TeamVodafone is eagerly anticipating the return of the Dick Smith Sandown 500 to the V8 Supercar calendar this weekend, with both cars looking to pick up where the team left off in 2007.
Then, it was Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup who teamed up for a popular victory, but in 2012 they’ll take on the task with their own accomplished co-drivers.
Lowndes will be joined by Warren Luff, with Whincup to share his seat with Paul Dumbrell.
The lineup is a formidable one and will give Brisbane-based TeamVodafone the best chance at recording its third victory at the event since it entered V8 Supercar competition.
In total, the team has won four of the last seven pre-Bathurst 500-kilometre races and has finished on the podium in the last seven pre-Bathurst 500km endurance races.
Lowndes, a four-time winner of the 500km race and twice a pole-sitter, said he was looking forward to pairing up with Luff for the event’s return to Sandown.
“Firstly I’m excited to have the 500 back at Sandown, it is the traditional home of the race,” said Lowndes.
“I love this time of year, which is evident in my results. I enjoy the endurance races the most because of the team effort, the co-driver pairings and everything working in sync for the race.
“I’m really looking forward to driving with Warren this weekend and hopefully coming out with a strong result for the championship,” he added.
A two-time V8 Ute Champion, Luff has experience as Lowndes’ teammate in the dual-driver Bathurst 12 Hour GT race and was excited to join TeamVodafone for their endurance campaign.
“I’m very excited to be joining Craig and TeamVodafone,” Luff said. “Craig is having a great season and with the team being one of the strongest in pit lane, we will be aiming to win and help Craig's championship.
“It’s exciting to be going back to Sandown the traditional home of the 500. It's a track I have always enjoyed and finished 3rd with Steve Johnson in 04.”
Qualifying lap-record holder Whincup has tasted success in the recent sprint races at the Melbourne circuit, and is looking to convert this form to a win alongside Dumbrell.
The TeamVodafone driver is also the fastest man to ever lap Sandown in a V8 Supercar, setting the qualifying lap record in 2009 of 1.09.6670.
“I haven’t had success in the 500 race since 2007,” Whincup admitted. “I’ve always had good speed but never got it together, so I’m looking forward to turning that around this weekend.
“Paul (Dumbrell) and I had a cracker battle in a sprint race a few years back at Sandown which he won so I’m happy to have him in my corner this time round.”
Sandown is Dumbrell’s home track, and is the site of his only V8 Supercar race win and pole position.
“Sandown is a track of which I have fond memories,” Dumbrell said. “I took my first pole position and V8 Supercar win in 2010 but I return in a different role in 2012, supporting Jamie.
“After spending nine months out of a full-time V8 Supercar drive, I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel. I haven’t lost the passion, and cant wait to assist Jamie.”
The Dick Smith Sandown 500 will play a crucial part in the 2012 V8 Supercar Championship.
Whincup currently leads the way by a single point, while Lowndes’ form surge has him sitting solid in fourth, just 154 points behind his teammate.