Craig Lowndes has become the all-time leading race winner in V8 Supercars/ATCC history with victory at Perth’s Barbagalo Raceway today.
After levelling Mark Skaife’s record at Clipsal, Lowndes ensuing run of bad luck came to an end today as he led home a Red Bull Racing Australia One-Two in Race one at the Chill Perth 360. The race contested in two 60km halves was dominated by the Queensland outfit.
In the first half of the 60/60 sprint, Jamie Whincup led home the Red Bull Racing pairing. Starting from Pole position, Whincup held the number one spot off the line ahead of Team BOC’s Jason Bright, while Lowndes jumped up into third passing Lockwood Racing’s Fabian Coulthard and into second by the fourth time round.
Garth Tander (Holden Racing Team) was the first victim of the track, bundled off at the final turn by Jonathon Webb (Team Tekno Darrell Lea). The incident is currently under investigation by the stewards.
By the end of the lap five the top four had sorted themselves into a rhythm, with the Red Bull duo of Whincup and Lowdnes leading the Brad Jones Racing pair of Bright and Fabian Coulthard. Erebus Motorsport V8′s Maro Engel (SP Tools Racing) starting in a personal best position of ninth dropped down to 11th in the early laps.
Series leader Will Davison (Pepsi Max Crew FPR) meanwhile, was dropping down through the order and pitted with a suspected flat left rear. He rejoined the race at the end of the field, running a lap down until the half time break at the end of lap 25. Todd Kelly (Jack Daniel’s Racing) also suffered tyre damage, his car leaving the track at turn six and having to make the trip through pit lane to replace the damaged rubber.
Debutant Chaz Mostert (Wilson Security Racing) was holding position in eighth until lap 19 when he was passed by Shane Van Gisbergen (Team Tekno VIP) who was then followed by Scott McLaughlin (Fujitsu GRM) and David Reynolds (The Bottle-O FPR Ford) on the following lap.
A slowing Engel received a bad sportsmanship flag for blocking as he tumbled down the order, eventually finishing the 1st half of the race in 20th position.
As the laps ticked down Mark Winterbottom (Pepsi Max FPR) found some extra pace crawling up onto the back of Coulthard, eventually getting past the Lockwood driver for 4th position and then passing Bright just on the line to finish the first half in 3rd position.
A final lap incident saw Scott Pye leave the track at 250km/h, assisted by Rick Kelly (Jack Daniels Racing) and Tander as they struggled three-wide down the straight. Pye’s Ekol Racing commodore flew sideways and became airborne as it skidded across the infield, eventually spinning and coming to rest on the grass before he limped over the line, provisionally ruled out of the second half of the race.
At the 15 minute half time break under the new ‘lucky dog’ rule change all drivers who were a lap down were bought up to the lead lap, albeit at the end of the field. The short 15 minute window doesn’t allow for a lot of damage sustained previously to repaired, rather they must carry the ‘injury’ through the second half of the race.
The second part of the race started using the new ‘double file restart’ system and Whincup and Lowndes maintained their position at the head of the field with Jason Bright passing Winterbottom after the restart.
Three laps into the second half Lowndes capitalised on Whincup running slightly wide to snatch the lead and accelerated away from the field, opening out a margin that he would maintain for the rest of the race.
Two of the Kiwi contingent, Scott McLaughlin and van Gisbergen battled for position early on with McLaughlin maintaining position in the short term. Van Gisbergen eventually passed the younger Kiwi on lap 40, finishing the race inside the top ten.
Scott Pye, rejoined at the end of the field, starting from pit lane, but the embattled Ekol commodore received a mechanical black flag for a loose right hand window as he circulated the track. He toured the pit lane to address the issue and was released back onto the track.
With ten laps remaining in the race Will Davison had clawed his way from 27th position up to 20th, with no signs of the tyre issue that plagued him in the first half of the race. On lap 41 Fabian Coulthard, sitting in 5th, ran off the track at Turn 7, rejoining the race in 17th. Two laps later he was forced to pit with a flat left front tyre. Rick Kelly also suffered tyre damage late in the race, a flat left front sending him off the track at Turn 6.
Jonathon Webb again came under the attention of the Stewards, receiving a bad sportsmanship flag for overuse of the kerbing at turn 7.
In the dying laps Winterbottom passed Bright at Turn 1, claiming third position and chasing down Jamie Whincup. His efforts were left in vain though as Whincup followed his teammate across the line securing a memorable One-Two finish.
Whincup on 758 points now holds a 19 point lead over Will Davison with Lowndes 67 points adrift.
Racing continues tomorrow with two 100km races.