Victory for Craig Lowndes at the Sydney Telstra 500 has ensured the battle for the V8 Supercars Championship will go down to the final race, as trouble for rival Team Vodafone team-mate Jamie Whincup saw his Championship lead cut to 83 points with 150 points up for grabs.
After a spin in his top-ten qualifying shootout lap left him starting from tenth and five places behind Whincup, Lowndes appeared out of contention. Undeterred though, he worked his way through the order not stopping when pole-sitter, Ford Performance Racing's Will Davison lost control and fired into the tyre wall on lap 11, triggering the first safety car. The pivotal moment came about when Whincup, climbing back through the field after the restart, clipped a curb on lap 24. Damaging the right damper he was forced to pit for repairs. The pitcrew worked frantically to get the car back out, but his race became a salvage operation after he re-emerged at the back of the field four laps down. The Championship leader limped home in 20th position, picking up 45 points.
With Orrcon Steel Ford Performance Racing's Mark Winterbottom receiving an unmerited pit lane drive-through penalty after making contact with the rear of Pepsi Max Crew's Greg Murphy's car on lap 32, Lowndes moved up to fourth. Ten laps later he passed Jack Daniels Racing's Rick Kelly for second, behind Fujitsu Racing GRM's Michael Caruso. Lowndes hounded Caruso for ten laps after a third safety car deployment, before seizing the lead on lap 61. Having to conserve fuel, he just held off Toll Holden Racing Team's Garth Tander in a thrilling finish to take the win by 0.8s, his first victory on the Sydney street circuit.
“The car's been sensational, but I was down on myself after qualifying,” said Lowndes.
“I knew we had a lot more in it. There has been a lot of carnage out there, but it was a hell of a race and we got the job done. I'll try and have a good sleep tonight!”
With the majority of the field running low on fuel in the final laps, the action was far from over. With Caruso running out of fuel on the last lap, Tander capitalised, passing with just a couple of corners to go. Slowing dramatically, Caruso was then hit by Shane van Gisbergen on the last corner, momentarily sending the SP Tools Racing Falcon into the air. Amazingly, both drivers crossed the finishing line with van Gisbergen grabbing the final podium spot.
Winterbottom, who had been seventh with ten laps to go kept charging, and as the leading pack battled to finish with enough fuel, he snatched fifth on the final lap to retain third in the championship, despite his nearest championship rivals finishing in the two places ahead of him.
Lucky 7 Racing's Tim Slade, Toll Holden Racing Team's James Courtney, Jim Beam Racing's James Moffat, finished sixth, seventh and eighth respectively, with Jack Daniels Racing's Todd Kelly and Rick Kelly rounding out the top-ten. Rick Kelly had been on target for third place, but had to pit with just one lap to go for a fuel top up.
The 2011 V8 Supercars season-ending 250km race takes place on Sunday 4 December, with another 20-minute qualifying session beforehand to determine the final grid.
Race 27 results:
|Pos||Entrant||Driver||Vehicle||Fastest Lap||Fastest Lap Time||Race Time||Laps||
|1||TeamVodafone||Craig Lowndes||Commodore VE2||57||01:29:2138||01:59:35:1252||74||150|
|2||Toll Holden Racing Team||Garth Tander||Commodore VE2||35||01:29:1052||01:59:36:0066||74||138|
|3||SP Tools Racing||Shane van Gisbergen||Falcon FG||7||01:29:2081||01:59:41:9470||74||129|
|4||Fujitsu Racing GRM||Michael Caruso||Commodore VE2||57||01:29:1732||01:59:43:3518||74||120|
|5||Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon||Mark Winterbottom||Falcon FG||20||01:28:9053||01:59:45:8350||74||111|
|6||Lucky 7 Racing||Tim Slade||Falcon FG||9||01:29:4102||01:59:54:9660||74||102|
|7||Toll Holden Racing Team||James Courtney||Commodore VE2||31||01:29:2189||01:59:55:4200||74||96|
|8||Jim Beam Racing||James Moffat||Falcon FG||23||01:29:1975||02:00:03:1178||74||90|
|9||Jack Daniel’s Racing||Todd Kelly||Commodore VE2||36||01:29:6824||02:00:05:3078||74||84|
|10||Jack Daniel’s Racing||Rick Kelly||Commodore VE2||19||01:29:1392||02:00:08:7798||74||78|
|11||Bundaberg Racing||Fabian Coulthard||Commodore VE2||31||01:30:0276||02:00:14:6852||74||72|
|12||Irwin Racing||Alex Davison||Falcon FG||7||01:29:8234||02:00:16:5976||74||69|
|13||Stratco Racing||David Reynolds||Commodore VE2||56||01:28:9589||02:00:16:8029||74||66|
|14||Fujitsu Racing GRM||Lee Holdsworth||Commodore VE2||20||01:29:0177||02:00:19:7826||74||63|
|15||Gulf Western Oil Racing||Warren Luff||Commodore VE2||34||01:30:1581||02:00:21:9197||74||60|
|16||Pepsi Max Crew||Greg Murphy||Commodore VE2||60||01:29:3999||02:00:25:5612||74||57|
|17||Supercheap Auto Racing||Russell Ingall||Commodore VE2||40||01:29:0360||02:00:29:3696||74||54|
|18||Jim Beam Racing||Steven Johnson||Falcon FG||69||01:29:6066||02:00:36:3314||74||51|
|19||Fair Dinkum Sheds Racing||Karl Reindler||Commodore VE2||73||01:29:9102||02:00:46:2074||74||48|
|20||TeamVodafone||Jamie Whincup||Commodore VE2||54||01:28:4477||02:00:19:9843||68||45|
|DNF||Triple F Racing||Dean Fiore||Falcon FG||19||01:29:7252||01:58:41:3026||73||0|
|DNF||The Bottle-O Racing Team||Paul Dumbrell||Falcon FG||40||01:29:3039||01:30:24:0432||50||0|
|DNF||Team BOC||Jason Bright||Commodore VE2||31||01:29:4041||01:13:22:3226||45||0|
|DNF||VIP Petfoods||Steve Owen||Commodore VE2||19||01:30:0642||01:14:15:8672||42||0|
|DNF||Wilson Security Team McGrath||Tony D’Alberto||Falcon FG||32||01:28:9038||01:57:06:2883||36||0|
|DNF||Mother Energy Racing Team||Jonathon Webb||Falcon FG||32||01:29:4460||01:25:39:4992||34||0|
|DNF||Jana Living Racing||Jason Bargwanna||Commodore VE2||7||01:30:0273||50:51:4467||29||0|
|DNF||Trading Post FPR Falcon||Will Davison||Falcon FG||4||01:29:0767||16:26:4711||11||0|