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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