Lowndes, Muller Take Sandown Win

Craig Lowndes and Yvan Muller have won the Betta Electrical 500 at Sandown Raceway in changing weather conditions

Lowndes, Muller Take Sandown Win

Lowndes and Muller looked strong at the start of the race before rain shook up the order. But Lowndes capitalised on a wounded Mark Skaife in the closing laps to take the win at the first of the two endurance races.

Mark Skaife and Todd Kelly's second place followed on from a win at the same event in similar conditions two years ago, while third place for Jason Richards and Jamie Whincup was a superb performance for the Tasman Motorsport duo.

Usual frontrunners Russell Ingall, paired with Luke Youlden, and Marcos Ambrose, paired with Warren Luff, suffered as weather conditions didn't fall their way, Ambrose also suffering from overheating problems, Ingall finishing seventh and Ambrose twelfth.

Another of the frontrunners, Steven Richards, also had a bad day after suffering a flat tyre when teammate Paul Dumbrell was at the wheel in the early laps. While the positions at the top of the points remain similar, the gaps have closed up.

In the opening laps Lowndes opened a commanding gap over the rest of the field, headed by Rick Kelly with Russell Ingall, Marcos Ambrose, Todd Kelly and Paul Weel combined. An early pace car period did little to change things, apart from temporarily bunching the field together.

Rain began to fall just after most of the leaders had made their first pit stops, jumbling up the order as teams decided whether they could stay out on slicks or not.

Despite pitting just as the rain got a little heavier and taking slicks, the lead Holden Racing Team car of Todd Kelly and Mark Skaife was the big winner, as they remained on slicks while other cars dived for wets, with Jason Richards/Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes/Yvan Muller completing the top three just after half distance.

Eventually the conditions forced Skaife to pit for wets, doing so on lap 95. Such was Skaife's lead that he came back onto the track still leading, but at turn one he understeered wide into a lapped car and lost time, allowing Muller to take the lead down the back straight.

Skaife hung right on Muller's tail and retook the lead when he handed over to Lowndes on lap 113. Now it was Murphy's turn to charge towards the front, passing Lowndes and closing on Skaife in the run up to his own stop on lap 140 of 161. But just as things were looking rosy for Murphy, he was out of the race the next lap with engine problems.

Meanwhile, the focus returned to Skaife in the lead. Could he stretch his fuel to the end, and more importantly, would the front splitter, which had been flapping for several laps, and was now broken, last until the end?

As the laps wound down, Skaife's lead over Lowndes reduced two seconds per lap. Six laps to go and Lowndes was on Skaife's tail. After a couple of unsuccessful moves, Lowndes took the lead with four laps to go heading into turn one.

Skaife then took a precautionary pit stop to make sure he made it to the end on fuel without losing a position as Lowndes and Muller went on to take the win as the rain worsened once more, ahead of Skaife and Todd Kelly, with Jason Richards and Jamie Whincup rounding out the top three.

Result of Betta Electrical 500, Sandown International Raceway:

Pos Driver Car Laps 1. Craig Lowndes/Yvan Muller Ford Falcon BA 161 2. Todd Kelly/Mark Skaife Holden Commodore VZ 161 3. Jason Richards/Jamie Whincup Holden Commodore VZ 161 4. Rick Kelly/Garth Tander Holden Commodore VZ 161 5. Steven Ellery/Adam Macrow Ford Falcon BA 161 6. David Brabham/Jason Bright Ford Falcon BA 160 7. Russell Ingall/Luke Youlden Ford Falcon BA 160 8. Paul Morris/Paul Radisich Holden Commodore VZ 160 9. John Bowe/Brad Jones Ford Falcon BA 160 10. Cameron McConville/Andrew Jones Holden Commodore VZ 160 11. James Courtney/Jim Richards Holden Commodore VZ 159 12. Marcos Ambrose/Warren Luff Ford Falcon BA 159 13. Dean Canto/Glenn Seton Ford Falcon BA 159 14. Steven Richards/Paul Dumbrell Holden Commodore VY 159 15. Cameron McLean/Greg Ritter Ford Falcon BA 159 16. Jason Bargwanna/Mark Winterbottom Ford Falcon BA 158 17. Alex Davison/Alan Simonsen Holden Commodore VZ 158 18. Will Davison/Steven Johnson Ford Falcon BA 158 19. Craig Baird/David Besnard Ford Falcon BA 158 20. Lee Holdsworth/Philip Scifleet Holden Commodore VZ 157 21. Dale Brede/John Cleland Ford Falcon BA 157 22. Marcus Marshall/Alex Tagliani Ford Falcon BA 157 23. Steve Owen/Matthew White Ford Falcon BA 156 24. Jose Fernandez/Damien White Ford Falcon BA 153 25. Anthony Tratt/Tony Evangelou Holden Commodore VY 153 26. Matthew Coleman/Christian D'Agostin Holden Commodore VY 152 DNF Fabian Coulthard/Tony D'Alberto Holden Commodore VZ 156 DNF Greg Murphy/Paul Weel Holden Commodore VZ 140 DNF Alain Menu/Mathew Halliday Ford Falcon BA 116 DNF Mark Noske/Tim Leahey Holden Commodore VZ 113 DNF Owen Kelly/Nathan Pretty Holden Commodore VZ 86 DNF Alan Gurr Holden Commodore VZ 55 DNF Mark Porter Holden Commodore VZ 41 
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