Garth Tander has broken a 72 race winless streak by taking victory alongside Warren Luff in a highly entertaining Wilson Security Sandown 500.
The reigning Pirtek Enduro Cup winners performed faultlessly on a drama filled day where intermittent showers and a time certain finish dictated pit strategy.
Tander held on to take the flag just 0.3s clear of a charging Shane van Gisbergen/Alex Premat Holden after 143 of the scheduled 161 laps.
The HRT Commodore’s front-left guard had blown apart on lap 122 which, while deemed safe by race control, left Tander struggling for speed in the dying laps.
The win is veteran Tander’s maiden Sandown 500 triumph and his first Supercars race victory since Townsville, 2014.
Will Davison/Jonathon Webb held off Scott McLaughlin/David Wall despite an engine problem to secure the final podium spot, ahead of Chaz Mostert/Steve Owen and Fabian Coulthard/Luke Youlden in the leading Fords.
Second for Van Gisbergen was enough to hand the Kiwi a seven point championship lead on a difficult day for nearest rivals Jamie Whincup (13th), Craig Lowndes (eighth) and Mark Winterbottom (24th).
Luff put in a sterling performance against his fellow co-drivers at the start, leading the majority of the way through the opening two stints.
The early running took place in dry conditions before a shower dragged the bulk of the field to pitlane for wets on lap 37.
Starting Whincup’s Holden, Paul Dumbrell eventually got the better of Luff just before another downpour saw Dean Canto (in Winterbottom’s Falcon) in the Turn 4 tyre barrier on lap 55, triggering the second Safety Car.
Dumbrell was among a handful not to pit while Luff dived in to hand over to Tander, who rejoined seventh and with a fuel advantage over the Red Bull Holden.
Tander caught Dumbrell in the third stint before the Holdens pitted together for slicks on lap 74 – the HRT Commodore rejoining with a healthy gap thanks to a shorter fill time.
Whincup took over from Dumbrell but quickly saw his race fall apart with a drive-through penalty for his co-driver removing his belts prior to stopping in the pit box.
McLaughlin, who had been among those to shadow the Tander/Luff strategy, then emerged as the HRT’s biggest threat, passing Tander for the lead in the fourth stint.
In an intense battle, McLaughlin, Tander and Van Gisbergen ran line astern before the HRT pulled its driver in on lap 104.
Tander took the lead back when McLaughlin and Van Gisbergen pitted a lap later – McLaughlin dropping to third when he ran off at Turn 1 on his out-lap.
Former champion Tander was able to hold the lead to the end despite the guard issue and the best efforts of Van Gisbergen, who ran out of time to steal the victory.
Further back, Mostert and co-driver Owen scored fifth despite losing time double-stacking behind the Super Black Ford at the lap 55 Safety Car.
Coulthard and Youlden were sixth after an off-sequence strategy required a late final fuel stop while leading.
Seventh for Todd Kelly/Matt Campbell marked a fine debut for the Carrera Cup ace, while Craig Lowndes salvaged eighth after an early mistake from co-driver Steven Richards buried the Caltex Holden back in the pack.
The star co-driver had been Richie Stanaway, who masterfully drove the Super Black Ford up to third in the second stint while on slicks in changeable conditions.
Canto had also been on slicks when he went in the fence, putting Winterbottom’s Ford two laps down in a major blow to the reigning champion’s title hopes.
The Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport Commodore of Nick Percat and the returning Cameron McConville finished ninth, while the top 10 was completed by the Rick Kelly/Russell Ingall Nissan.
Result: Virgin Australia Supercars Championship Wilson Security Sandown 500 Race 20
|1||Holden Racing Team||G.Tander/W.Luff||Holden Commodore VF||143||03:30:56.7695|
|2||Red Bull Racing Australia||S.Van Gisbergen/A.Premat||Holden Commodore VF||143||03:30:57.1180|
|3||Team Darrell Lea STIX||W.Davison/J.Webb||Holden Commodore VF||143||03:31:11.5269|
|4||Wilson Security Racing GRM||S.McLaughlin/D.Wall||Volvo S60||143||03:31:12.6851|
|5||Supercheap Auto Racing||C.Mostert/S.Owen||Ford Falcon FG/X||143||03:31:13.0808|
|6||DJR Team Penske||F.Coulthard/L.Youlden||Ford Falcon FG/X||143||03:31:19.4434|
|7||carsales Racing||T.Kelly/M.Campbell||Nissan Altima||143||03:31:22.6153|
|8||TeamVortex||C.Lowndes/S.Richards||Holden Commodore VF||143||03:31:30.0998|
|9||Repair Management Aust Racing||N.Percat/C.McConville||Holden Commodore VF||143||03:31:32.9141|
|10||Sengled Motorsport||R.Kelly/R.Ingall||Nissan Altima||143||03:31:34.2994|
|11||Holden Racing Team||J.Courtney/J.Perkins||Holden Commodore VF||143||03:31:35.1290|
|12||Preston Hire Racing||L.Holdsworth/K.Reindler||Holden Commodore VF||143||03:31:39.8310|
|13||Red Bull Racing Australia||J.Whincup/P.Dumbrell||Holden Commodore VF||143||03:31:39.8380|
|14||Nissan Motorsport||M.Caruso/D.Fiore||Nissan Altima||143||03:31:45.5598|
|15||DJR Team Penske||S.Pye/T.D’Alberto||Ford Falcon FG/X||142||03:30:58.0490|
|16||Freightliner Racing||T.Slade/A.Walsh||Holden Commodore VF||142||03:30:59.4406|
|17||Super Black Racing||C.Pither/R.Stanaway||Ford Falcon FG/X||142||03:31:36.0113|
|18||GB Galvanizing Racing||D.Wood/D.Russell||Nissan Altima||142||03:31:43.0332|
|19||Plus Fitness Racing||A.Heimgartner/A.Russell||Holden Commodore VF||142||03:31:48.4964|
|20||Team Cooldrive||T.Blanchard/M.Jones||Holden Commodore VF||141||03:31:13.6029|
|21||Team BOC||J.Bright/A.Jones||Holden Commodore VF||141||03:31:53.2138|
|22||Erebus Motorsport||S.Davies/C.van der Drift||Holden Commodore VF||141||03:31:53.7239|
|23||The Bottle-O Racing Team||M.Winterbottom/D.Canto||Ford Falcon FG/X||138||03:31:18.7313|
|DNF||Monster Energy Racing||C.Waters/J.Le Brocq||Ford Falcon FG/X||98||02:37:53.5846|
|DNF||Wilson Security Racing GRM||James Golding||Volvo S60|
|EXC||Erebus Motorsport Penrite||D.Reynolds/C.Baird||Holden Commodore VF|
|1||Shane Van Gisbergen||2248|
|49||Chris van der Drift||78|
|53||Jack Le Brocq||0|