Craig Lowndes and co-driver Warren Luff have won the first endurance race of the season after a late move on Jamie Whincup handed Lowndes victory at the Dick Smith Sandown 500.

After running inside the top three throughout his opening double stint, Luff handed the #888 TeamVodafone Holden over to Lowndes who joined the race in second behind team-mate Whincup at the midway point.

Lowndes then chased down the Series leader and after the final round of stops closed the gap shut. Under immense pressure from Lowndes, Whincup ran wide at turn 2 with 20 laps remaining. Lowndes pounced on the mistake, coming through to claim his fifth win of the season and Luff’s debut win in V8 Supercars. But perhaps more crucially for Lowndes, the victory moves him into third in the title race.

“It was one of those things that late in the first set of tyres I faded away a bit. I had too much understeer and killed the rears trying to look after the front,” Lowndes said.

“We worked on the car and tried to chase it and I was surprised when we came out so far behind Jamie at the beginning of the final stint.

“It was great in the last stint to have a good balance and it really came on strong towards the right end.

“I was a bit lucky with the lapped traffic holding Jamie up a bit to close the gap down quicker. I think all three of us were on a par in track position.”

“For me today, it was all about getting the car to a point where Craig could jump in,” added Luff.

“Early on we probably didn’t have a car that was quick enough but we made it better as the race went on. Bring on Bathurst in three weeks”

Whincup, whose co-driver Paul Dumbrell had earlier carved his way through the field after starting from 19th, eventually finished third after Mark Winterbottom (and co-driver Steve Richards) took second in the Orrcon Steel FPR entry with a controversial late move. With just two laps remaining, Winterbottom, muscled past Whincup, the two cars making contact and forcing Whincup wide in a move the TeamVodafone driver deemed was “not on”.

Holden Racing Team’s Garth Tander and Nick Percat finished fourth holding off a late challenge from polesitters Shane van Gisbergen and Luke Youlden who took fifth in the SP Tools Racing car. Youlden had led the first 30 laps before losing several places in the first pistop cycle, which allowed Dean Canto to take over the front-running. Hopes of a podium finish though for Canto and Bottle-O Racing’s regular driver David Reynolds were dashed after a slow brake pad change dropped them to sixth. Lucky 7 Racing’s Tim Slade/Andrew Thompson, IRWIN Racing’s Lee Holdsworth/Craig Baird, Holden Racing Team’s James Courtney/Cameron McConville and Tekno Autosport’s Jonathon Webb/Scott McLaughlin rounded out the top 10.

Starting at the rear of the field after failing to finish the Qualifying Race, Will Davison elected to take the first drive in an effort to make up places with a very long first stint before handing the Trading Post FPR Falcon to John McIntyre. The strategy took a hit with the appearance of the Safety Car early in McIntyre’s second stint and the pair could only finish 16th.

The 161-lap race was interrupted by just two Safety Car periods, the first on lap six when Allan Simonsen in the #17 Jim Beam Racing entry made contact with the rear of Christian Klien’s Supercheap Auto Commodore which in turn spun Tony D’Alberto’s Team Hiflex Falcon into the turn nine gravel. Simonsen was given a drive through penalty for his role in the incident. The second came 75 laps later, when Team iSelect’s Taz Douglas turned Steve Owen’s VIP Petfoods Racing Ford around at the same corner, dislodging a tyre bundle that landed in the middle of the circuit.

Whincup’s lead over Winterbottom in the points table now stands at 32 points.

The championship now heads to Mount Panorama for the 50th anniversary of the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 on 4 -7 October.

Race result:

1 C.Lowndes/W.Luff TeamVodafone 161 03:19:14.8927
2 M.Winterbottom/S.Richards Orrcon Steel Racing 161 03:19:16.5270
3 J.Whincup/P.Dumbrell TeamVodafone 161 03:19:19.5461
4 G.Tander/N.Percat Holden Racing Team 161 03:19:25.3574
5 S.Van Gisbergen/L.Youlden SP Tools Racing 161 03:19:28.6876
6 D.Reynolds/D.Canto The Bottle-O Racing Team 161 03:19:33.4967
7 T.Slade/A.Thompson Lucky 7 Racing 161 03:19:33.8513
8 L.Holdsworth/C.Baird IRWIN Racing 161 03:19:39.6133
9 J.Courtney/C.McConville Holden Racing Team 161 03:19:44.2102
10 J.Webb/S.McLaughlin Tekno Autosports 161 03:19:46.2062
11 R.Ingall/C.Klien Supercheap Auto Racing 161 03:19:46.7032
12 R.Kelly/D.Russell Jack Daniel’s Racing 161 03:19:52.6369
13 J.Bright/A.Jones Team BOC 161 03:20:02.5458
14 M.Caruso/G.Ritter Fujitsu Racing GRM 161 03:20:07.1912
15 F.Coulthard/D.Besnard Lockwood Racing 161 03:20:09.1123
16 D.Fiore/M.Halliday Jim Beam Racing 161 03:20:16.9259
17 W.Davison/J.McIntyre Tradingpost FPR 161 03:20:21.3004
18 T.Kelly/T.Blanchard Jack Daniel’s Racing 160 03:19:15.9592
19 A.Premat/J.Perkins Fujitsu Racing GRM 160 03:19:21.6195
20 K.Reindler/D.Gaunt Fair Dinkum Sheds Racing 160 03:19:38.6351
21 S.Johnson/A.Simonsen Jim Beam Racing 160 03:20:09.6069
22 D.Wall/C.Pither Wilson Security Racing 159 03:19:30.1408
23 T.D’Alberto/D.Wood Team Hiflex 159 03:19:36.3726
24 T.Douglas/S.Pye Team iSelect 159 03:19:58.8309
25 S.Owen/P.Morris VIP Petfoods Racing 159 03:20:27.0158
26 J.Moffat/A.Davison Team Norton DJR 158 03:19:57.2327
27 G.Murphy/O.Kelly Pepsi Max Crew 132 03:19:43.7689
DNF M.Patrizi/J.Reid Tekno Autosports 83 01:45:18.1928