Rick Kelly masters the wet at Sandown Photo credit: V8 Supercars Media

Rick Kelly masters the wet at Sandown Photo credit: V8 Supercars Media

Rick Kelly defied treacherous conditions to take victory in the opening race of the Norton 360 Sandown Challenge race in Melbourne today.

With the wet weather creating havoc and hampering the field’s visibility, Jack Daniel’s Racing's Kelly held his nerve leading for almost the entire race and surviving four Safety Car restarts to collect his third race win of the season from a hard-charging James Courtney.

Toll Holden Racing Team driver Courtney's late race pace saw him pass Ford Performance Racing's Will Davison and SP Tools Racing's Shane van Gisbergen to take only his second podium finish of the year, and his first since the season opening Abu Dhabi event back in February.

Rick’s brother and team-mate, Todd Kelly also overcame a battle with van Gisbergen in the closing stages before grabbing third place from Davison in a drag race to the chequered flag. His second podium finish of the season scored Jack Daniel's Racing a second double podium for 2011 and ensured an all Holden podium.

“It was a very nerve-wracking race from my point of view, with all the safety cars, but I’m super stoked to be here,” said Rick Kelly.

“That car, in the wet, was quite obviously on rails so I really have to thank my guys,” he added.

After a disastrous qualifying session which left him starting from 27th and second-to-last place, TeamVodafone's Craig Lowndes put in one of the drives of the year to save his season and keep his championship hopes alive. Bravely picking his way through the field in the appalling conditions, he also benefitted from a well-timed pit stop as the Safety Car was deployed called for debris at the last corner. Advancing 12 places during the first eight laps, Lowndes kept up the momentum going on to finish in sixth place, crucially ahead of his team-mate and championship rival, Jamie Whincup.

Whincup, who had qualified second, slipped back through the field to finish 13th after struggling with tyre grip in the difficult conditions, the same problem which Lowndes encountered in qualifying. This was only the fourth time this year Whincup has finished a race outside the top ten. This narrows the points-gap to 158 with three races remaining and 450 points still up for grabs.

However, the TeamVodafone duo's result was still enough to secure the team the V8 Supercars Teams Championship for the consecutive year.

Trading Post FPR's Will Davison finished fourth ahead of van Gisbergen, while Orrcon Steel FPR's Mark Winterbottom took seventh behind Lowndes. Toll Holden Racing's Garth Tander, Bundaberg Racing's Fabian Coulthard and VIP Petfoods' Steve Owen rounded out the top ten.

The Norton 360 Sandown Challenge will conclude with a final 65-lap race tomorrow following a qualifying session in the morning.

Race 25 results:

Pos Entrant Driver Vehicle Fastest Lap Fastest Lap Time Race Time Laps

Points

1 Jack Daniel’s Racing Rick Kelly Commodore VE2 3 01:19:7225 58:57:5869 37 150
2 Toll Holden Racing Team James Courtney Commodore VE2 3 01:21:6502 59:01:3094 37 138
3 Jack Daniel’s Racing Todd Kelly Commodore VE2 3 01:21:8414 59:01:9937 37 129
4 Trading Post FPR Falcon Will Davison Falcon FG 3 01:21:3337 59:02:4824 37 120
5 SP Tools Racing Shane van Gisbergen Falcon FG 3 01:20:8820 59:03:4069 37 111
6 TeamVodafone Craig Lowndes Commodore VE2 5 01:22:4275 59:03:9590 37 102
7 Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon Mark Winterbottom Falcon FG 4 01:22:3866 59:05:0738 37 96
8 Toll Holden Racing Team Garth Tander Commodore VE2 6 01:21:9333 59:07:4588 37 90
9 Bundaberg Racing Fabian Coulthard Commodore VE2 5 01:22:4315 59:07:5002 37 84
10 VIP Petfoods Steve Owen Commodore VE2 3 01:21:3439 59:10:5915 37 78
11 Mother Energy Racing Team Jonathon Webb Falcon FG 3 01:21:6148 59:12:5245 37 72
12 The Bottle-O Racing Team Paul Dumbrell Falcon FG 3 01:21:2486 59:12:6468 37 69
13 TeamVodafone Jamie Whincup Commodore VE2 3 01:20:3563 59:13:2633 37 66
14 Supercheap Auto Racing Russell Ingall Commodore VE2 3 01:22:3579 59:13:4679 37 63
15 Lucky 7 Racing Tim Slade Falcon FG 2 01:22:7595 59:15:3527 37 60
16 Irwin Racing Alex Davison Falcon FG 18 01:23:7642 59:17:6503 37 57
17 Fujitsu Racing GRM Lee Holdsworth Commodore VE2 5 01:23:2068 59:18:7528 37 54
18 Stratco Racing David Reynolds Commodore VE2 2 01:21:7357 59:21:0900 37 51
19 Team BOC Andrew Jones Commodore VE2 4 01:24:1803 59:21:1340 37 48
20 Fair Dinkum Sheds Racing Karl Reindler Commodore VE2 5 01:24:3775 59:23:1987 37 45
20 Fair Dinkum Sheds Racing Karl Reindler Commodore VE2 5 01:24:3775 59:23:1987 37 45
21 Fujitsu Racing GRM Michael Caruso Commodore VE2 5 01:24:3246 59:25:3957 37 42
22 Gulf Western Oil Racing Warren Luff Commodore VE2 3 01:23:3894 59:30:2089 37 39
23 Jim Beam Racing Steven Johnson Falcon FG 5 01:24:4642 59:24:0083 36 36
DNF Jim Beam Racing James Moffat Falcon FG 5 01:23:4111 53:33:3677 33 0
DNF Triple F Racing Dean Fiore Falcon FG 4 01:23:3498 53:34:4184 33 0
DNF Jana Living Racing Jason Bargwanna Commodore VE2 5 01:23:3822 44:08:8312 28 0
DNF Pepsi Max Crew Greg Murphy Commodore VE2 3 01:21:9609 30:59:4862 20 0
DNF Wilson Security Racing Tony D’Alberto Falcon FG 4 01:24:5235 17:45:3799 11 0