A bold two-stop strategy saw Craig Lowndes storm through to take a stunning victory in Race 8 of the V8 Supercars Championship at Barbagallo.
The race started in wet conditions, but a drying line triggered the whole field to move to slicks by lap 15 of 50.
That left a long way to go on the soft tyres and, with degradation typically high on the coarse Perth layout, Lowndes’ team called him in from fourth place 20 laps from home.
Down in 22nd place half a minute from the lead, Lowndes methodically cut through the field, eventually sweeping to the lead four laps from home.
Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup secured a Triple Eight one-two-three, with the Kiwi having led the way for almost the entire race before Lowndes’ late heroics.
A second rain shower on the very last lap provided one last challenge for the drivers, but failed to change the lead order.
“I questioned it,” admitted Lowndes of the strategy.
“But it really came to us. The car was good and looked after its tyres which meant we could push again at the end.”
Will Davison, Garth Tander and James Courtney all edged their way up the order during the long run to the flag, eventually filling fourth through sixth.
Seventh placed Todd Kelly was the next of those to run Lowndes’ two-stop strategy, while Chris Pither put in an impressive drive to finish in his starting position of eighth.
Fellow Prodrive runners Cameron Waters and Chaz Mostert ran in the top three for much of the race before falling to 13th and 12th respectively as they struggled for tyre life.
Mostert had emerged from the early pitstops in second and on lap 19 briefly took the lead from Van Gisbergen, who deftly reclaimed the place at the following corner.
The Supercheap Ford appeared the faster of the two mid-race before falling into the clutches of those behind.
Mark Winterbottom ended up just 22nd after an early mistake at Turn 7 saw his Falcon require a second stop to stem overheating issues.
Compounding the drama, the reigning champion was turned around by Dale Wood as he slowed to enter the circuit’s tight pitlane.
DJR Team Penske’s Fabian Coulthard and Scott Pye classified just 17th and 24th respectively, with the former having run as high as seventh before being dealt a drive-through for an unsafe pit release.
Pye was another to complete a two-stop strategy and took the flag in 11th before being handed a 40 second post-race penalty for shortcutting the circuit between Turn 4 and 7 with an off on the final lap.
Result: Virgin Australia Supercars Championship Race 8
|1||TeamVortex||Craig Lowndes||Holden Commodore VF||50||51:03.2882|
|2||Red Bull Racing Australia||Shane Van Gisbergen||Holden Commodore VF||50||51:09.1517|
|3||Red Bull Racing Australia||Jamie Whincup||Holden Commodore VF||50||51:09.8628|
|4||Team Darrell Lea STIX||Will Davison||Holden Commodore VF||50||51:10.7274|
|5||Holden Racing Team||Garth Tander||Holden Commodore VF||50||51:13.2173|
|6||Holden Racing Team||James Courtney||Holden Commodore VF||50||51:18.3881|
|7||carsales Racing||Todd Kelly||Nissan Altima||50||51:19.0113|
|8||Super Black Racing||Chris Pither||Ford Falcon FG/X||50||51:20.4980|
|9||Nissan Motorsport||Rick Kelly||Nissan Altima||50||51:21.3145|
|10||Freightliner Racing||Tim Slade||Holden Commodore VF||50||51:23.1554|
|11||Wilson Security Racing GRM||Scott McLaughlin||Volvo S60||50||51:24.3703|
|12||Supercheap Auto Racing||Chaz Mostert||Ford Falcon FG/X||50||51:27.6259|
|13||Monster Energy Racing||Cameron Waters||Ford Falcon FG/X||50||51:28.2820|
|14||Wilson Security Racing GRM||James Moffat||Volvo S60||50||51:29.5363|
|15||Preston Hire Racing||Lee Holdsworth||Holden Commodore VF||50||51:29.9525|
|16||Team BOC||Jason Bright||Holden Commodore VF||50||51:33.4599|
|17||DJR Team Penske||Fabian Coulthard||Ford Falcon FG/X||50||51:35.7415|
|18||GB Galvanizing Racing||Dale Wood||Nissan Altima||50||51:42.1129|
|19||Erebus Motorsport Penrite||David Reynolds||Holden Commodore VF||50||51:42.2621|
|20||ABRO/Repair Management Aust||Nick Percat||Holden Commodore VF||50||51:48.6959|
|21||ABRO/Repair Management Aust||Andre Heimgartner||Holden Commodore VF||50||51:50.8733|
|22||The Bottle-O Racing Team||Mark Winterbottom||Ford Falcon FG/X||50||51:58.2661|
|23||Team Cooldrive||Tim Blanchard||Holden Commodore VF||50||52:03.2110|
|24||DJR Team Penske||Scott Pye||Ford Falcon FG/X||50||52:03.8667|
|25||Plus Fitness Racing||Aaren Russell||Holden Commodore VF||49||51:39.9732|
|26||Nissan Motorsport||Michael Caruso||Nissan Altima||43||51:42.5440|
|4||Shane Van Gisbergen||683|