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Bright and frosty at Sandown

 

Two of the expected star combos were on the Australian V8 Supercar podium for the first of the endurance races, at Melbourne’s Sandown Park, last Sunday.

Toll HSV Holden Commodore drivers, brother Rick and Todd Kelly, were on the second step; front row starters, Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup, were on the third after a storming fightback drive by Lowndes in the Betta Electrical Ford Falcon.

But atop the podium were Jason Bright and relative newcomer Mark Winterbottom with the Ford Performance Racing Falcon.

FPR is nominally the top Falcon squad, an offshoot of Ford Australia itself, but it’s been away from the top step of a V8 Supercar podium since 2003.

The Kellys had tried hard to demote it, Rick charging at Bright in the closing laps, but coming up short.

“It was a long time coming,” Bright said of the win. “I’ve said for a while now I would give up a bit of the bad luck to win one of these two (the endurance races at Sandown and Bathurst).”

This time last year, Winterbottom (whose nickname is Frosty) was languishing at the tail of the field.

“Last year I was battling for survival to turn up at Indy (the Supercar races at the Australian Champ Car round at Surfers Paradise) and this year I win the race.”

Holden went to Sandown with a driver pairing strategy aimed at helping its drivers’ championship chances and minimising Lowndes’.

The Lion brand teamed Toll HSV driver Tander with Mark Skaife in a Holden Racing Team (HRT) Commodore, and placed regular HRT pilot Todd Kelly with his younger brother Rick in a Toll Holden.

Tander had qualified on pole, but made a poor start and spent the opening laps chasing Max Wilson’s Falcon. Once past, Tander closed in on and overtook Whincup who had started on the front row and simply run off into the distance.

After Tander hit the front, he dominated with a brilliant double stint before handing over to Skaife.

Then he had looked on in horror as a steering problem caused Skaife to pit on lap 121, the HRT Commodore heading to the garage for running repairs.
Tander and Skaife finished 26th, and Tander dropped to fourth in the championship.

The HRT problem left Rick Kelly in the race lead and fighting a ferocious battle with Bright.Bright passed him on the startline on lap 139, just as Lowndes took third by passing Brad Jones’ BOC Falcon.

“I was really focused this morning to do a good job for Rick,” said Todd Kelly. “After qualifying I was pretty disappointed, so I went away and did a bit of thinking about it to make sure I did a good job today.”

Lowndes produced a stunning drive back up the order after a brake pad problem cost him a lot of time early in the race.

Dick Johnson Racing’s Will Davison and Steve Johnson finished fourth in their Falcon, with Team BOC’s John Bowe and Brad Jones fifth. Dean Canto and
Lee Holdsworth were sixth in their Garry Rogers Motorsport Commodore, and New Zealander Craig Baird and Aussie Jason Bargwanna were seventh in their WPS Racing Ford.

Lowndes leads the championship from Rick Kelly, and Winterbottom has moved into third, ahead of Tander. 


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