Triple 888 wins action packed Sandown 500

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Triple 888 wins action packed Sandown 500

Triple 888 Racing yesterday took the chequered flag at the Betta Electrical 500 at Sandown in Victoria. Lead driver Craig Lowndes who got off the line ahead of Rick Kelly in the HSV Commodore set about establishing a handy lead for his French ...

Triple 888 Racing yesterday took the chequered flag at the Betta Electrical 500 at Sandown in Victoria. Lead driver Craig Lowndes who got off the line ahead of Rick Kelly in the HSV Commodore set about establishing a handy lead for his French co-driver Yvan Muller, but that was soon whittled away when the WPS safety car ventured onto the circuit for the one and only time during an action packed race.

Craig Lowndes continues to stretch his lead.
Photo by John Maricic.
Lowndes again set out building a 20 second lead and when he pitted Muller took the controls of the Betta Electrical backed Ford. Coming to grips with the car took some time and after that Muller looked at home behind the wheel of a V8 Supercar, something totally different to the Astra Sports Hatch he races in the British Touring Car Championship. He later commented that "at least I did not crash, I did not have time to enjoy the race, when the rain came I was so focused. I had no experience of these cars, these tyres and these conditions".

Lowndes and Muller didn't have it all their own way with Mark Skaife in the Holden Racing Team Commodore taking the lead at three quarter race distance on slicks despite several showers mid race, but damage to the front spoiler and a "splash and dash" with three laps to go cost him and team mate Todd Kelly the win. Skaife admitted that he was a passenger and that he "didn't have the tools to fight back".

Series leader and two time champion Marcos Ambrose remained in contention for the majority of the race but damage to the front end resulted in co- driver Warren Luff pitting several times for an overheating engine.

Regular team mate Russell Ingall in the second Stone Bros Racing Ford could only manage 7th spot after being forced in for an early pit stop which left Luke Youlden one lap down, and The Enforcer himself was penalised with a "stop/go" for clashing with fellow Ford and Betta Electrical driver Steven Ellery.

Through the dog leg.
Photo by John Maricic.
Greg Murphy in the Super Cheap Auto Holden lead the race for several laps towards the end of the enduro and dropped back to 3rd spot with some 20 laps to run before blowing an engine. The Kiwi parked the 51 car in the garage, much to the disappointment of the team.

The surprise packet of the weekend was ironically the DoDo Racing Team of fellow Kiwi Jason Richards and Jamie Whincup, managed by Murphy's father, who took 3rd place on the podium after crossing the line ahead of pole sitters Garth Tander and Rick Kelly.

One driver that did not compete in the enduro was Simon Wills who crashed and rolled the Team Dynamik Holden at over 200kph during the morning warm up session. Cold tyres were to blame and the car is considered a write off, placing the team in some doubt for the Bathurst 1000. If there is any consolation, Wills was cleared by doctors of any serious injury.

After winning three rounds of the Championship Lowndes still sits 4th in the standings and needs a miracle to take the title. Then again after becoming the first driver to win Sandown in a Holden and now a Ford he has every opportunity of repeating the feat at Bathurst in October and with Muller set to partner him again, he also can make history by being the first foreigner to take the quinella.

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Series V8SUPERCARS