Craig Lowndes took his first win of the 2012 V8 Supercars season, passing team-mate Jamie Whincup with two laps to go in a strategy intense second race at Hidden Valley.
Ford Performance Racing dominated qualifying with all three of the cars run by the team locking out the top three spots on the grid, whilst the two Triple Eight Holdens of Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes qualified in fourth and sixth respectively.
At the start, Michael Caruso stalled the Garry Rogers Motorsport Holden which was in fifth on the grid, but was miraculously avoided by the rest of the field, though the 29-year-old dropped far down the order.
Davison held the lead on the first lap, but was passed by team-mate Mark Winterbottom on lap two. That move turned out to be a pivotal moment, with the only safety car of the race called on lap eight after Brad Jones Racing’s Jason Bright and Kelly Racing’s David Russell made contact at the final corner. Russell took heavy damage and was out of the race, whilst behind the safety car the majority of the field opted to pit, including both the FPR cars.
This meant Davison was forced to queue behind team-mate Winterbottom, which lost him five spots in the pit sequence alone. Triple Eight opted for an alternative strategy and didn’t pit either of their drivers.
After the restart, Winterbottom was quick to work his way forward on his fresher soft tyres, moving up from fifth into the lead within four laps, passing the two Triple Eight cars.
Lowndes pitted on lap 24 with Whincup pitting two laps later, both switching to the soft tyres. Lowndes appeared to look after his tyres more than his team-mate during the middle stint of the race and was able to pit later than his team-mate, both pitting on laps 46 and 47 respectively.
Michael Caruso managed to extend the life of his softs all the way to lap 42 after having pitted behind the safety car on lap nine. This brought Caruso right into contention at the front of the pack despite having stalled at the start, with the leaders having to adjust their strategy to ensure they came out ahead of the Garry Rogers Motorsport driver.
Winterbottom pitted on lap 48, rejoining behind Whincup but ahead of Caruso. Will Davison managed to hold out longest of all to pit on lap 53, and though he dropped to ninth, he was able to move forward with his newer tyres to pass David Reynolds, Michael Patrizi and Garth Tander to finish in sixth place.
Lowndes began a late push forward with 15 laps to go, passing Michael Caruso for third on lap 55, then getting ahead of Mark Winterbottom’s Ford four laps later, diving down the inside at Turn 1. Lowndes then closed down on team-mate Whincup, with the two Triple Eight cars pulling a gap of 10 seconds from third place Winterbottom.
With no team orders at play, other than to “not blow their tyres or each other off”, according to Team Principal Roland Dane, Lowndes charged past Whincup at Turn 6 two laps from the end, and went on to take his first win since Homebush in December, securing a 1-2 for Triple Eight at Hidden Valley.
Whincup’s second place with Davison finishing sixth sees the 29-year-old extend his lead in the standings to 38 points over Davison, with Mark Winterbottom just 49 points behind and Lowndes trailing in fourth, 247 points back.
The next round of the 2012 V8 Supercars Championship is at Townsville, Queensland in three weeks time.