndes after a near perfect stint, Lowndes scrapped for the lead with Tander, the pair trading positions several times after a mid-race pit stop. It was an incredible recovery for the Toll Holden Racing Team #2 car after Tander's co-driver Nick Percat had to start from pit lane having stalled on the front row of the grid. Percat went on to produce the drive of the day charging through the field to get back into contention before Tander took over.
In the final stint Lowndes came under huge pressure from van Gisbergen, the Kiwi putting in a blistering performance to climb back up into second place after SP Tools Racing co-driver John McIntyre lost out in the first round of pit stops. But with just ten laps to go, van Gisbergen's Falcon picked up debris on its right-front tyre – which, coupled with fading tyre life allowed Whincup to swoop.
Championship leader Whincup and co-driver Thompson had led for much of the middle part of the race before two minor pit delays; the first due to a sticking door damaged in contact with Skaife early on, and the second when a couple of geese wandered across the track triggering the safety car. Both Triple Eight cars pitted at the same time and Whincup was forced to queue behind Lowndes.
With six laps to go Trading Post FPR Falcon driver Will Davison was fifth, but a late charge saw him pass Tander and the ailing van Gisbergen to take the final place on the podium.
Tander, whose Commodore fell away over the closing laps pipped van Gisbergen by just 0.0015s at the finish line for fourth.
“Today was extraordinary,” said Skaife. “Craig is driving as good as I have ever seen him drive. For the team to have a 1-2, it's so competitive to have that at any stage is an unbelievable achievement.
“I felt good today. I've definitely pulled up better than I did this time last year. This is the sort of hit out that I need before Bathurst. I'll be better again at Bathurst just because of that.”
Reflecting on the trouble free weekend, Lowdnes added: “It's been a pretty smooth weekend for us as a team; everything we have done has worked. It's been a big effort from the team all year, not just this weekend.
“When Shane was closing that gap I radioed in and said I didn't want to go any faster and burn the tyres and have nothing left to fight if he got to us.
“He got to about three seconds away but must have had a problem and went backwards as fast as he came up to me. It was a blessing for me; we were pushing as hard as we could.”
Stratco Racing's Dave Reynolds (co-driver Tim Blanchard) held on for sixth ahead of Jason Bright who made an epic recovery after Team BOC's race was severely hampered when co-driver Andrew Jones received a harsh drive-through penalty for contact with Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon driver Steve Richards.
Jack Daniel's Racing Rick Kelly (co-driver Owen Kelly) finished eighth ahead of Toll Holden Racing Team's James Courtney (co-driver Cameron McConville) and Bundaberg Racing's Fabian Coulthard (co-driver Chris Baird).
The V8 Supercars Championship continues with the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 on 6-9 October.
Photo credit: TeamVodafone
Race 19 results:
|Pos||Car||Entrant||Driver||Vehicle||Fastest Lap Time||Race Time||Laps||Points|
|1||888||TeamVodafone||Craig Lowndes / Mark Skaife||Commodore VE2||01:35:0393||03:08:13:2041||113||200|
|2||88||TeamVodafone||Jamie Whincup / Andrew Thompson||Commodore VE2||01:35:3306||03:08:19:5246||113||184|
|3||6||Trading Post FPR Falcon||Will Davison / Luke Youlden||Falcon FG||01:35:6746||03:08:22:4172||113||172|
|4||2||Toll Holden Racing Team||Garth Tander / Nick Percat||Commodore VE||01:35:7410||03:08:28:8276||113||160|
|5||9||SP Tools Racing||Shane van Gisbergen / John McIntyre||Falcon FG||01:35:7665||03:08:28:8291||113||148|
|6||16||Stratco Racing||David Reynolds / Tim Blanchard||Commodore VE2||01:35:5865||03:08:32:7481||113||136|
|7||8||Team Boc||Jason Bright / Andrew Jones||Commodore VE2||01:35:5458||03:08:40:5791||113||128|
|8||15||Jack Daniel’s Racing||Rick Kelly / Owen Kelly||Commodore VE2||01:35:9170||03:08:45:5526||113||120|
|9||1||Toll Holden Racing Team||Cameron McConville / James Courtney||Commodore VE2||01:35:5959||03:08:47:8172||113||112|
|10||61||Bundaberg Racing||Fabian Coulthard / Craig Baird||Commodore VE2||01:36:2960||03:08:54:1586||113||104|
|11||14||Jana Living Racing||Jason Bargwanna / Shane Price||Commodore VE2||01:36:3431||03:09:02:8816||113||96|
|12||33||Fujitsu Racing GRM||Lee Holdsworth / Greg Ritter||Commodore VE2||01:35:9619||03:09:05:4988||113||92|
|13||11||Pepsi Max Crew||Greg Murphy / Allan Simonsen||Commodore VE2||01:36:1687||03:09:15:8124||113||88|
|14||7||Jack Daniel’s Racing||Todd Kelly / David Russell||Commodore VE2||01:36:2544||03:09:20:5841||113||84|
|15||49||VIP Petfoods||Paul Morris / Steve Owen||Commodore VE2||01:36:1570||03:09:20:8000||113||80|
|16||34||Fujitsu Racing GRM||Michael Caruso / Marcus Marshall||Commodore VE2||01:36:0309||03:09:27:3506||113||76|
|17||5||Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon||Steve Richards / Mark Winterbottom||Falcon FG||01:36:1141||03:09:30:8892||113||72|
|18||19||Mother Energy Racing Team||Jonathon Webb / Richard Lyons||Falcon FG||01:36:4849||03:09:32:8809||113||68|
|19||12||Triple F Racing||Michael Patrizi / Dean Fiore||Falcon FG||01:35:8596||03:09:35:2925||113||64|
|20||39||Supercheap Auto Racing||Russell Ingall / Jack Perkins||Commodore VE2||01:36:2798||03:09:37:7942||113||60|
|21||3||Wilson Security Racing||Dale Wood / Taz Douglas||Falcon FG||01:36:4127||03:09:37:9803||113||56|
|22||4||Irwin Racing||Alex Davison / David Brabham||Falcon FG||01:36:3627||03:09:40:9345||113||52|
|23||55||The Bottle-O Racing Team||Paul Dumbrell / Dean Canto||Falcon FG||01:36:7196||03:09:43:4596||113||48|
|24||47||Lucky 7 Racing||Tim Slade / Daniel Gaunt||Falcon FG||01:36:4326||03:09:43:6874||113||44|
|25||18||Jim Beam Racing||James Moffat / Matthew Halliday||Falcon FG||01:36:4593||03:09:46:4981||113||40|
|26||17||Jim Beam Racing||Steven Johnson / David Besnard||Falcon FG||01:36:5138||03:08:24:9338||112||36|
|27||30||Gulf Western Oil Racing||Warren Luff / Nathan Pretty||Commodore VE2||01:37:3126||03:08:50:6557||111||32|
|28||21||Fair Dinkum Sheds Racing||Karl Reindler / David Wall||Commodore VE2||01:36:6492||03:08:24:3771||100||28|