TeamVodafone's ninth straight victory has helped Lowndes climb to third in the championship, with the remaining steps occupied by the pairings of Mark Winterbottom/Steven Richards and Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell.
The round also marked the first 500km V8 Supercar Championship event to be held at the circuit since 2007, returning to its traditional role as warmup endurance event for the iconic Bathurst 1000.
This was also the first test for the 2012 endurance driver pairings, and the event’s qualifying program ensured that these drivers were integral to the final results.
Qualifying was split into two 20 lap ‘qualifying races’ on the Saturday, with championship points awarded for each.
The first race was for co-drivers only, while the second race for primary championship drivers determined the grid positions for the main race on Sunday.
Both were won by the Shane Van Gisbergen and Luke Youlden driver pairing, placing their Stone Brothers Racing Falcon on pole for the main race - a career first for both drivers.
These races also saw Whincup extend his points lead from just one point to 44 over Mark Winterbottom, which would ultimately prove vital in maintaining this lead at the end of the round.
During the race, pole-sitting Youlden managed to maintain first position until place until a slow first pitstop dropped him back to fifth, which gave the lead to Whincup/Dumbrell for the majority of the race.
Whincup sacrificed this lead 20 laps from the end with a mistake on Turn 2, which gave the lead to his teammates Lowndes/Luff.
Winterbottom managed to push Whincup back to third position just two laps from the end, making minor contact with his rival in the process.
Each of the podium finishers’ co-drivers excelled during the race, with Dumbrell, Luff and Richards ending their stints inside the top four placings, despite starting 19th, sixth and 15th respectively.
This closing lap podium shuffle between Whincup, Lowndes and Winterbottom followed a disappointing final stop for the FPR Falcon of David Reynolds and Dean Canto, where a slow brake pad change cost them third place and 10 seconds, before eventually finishing in sixth.
Will Davison has now fallen to fourth in the championship after finishing 17th in the main race, having started in 27th as a result of contact with DJR driver James Moffatt in the second qualifying race.
Davison was further disadvantaged by electing to start the Sunday race himself (while other teams started with co-drivers), forcing co-driver John McIntyre to deal with a safety car period early in his stint.
Only two safety car periods were called during the 161 lap race, following incidents where both Allan Simonsen and Taz Douglas forced drivers into the Turn 9 gravel.
Russell Ingall failed to continue his dream run of late, though his pairing with former F1 driver Christian Klien steadily improved throughout the weekend, placing 20th in the first qualifying race, 15th in the second, before finishing 10th on the Sunday.
Sandown also marked the return of championship veteran Greg Murphy following back surgery, but paired with Owen Kelly their #51 Commodore had a lacklustre weekend, finishing 22nd, 26th and 27th across the three races.
After the weekend’s three points races, Whincup’s championship lead now sits at 32 points ahead of Mark Winterbottom.
Freshly third-placed Lowndes now sits just 87 points behind Winterbottom, while Will Davison now trails Lowndes by 117 points.
The 2012 V8 Supercar Championship will continue with the iconic Bathurst 1000 race in three weeks.
Top Ten V8 Supercar Championship Series Race 20 results - Sandown 500
- Craig Lowndes/Warren Luff
- Mark Winterbottom/Steven Richards
- Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell
- Garth Tander/Nick Percat
- Shane Van Gisbergen/Luke Youlden
- David Reynolds/Dean Canto
- Tim Slade/Andrew Thompson
- Lee Holdsworth/Craig Baird
- James Courtney/Cameron McConville
- Jonathon Webb/Scott McLaughlin
Top Ten V8 Supercar Championship Points Standings
- Jamie Whincup, 2472 pts.
- Mark Winterbottom, 2440 pts.
- Craig Lowndes, 2353 pts.
- Will Davison, 2236 pts.
- Shane Van Gisbergen, 1882 pts.
- Garth Tander, 1764 pts.
- Tim Slade, 1662 pts.
- Fabian Coulthard, 1541 pts.
- Lee Holdsworth, 1449 pts.
- David Reynolds, 1404 pts.
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