Lowndes wins fuel economy battle in Race 29

Craig Lowndes at Sydney Motorsport Park

Craig Lowndes at the Sydney Telstra 500

Craig Lowndes has moved to within one victory of Mark Skaife’s all-time win record by taking the penultimate race of the season at Sydney Olympic Park.

Lowndes led home pole-sitter Tim Slade by 1.1s after a fuel economy battle over the final stint to chalk up his 89th win.

Slade had led Lowndes at the start of the final stint but fell to third with a small mistake just 14 laps from home.

Lowndes had earlier been forced to fight back from an opening lap collision with Garth Tander that saw the TeamVodafone Holden drop to 23rd.

The win moves Lowndes to second in the championship standings ahead of the final race, just three points clear of Mark Winterbottom.

James Courtney and Jonathon Webb crawled home third and fourth respectively as they ran out of fuel in the final laps.

Jamie Whincup, who had dropped from second to 11th when pulling over to ensure team-mate Lowndes did not have to queue behind him in the final stops,  fought back through to take fifth.

Rick Kelly, Karl Reinder, James Moffat, Mark Winterbottom and Michael Caruso filled sixth through 10th at the finish.

Winterbottom had been one of several drivers to make a third stop during the final stint knowing he could not make it to the end on fuel.

Sweltering conditions added to the difficulty for the drivers. Frenchman Alexandre Premat fared worst – eventually forced to pit and be helped from his car due to the extreme heat.

The race started in bizarre circumstances with the Safety Car called on the opening lap after a clash between Tony D’Alberto and Shane van Gisbergen that damaged the steering on the SP Ford, which subsequently ran into the medical car.

The full course yellows appeared three times over the opening 20 laps with a mechanical failure for Steven Johnson and a clash between David Wall and D’Alberto prompting the Safety Car’s second and third appearances respectively.

The latter incident saw the entire field bar Winterbottom head to pitlane – the Orrcon Falcon running another 10 laps before taking fuel and tyres.

The tight finish was ensured when the fourth and final Safety Car, this time for Jason Bright’s stranded Team BOC Holden, was called with 29 laps remaining, seeing all except Michael Caruso head to pitlane.

Fuel strategy was the least of the troubles for several, including early leader Will Davison, who damaged his steering against the circuit’s unforgiving concrete walls early in the second stint.

Stable-mate David Reynolds also lost laps early with steering damage – The Bottle-O Ford later delayed further when one of Reynolds’ driving boots fell apart in the extreme heat.

Garth Tander spent the day in and out of pitlane as alternator problems required multiple changes of battery. The issues ensured Tander spent much of the race without a working cool suit as a result of his troubles.

Those failing to finish included Fabian Coulthard (broken throttle spring) and Greg Murphy (damaged steering), while Lee Holdsworth did not take the start after a driveline failure at the start of the warm-up lap.

The second 250km leg of the Sydney Telstra 500 will bring the 2012 V8 Supercars Championship to a close tomorrow.

Result: V8 Supercars Championship Race 29, Sydney Olympic Park

1 TeamVodafone Craig Lowndes 74 02:03:49.6940 1:29.9534
2 Lucky 7 Racing Tim Slade 74 02:03:50.7987 1:30.0449
3 Holden Racing Team James Courtney 74 02:04:14.2042 1:30.1781
4 Tekno Autosports Jonathon Webb 74 02:04:20.1025 1:30.4836
5 TeamVodafone Jamie Whincup 74 02:04:20.6864 1:30.1181
6 Jack Daniel’s Racing Rick Kelly 74 02:04:22.9607 1:30.7880
7 Fair Dinkum Sheds Racing Karl Reindler 74 02:04:25.9848 1:30.2773
8 Team Norton DJR James Moffat 74 02:04:31.6116 1:30.5615
9 Orrcon Steel FPR Ford Mark Winterbottom 74 02:04:34.3929 1:29.6784
10 Fujitsu Racing GRM Michael Caruso 74 02:04:42.1631 1:30.3008
11 Team Hiflex Tony D’Alberto 74 02:04:50.2986 1:30.5604
12 Supercheap Auto Racing Russell Ingall 74 02:05:03.7844 1:29.9951
13 VIP Petfoods Steve Owen 74 02:05:18.1647 1:30.4637
14 Jack Daniel’s Racing Tim Blanchard 74 02:05:20.2580 1:30.6138
15 Jim Beam Racing Dean Fiore 73 02:04:00.9711 1:30.5259
16 Tekno Autosports Michael Patrizi 73 02:04:20.4897 1:30.3039
17 The Bottle-O Racing Team David Reynolds 69 02:04:01.2905 1:30.0736
18 Team iSelect Taz Douglas 68 02:04:49.0491 1:29.3482
19 Trading Post FPR Ford Will Davison 65 02:05:16.8692 1:28.9697
20 Wilson Security Racing David Wall 59 02:05:10.3852 1:31.7148
21 Holden Racing Team Garth Tander 58 02:04:44.7675 1:30.0892
DNF Fujitsu Racing GRM Alexandre Premat 59 01:41:31.8235 1:30.5073
DNF Team BOC Jason Bright 43 01:14:08.0402 1:30.6529
DNF Lockwood Racing Fabian Coulthard 26    48:18.2319 1:31.0319
DNF Pepsi Max Crew Greg Murphy 18    35:11.0677 1:30.9556
DNF Jim Beam Racing Steven Johnson  5    10:51.7530 1:31.8834
DNF Irwin Racing Lee Holdsworth
DNF SP Tools Racing Shane Van Gisbergen

Championship standings: Top 28 after Race 29 of 30

1 Jamie Whincup 3750
2 Craig Lowndes 3409
3 Mark Winterbottom 3406
4 Will Davison 2899
5 Tim Slade 2670
6 Shane Van Gisbergen 2554
7 Garth Tander 2405
8 Lee Holdsworth 2120
9 David Reynolds 2091
10 James Courtney 2024
11 Fabian Coulthard 1975
12 Russell Ingall 1960
13 Jonathon Webb 1885
14 Rick Kelly 1822
15 Michael Caruso 1770
16 Jason Bright 1653
17 Steven Johnson 1543
18 Dean Fiore 1353
19 Michael Patrizi 1349
20 James Moffat 1315
21 Steve Owen 1303
22 Todd Kelly 1263
23 Tony D’Alberto 1176
24 David Wall 1142
25 Karl Reindler 1084
26 Taz Douglas 1013
27 Alexandre Premat  942
28 Greg Murphy  649

See below for Speedcafe.com’s Sydney Telstra 500 Race Guide

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