Last weekend heralded the start of the three-race Pirtek Enduro Cup and this year’s Sandown 500 endurance classic, almost always a brilliant pre-cursor to the Bathurst 1000, was no exception as the opening round got off to a dramatic and action-packed start. Mixed conditions, a time certain finish and mistakes from experienced racers made it a race to remember in a round where Supercars celebrated its history with a retro revival at the Melbourne suburban circuit.
- Garth Tander and Warren Luff put HRT’s problems behind them to take out the first Pirtek Enduro Cup race despite the tricky conditions. The pair made a relatively faultless run to the flag, even overcoming a random aerodynamic disadvantage after the passenger side front guard ripped off at high speed. Luff’s stint was consistent and Tander did what he needed to do to win his first race in over 70 starts, as well as his first at Sandown. The reigning Enduro Cup champions are off to a good start in defending their title.
- Shane van Gisbergen and Alex Prémat silenced their doubters by taking second place in the 500 kilometre classic, coming close to winning after the Kiwi hunted down the #2 machine, thwarted only by the time-certain finish. Under scrutiny heading in to the endurance rounds, Prémat performed well and kept the #97 on the black stuff in adverse conditions. Handing the car over to van Gisbergen, the Red Bull driver closed the race like he was on rails, gaining nearly a second a lap on the leading car. He now leads the championship after his team-mate’s costly mistakes during the race.
- Will Davison and Jono Webb were able to put the woes of Saturday’s qualifying races for the grid behind them as they secured the final podium position. Standing up to a heavy fight at the end of the race from the #33 Volvo and #55 Ford and nursing a broken header, Davison was able to retain his third place. Webb did enough in the wet and slippery conditions to stay on track and importantly hand over the car in straight shape. Davison showed that he still has fight and will be pushing to win more this season. With nothing to lose and everything to play for, the #19 Tekno car can’t be written off for having a shot at Bathurst glory.
- James Golding had the fright of a lifetime when the #34 Volvo had a big case of the straight-aheads on the opening lap, putting him in to the turn five tyre barrier and luckily not vaulting the fence. After minor contact with the #22, the right front tyre lost pressure heading up the back straight, causing a lock-up when he hit the brakes. Ending up nose first into the barriers at 149km/h, Golding was lucky to be unhurt. But after an impressive qualifying effort, main driver James Moffat is unlucky as ever. His season is going even further downhill as he fights to prove he has more than one race win in him.
- Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell had one of those days. After an average start then being in a position to capitalise, Dumbrell made his first mistake with the team by illegally taking off this seat-belt before coming to a stop in the pit box. Whincup then made his own errors and Dumbrell’s drive-through penalty didn’t help the cause. Going in to the round with a 130+ point lead, he left Sandown behind team-mate van Gisbergen in the championship standings, and will be hoping for redemption at Bathurst in his quest for a seventh Supercars title.
- Mark Winterbottom and Dean Canto will be using the rest of the Enduro Cup to go for broke after an appalling day in Melbourne. After putting in a great drive in the wet on slick tyres, Canto was just a lap away from completing his minimum required laps when he went off at turn four, going a lap down and to the back of the pack. There wasn’t much that the reigning series champion could do as the #1 Falcon dropped laps down the order, effectively using the racing as a test day. Now more than a round down in points to the leader, Winterbottom will be going all out at Bathurst to get his second win at the mountain.
Next up is the race everyone wants to win, the SuperCheap Auto Bathurst 1000. Celebrating 10 years of the Peter Brock trophy, this year’s 1000km battle on the mountain is the culmination of four days of action at the awesome Mt. Panorama circuit.