Sandown International Raceway will host round nine in this year's V8 Supercar championship and the first of the two driver combination endurance races, with the Sandown 500 this weekend, the traditional lead up to Australia's motorsports holy grail the Bathurst 1000 at Mount Panorama.
The Sandown classic has been one of the great races in Australian motorsport, a time honoured event with a list of past winners reading like a who's who of Aussie motorsport. All the legendary touring car drivers this country has produced appear on the Sandown honour board, the late great Peter Brock (9 wins) Alan Moffat (6 victories) Jim Richards, Mark Skaife, Larry Perkins and Dick Johnson all with multiple victories have graced the victory dais at the premier Victorian circuit.
Designed around the famous horse racing track, the 3.1Klm Springvale circuit has produced exciting tin top racing and high drama over the years, particularly in early spring in Melbourne where the weather can change as quickly as a rise in the price of petrol, the locals will tell you if you don't like the weather at the moment, hang around for ten minutes things will change.Teams have to be on their toes for these critical moments and the intervening pace car periods that frequent long distance races these days.
Fast and furious with top end speed a major requisite and the appropriate race strategy will play a major roll, as will picking the right time to make the crucial pit stops, get these wrong and any winning opportunity or podium finish that presents itself in the 500 Klm enduro will evaporate, such is the nature of V8 Supercar racing these days.
Sandown and Bathurst throws up another difficult choice for teams with the first of the co-driver races for the year, teams think long and hard on some of the driver combinations, with some teams keeping both regular drivers in the one car or splitting the seasoned combination and drafting in overseas stars or drivers from the second tier Supercar Fujitsu series to fill the vacant seat.
Two time series champion Glenn Seton will make history when he fronts up to Sandown for his first ever outing in a race Commodore over his 25 year career.Seton will share the Holden race teams second VE with enduro specialist Nathan Pretty.John Bowe is set to celebrate 35 years of racing and his last lap around the famed Melbourne circuit in a V8 Supercar, Bowe the then aspiring Tasmanian race driver had his first race on the Australian mainland at Sandown when he first ventured across Bass Strait in April 1972.
Ford will be looking to make it four straight wins in the time honoured classic with Jason Bright and Mark Winterbottom scoring an upset win for Ford performance racing in 2006.Brisbane-based Bathurst champions Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup have fond memories of the 2005 event in which the lead Falcon cruised to a popular win, Lowndes in particular will be looking to claw his way back into championship contention after a strong test session at Ipswich Raceway during the week, after an ordinary round at Oran Park.
Reigning Supercar champion Rick Kelly and series leader and team-mate Garth Tander in the Toll racing commodores have the form on the board at the moment, along with the HRT team pair of veteran Mark Skaife and Todd Kelly who look most likely of the Holden teams to end the Ford domination at the Springvale circuit.
Jason Bright, the Dick Johnson pair of Steve Johnson and Will Davidson, the Stone brothers combination of Russell Ingall and James Courtney and endurance specialist Greg Murphy and team-mate Jason Richards will all look likely podium candidates at some stage.
Endurance races are never easy to conquer.Victory on Sunday will need optimum driver skill, clever pit strategy and a fast and reliable Aussie Supercar, occasionally lady luck will need to take a ride in the passenger seat to gain a place on the Sandown honour board.
-credit: SC Media