Stokell and Tratt bring Lamborghini home to thrilling Sandown 500 victory.
Lamborghini drivers Paul Stokell and Anthony Tratt won the 35th Sandown 500 motor race today, holding off the Porsche of Jim Richards and Tony Quinn by less than three seconds in an exciting finish at Sandown International Motor Raceway in Melbourne.
The Lamborghini led for the final 53 laps of the 161-lap event, but in a classic drive Richards pushed Stokell to the limit as he slashed the gap from around 100 sec. to just 2.89 sec. across the line.
John Bowe, last year's winner, and Steve Beards finished third in a Ferrari, but they were more than a lap down and seemed unable to match the speed of the leaders.
Victory was sweet for Melbourne-based Team Lamborghini Australia, which had spent many hours on Friday night repairing the Diablo after Tratt spun it into a safety barrier during practice.
"We've missed out on the Nations Cup championship this year, we didn't finish the Sandown 500 last year and we came close to disaster on Friday, so winning today is a real thrill," Stokell said.
"I couldn't have driven any harder at the end, but the car felt like it would have done it all again.
"This was a great result for our team, who worked so hard to fix the car on Friday."
The result might have been different if Quinn's handover to Richards at lap 108 had not gone badly wrong.
Richards and then Quinn had led from the start of the race, but a jammed wheel nut during the stop cost the team almost one and a half laps.
When Richards rejoined the race he threw himself into the thrilling fight back, frequently trading fastest laps with the Stokell and also helped by a safety period at lap 132 which brought the field together.
"We needed another 15 laps and a lot of traffic to help us catch the Lamborghini, although we got pretty close," Richards said.
Quinn praised his co-driver.
"Jim was superb today. He drove that car flat out and to get so close afer being so far back was a tremendous achievement."
Although the safety was brought out three times while stranded cars were removed, the race was run without major incident and in dry weather.
Peter Fitzgerald and Matthew Coleman came home a steady fourth in a Porsche, ahead of the two Ferraris of Paul Morris/John Teulan and Sam Newman/Scott Shearman. However, the fourth PHR Scueria Ferrari of Brad Jones/Maher Algadri retired on lap 93 with engine failure.
Newman started the race from an unaccustomed pole position but was overwhelmed before the first corner by Richards and some of the other faster cars.
The favoured Chrysler Viper of D'arcy Russell and Darren Palmer was the last runner on track but not classified as a finisher after spending 79 laps in the pits for driveline repairs.
Graham Alexander and John Woodberry, in a Mitsubishi Lancer, finished first in the GT Performance class and seventh outright, although 14 laps short of the leaders.
James Philip and Ken Talbert came 16th to win the GT Production Car class in a Honda S2000.
Some teams used today's long-distance race as a shakedown for the Bathurst 24-Hour event on November 16-17, but they will also compete in the next round of the PROCAR Champ Series at Phillip Island, Victoria, in two weeks.
Sandown 500 (161 laps)
1. P.Stokell (Vic.)/A. Tratt (Vic.) Lamborghini Diablo GTR
2. T. Quinn (Qld)/J. Richards (Vic.) Porsche GT3 Cup
3. J. Bowe (Vic.)/S. Beards (Vic.) Ferrari 360 GT (160 laps)
4. P. Fitzgerald (Vic.)/M.Coleman (Vic.) Porsche GT3 Cup (158 laps)
5. P. Morris (Qld)/J. Teulan (Qld) Ferrari 360 Challenge (155 laps)
6. S. Newman (Vic.)/S.Shearman (Vic.) Ferrari 360 Challenge (153 laps)
GT Performance - G.Alexander (Vic.)/J. Woodberry (Tas.) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V (147 laps)
GT Production Car - J. Philip (Vic.)/K. Talbert (Vic.) Honda S2000 (133 laps)
Fastest lap - J. Richards 1 min. 13.87 sec.