Image credit: zimbio.com.
Mark Winterbottom took victory by 0.6 seconds over team mate Chaz Mostert, as the Pepsi Max Ford Falcons dominated the Sandown 500.
Winterbottom, who’s paired with Steve Owen for this year’s endurance races took the lead when Jamie Whincup pitted on lap 112. 34 year-old Winterbottom never looked back, going on to take the victory in style.
It was a different story to start with when Whincup’s partner, Paul Dumbrell, lead from pole position, at one point pulling out eight second gap over second place Jonathon Webb (co-driving with Shane van Gisbergen).
Dumbrell’s hard work was then demolished when the safety car was called for on lap 55. Alex Buncombe, who was partnering Tod Kelly in the seven Nissan out-broke himself at turn nine and found himself stuck in the gravel.
The safety car meant that the majority of the field pitted with the full season drivers taking over for the remainder of the race.
Once the safety car returned to the pits Whincup was able to hold off Shane Van Gisbergen. Whincup’s challenge faltered a lap later when he suffered a puncture, the 2014 champion ended the race in 15th, dropping him to eighth in the overall standing.
Despite van Gisbergen being able to run in second for the majority of the race he struggled once he took the lead, meaning Winterbottom and Mostert were closing in on the Tekno-Autosport driver.
On lap 118 Winterbottom pitted, attempting the undercut on van Gisbergen. The risk paid off for Winterbottom, leading the race once van Gisbergen had pitted a lap later.
Despite a fresh set of tyres van Gisbergen continued to struggle eventually succumbing to Mostert with 30 laps to go.
Eventually catching his team mate, Mostert wasn’t able to pass Winterbottom meaning the latter leads the championship by 198 points to his closes rival, Mostert.
Behind the top three Garth Tander and co-driver Warren Luff were able to make their way up from 12th on the grid to finish in a respectable forth position.
David Reynolds and Dean Canto brought the third and final Ford Falcon home in fifth position ahead of a train of Holden’s.
Tim Slade/Tony D’Alberto, Lee Holdsworth/Sebastien Bourdais and Tim Blanchard/Karl Reindler all finished ahead of the factory of Holden of Jack Perkins/Russell Ingall who came from 24th on the grid to finish ninth.
Nissan managed to get one of their four cars into the top ten Rick Kelly/David Russell coming home in 10th.
The series returns in four weeks time for the second endurance and pinnacle of the the V8 Supercars season, the Bathurst 1000.