TEAM BETTA ELECTRICAL RECOVER STUNNING PODIUM POSITION AT SANDOWN
Team Betta Electrical has fought back from an entire lap down to take third place overall at today's Betta Electrical 500 from Sandown International Raceway.
Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup produced sensational individual efforts throughout the course of the 161-lap endurance showdown, headed off by a stunning breakaway lead as the race went green and concluding with an inspired drive from mid-pack into podium contention.
Whincup powered to the early advantage, gapping the field by a number of seconds as he settled into a strong race rhythm. The team was momentarily caught out as the first series of pit stops approached, unable to take advantage of a quick safety car period to complete the compulsory elements and having to endure a slow compulsory brake pad change.
Lowndes climbed aboard the #888 Team Betta Electrical Falcon with a seemingly impossible task on his hands, to drive the car out from obscurity a lap down in order to make ground on the race leaders.
With his strong championship lead under threat, Lowndes delivered a quick and calculated double-stint, picking off car after car to swiftly make his way back into the top 10.
The nature of the endurance race format often sees entrants separated by a number of laps, and Lowndes' charge back onto the lead lap was slowed significantly by backmarkers. Precious time was burned as he struggled to find a way through the traffic, having to overdrive the car in order to complete a number of passing moves.
Lowndes powered easily into podium contention in the dying stages, but the margin to race leader Jason Bright and second-placed Rick Kelly was simply too large to overcome.
"It's really pleasing to finish on the podium today considering the situation we were in after the first pit stop, we went down a lap and the boys told me to just push on to try to work on the gap," said Lowndes.
"The car had good pace and was well balanced in the middle stage which allowed me to make up quite a bit of ground, and a safety car period, which had worked against us at the start of the race, then worked back in our favour."
"It became quite hard to pass on the lead lap, the top car were separated by a number of backmarkers and I was becoming quite frustrated in my attempts to pass some of them."
"We pushed hard but in the end there were still around 6 or 7 cars to Rick (Kelly) and it was then a matter of recording a strong bag of championship points and maintaining third place on the podium."
"Jamie did a fantastic job to start the race and really held his own out there, I'm pleased to be going into Bathurst with a such a strong teammate sharing the driving duties."
Lowndes collected a valuable 300 points from today's round 8 clash, helping him to maintain a 37-point buffer over Holden's Rick Kelly.
Jamie Whincup played an instrumental role in delivering the team its impressive third place finish, and made valuable gains in his own championship charge.
Whincup capably completed the opening 60 laps of the 161-lap race, and did not put a foot wrong as he battled for the lead with the early weekend pacesetter Holden's Garth Tander.
The result sees him climb two rungs of the highly-competitive series ladder into 5th position, with a tally of 1724 points.
"It was a good view from the start line and I was determined to make a good start, the car got away well and I was able to hold the lead for around 15 laps which was indicative of how good the car was to drive," said Whincup.
"I had to be conservative in the early stages as I know I'm playing a big role in keeping Craig's strong championship lead, so it was disappointing to lose out when the first round of pit stops came around."
"I'm both surprised and very pleased to be up on the podium today, once again it is an indication that we have a very fast race car which is capable of pulling off the necessary passing moves -- without this we would have probably finished mid-pack."
"I was particularly encouraged to find out I had climbed back into the championship top 5, it has been a strong couple of rounds for us and hopefully this momentum will continue over to Bathurst."
Team Betta Electrical's second car pairing of Allan Simonsen and Richard Lyons produced a solid effort in their first endurance outing together, finishing just a few laps from the lead in 17th place.
While unable to make any inroads on their starting position -- they had also qualified 17th -- the duo was able to gain a good feel for the car and take away valuable racing experience which will aid their Bathurst campaign in just over a month's time.
Lyons made his presence felt throughout his time on track, and the V8 Supercar rookie was not afraid to take the fight for position right to rival competitors.
Simonsen lapped consistently during his time aboard the #88 Falcon, and both drivers will take away the knowledge from this weekend to further adapt the car to their liking.
The race was won by Ford pairing Jason Bright and Mark Winterbottom, with Holden's Rick Kelly and Todd Kelly claiming second place on the dais ahead of Lowndes and Whincup.
Team Betta Electrical maintains its assertive stance as the series' dominant Ford team, sitting comfortably in second place in the V8 Supercar Teams Championship. The team will return to its Queensland base to regroup ahead of next month's Bathurst 1000, an event that is sure to prove pivotal in the drivers championship.