Triple Eight’s triple treat on the podium
Red Bull Holden Racing duo Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell romped to victory in the Sandown 500 yesterday, cashing in on their superior pace to lead home a Triple Eight Racing podium.
Shane van Gisbergen and co-driver Earl Bamber, on his Supercars debut for Red Bull’s other combination, improved to second and boosted the series leader’s championship hopes.
Veterans Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards (Autobarn Lowndes Racing) rounded out Triple Eight’s first 1-2-3 since a sprint race win at Queensland Raceway two years ago. In a dull start to the Enduro Cup, car No.1 cruised to a success that looked likely from Friday’s first practice session.
Dumbrell trashed Whincup’s long-running lap record on his first spin around the Melbourne circuit, showing the awesome pace of their ZB Commodore.
Whincup took his own record back in qualifying, when only an overly cautious decision to put on wet tyres cost them pole position.
That didn’t matter yesterday, when Dumbrell jumped polesitter David Reynolds’ co-driver Luke Youlden from the line.
The pair were never headed for effective control, claiming a third Sandown victory by almost seven seconds.
“I couldn’t be happier, the car’s been awesome all weekend,” Whincup said.
Whincup’s win was his fourth in the Sandown 500 — he won with Lowndes in 2007 — while van Gisbergen’s race-day resurgence headed off a hit to his title hopes. The Kiwi was off the pace at the home of horsepower until yesterday, when Bamber improved from his 11th-placed start and van Gisbergen did the rest.
“What a privilege to drive these cars with the Red Bull Holden Racing Team,” van Gisbergen said. “They gave us some rockets today.”
His chief rival for the title, countryman Scott McLaughlin, finished fourth.
Van Gisbergen’s lead is 55 points with four rounds left.
Storm clouds that provided drama on Saturday cleared, and even the notorious turn six — possibly Australia’s most dangerous Supercars corner — didn’t cause any serious issue.
Early safety cars because of bungles by Dean Fiore and Jason Bright made no difference to the outcome. McLaughlin and the rest of the field were never in the contest, as the Red Bull team tuned up for Bathurst.
Race winners Paul Dumbrell, left, and Jamie Whincup rejoice after their Supercars victory at Sandown yesterday.