Motorsport Monday: The Sandown 500

“I felt a great disturbance in the force, as if millions of voices cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.”

Track: Sandown Raceway

Of course, this will be the last 500km Enduro at Sandown, with the race moving to The Bend next year.

The news has come in thick and fast since the Gold Coast, as Scott Pye is leaving Walkinshaw, Simona De Silvestro will finish up her Supercars career, Dunlop are staying on for another 5 years…

And of course, we had the sad news on Friday morning about the passing of Mike Raymond, the man whose voice helped bring the ATCC and the Bathurst 1000 to life throughout the 70s, 80s and early 90s, keeping Channel 7 audiences captivated through his many chats to the likes of Peter, Dick, Larry as they piloted around Mount Panorama via RaceCam, and of course, he played a role in formulating the rules for the 5L V8s back in ’93, which led to the birth of V8 Supercars.

In tribute, I’ll give you one of Mike’s many great moments- When a Camaro got put in the wall during a Golden Oldies race at Amaroo Park, and Mike could only crack a mention of Don McLean’s American Pie.

“He put the Chevy in the levy!”

Of course, with this being the annual Retro Round, the teams came up with some absolute pearler liveries from yesteryear.


Erebus with the old John Player BMW liveries that Jim Richards won several titles with during the ’80s, Bob Morris’ 1979 ATCC winning livery on the Tekno Commodore, the Allan Moffat Trans-Am Mustang livery (Which I’d touched on earlier last week), the old OzEmail liveries on the BJR cars, the Kyle Busch 2004 NASCAR title winning livery thanks to Irwin, and the 1999 HRT liveries on the Walkinshaw cars.

After the news about Mike Raymond came through, Tekno updated their livery to include a tribute to him, with a few other teams following suit.

Other than that, it felt like the Retro Round theme was a bit of a letdown, considering the Fox Sports crew and most of the teams didn’t really bother dressing up for it as they had in previous years.

Saturday- Race 28 and 29

With the rain bearing down ahead of Qualifying for the Qualifying races, basically every driver went out early trying to bank a quick lap, which caused the provisional order to go flying around in something akin to a green light display.

It was utterly furious- One minute, Mark Winterbottom was on top, the next, he was down in 19th, one minute Rick Kelly jumped up to the Top 5… the next, he was 25th.

In the fast changing track conditions, it went from 1.15s to Jamie Whincup posting a 1.07.915, as rain started teeming down with 13 minutes to go, causing every driver to give up and wait for conditions to change.

10 minutes later, drivers went back out, the grip improved rapidly, and Scotty McLaughin timed his last run to perfection to fire in a 1.07.7736, beating Jamie Whincup’s best time by 0.14 of a second, with Andre Heimgarner showing very good pace to finish 3rd, and thanks to the varying conditions, Gary bloody Jacobson in one of the other Altimas was 5th!

Race 28 (Co-Drivers Race, 20 Laps)

With it being a race for the co-drivers only, there were no points on offer, and the race would actually decide the grid order for Race 29….. which would decide the starting grid for the 500.

At the jump, Lowndes beat a slow-moving Premat to Turn 1, and Garth Tander made it a Red Bull 1-2, and Bryce Fullwood made a kamikaze move that somehow stuck, despite him locking up and bouncing off the inside kerb, mainly thanks to Premat giving him the space and avoiding a crash.

Then the rain came, and with everyone on slicks, the adults would be separated from the ankle-biters.

Will Brown in 4th adapted best, passing Premat and then Fullwood to sit 3rd, while Fullwood was providing plenty of entertainment- On Lap 12, he flew off at Turn 1, and then pulled off a perfect 360 spin after the losing the car on the Turn 3 kerbs, somehow not hitting the barriers or Premat, who backed off and avoided a wipeout.

The big moment of the race came on Lap 14, when James Moffat made a pass on Premat at Turn 1, only to run wide, and as he came back on to the racing line, the car hit a bump, veered into his Tickford teammate Tom Randle, and 55 went for a massive grass surf straight out the other side!

A few corners later, we found out 55’s steering was ruined, and Moffat would prove the only retirement from the race.

That’s now 3 times in the last 4 rounds that the Tickford boys have collided… I’m still not sure why Tim Edwards hasn’t told the team to get rid of those magnets on their Mustangs.

Out in front though, it was all Lowndes, who won the race from a really impressive Brown, who passed Tander to claim 2nd, and Super2 champion Fullwood, driving Heimgartner’s No.7 Altima, finishing in 4th, and lowering the Sandown lap record prior to the rain falling.

Race 29 (20 Laps)

The main game drivers were racing for points (Only 50 for a win though) and grid position for tomorrow, and with the rain still hanging around, 13 drivers started on Wets, and 11 drivers gambled and started the race on dry tyres.

Predictably, they were the last 11 cars that finished.

After Whincup jumped best at the start, the pivotal moment of the race occurred several hundred metres later, when Van Gisbergen became preoccupied in blocking McLaughlin up his inside, only to lock up and clatter into Anton de Pasquale at Turn 1, spinning them both, and after getting going again, the Red Bull shut down at Dandenong Road, and he would retire without completing a lap.

And yet somehow, in a stupidly rushed decision, Race Control came to the conclusion that Anton was at fault for the simple act of turning in to the corner, and gave him a drive through penalty… despite Gizzy actually admitting he was at fault.

What an absolute arse-up from Tweedledee and ‘Tweedledumb’, aka Craig Baird and Tim Schenken up in Race Control.

Baird did apologise to Anton after the race, for the fact that he was, in simpleton’s terms, a complete and utter moronic dickhead who ruined his race.

For the record, he finished in 13th.

Other than that, it was an absolute romp to pole for the 500 for Whincup and Lowndes, with Heimgartner showing some nice promise again to start 2nd, Dave Reynolds in 3rd, the Davison boys in 4th, and the Shell DJR Penske cars from 5th and 6th.

Mostert recovered 16 places to finish in 9th, and thanks to that DNF, Van Gisbergen and Tander would start from the rear.

But, as circumstances would have it, Scotty was about to join his Kiwi contemporary….

Sunday Pre-Race

Apparently we’re not done with dealing with Bold And The Beautiful style developments from Bathurst 2019, as a CAMS investigation into McLaughlin’s engine from Qualifying at Mount Panorama found an unintentional technical breach in 5 cylinders.

One of the checks performed by Supercars Technical personnel of both the Q Engine and the R Engine was of the valve lift, which has a maximum limit prescribed in section 2.21 of the Engine Component Specification (ESD) for the Ford Boss 302 Engine of 0.710, as measured in the Engine.

The valve lift of the inlet valves in the Q Engine (but not of the R Engine) was measured by Supercars Technical personnel to exceed the Maximum Valve Lift of 0.710” in 5 cylinders (highest recorded measurement 0.7135).

So despite it being a breach of the rules, for reference, that’s roughly 0.0889mm out of whack… or in simple terms, absolutely no advantage whatsoever.

And the engine in question was changed for the race after the team found water in the oil.

DJR-Pesnke were fined $30,000, Car #17 was sent to the back of the grid, and that record-breaking Pole lap was ‘officially’ stricken from the record and given to Chaz Mostert.

So they knew the result of the examination after the Gold Coast, and then only decided to issue a penalty ON THE MORNING OF A RACE.

It’s no wonder some news outlets refer to the main game as the Supercars circus… because it’s run by clowns.

Still, it wasn’t the craziest moment of the morning… that was reserved for John Iafolla’s opening lap crash in the Toyota 86 series.

One more roll, and the crew of that Isuzu were having their funerals organised.

But, on one last cheerful note, it was Allan Moffat’s 80th birthday on Sunday!

Happy birthday to a deadset legend of Australian motorsport!

Race (161 laps)

Starting from 22nd, Scott Pye in Car #2 was the only main game driver to start the race, and in terms of the Championship, due to the race only paying 250 points for a win, McLaughlin only had to finish 24th to secure the title- In other words, just finish.

There was absolute chaos at the start, as Alex Davison stalled from 4th (Dropping to last), Will Brown stalled, and so did D’Alberto from 5th, but somehow, everyone missed them, and as the war began, Lowndes led from Fullwood and Youlden, and no, it wasn’t an optical illusion, the Kostecki wildcards were into 4th with Jack at the wheel!

The first of many incidents began when Youlden was bumped down from 3rd to 10th after Kostecki made a bungled pass at Dandenong Road, and on Lap 6, D’Alberto was spun at the last corner by Richard Muscat in #34 in a messy racing incident, but Tony continued and was soon back charging through the stragglers.

Tander was absolutely flying through the field, jumping up to 9th by Lap 20, and it was soon 6th as a result of several drivers pitting as early as Lap 16.

Fullwood pitted from 2nd on Lap 23, and re-emerged alongside the early-stopping Moffat and Jack Perkins, but his race was shattered when car #7 received a 15 second time penalty for exceeding the pit lane speed limit.

Lowndes and Randle pitted on Lap 25, leaving Jake Kostecki leading the race for a couple of laps before he pitted, and got absolutely thumped in the left rear by Chris Pither going in to his pit box!

On Lap 31, Dale Wood and Luke Youlden had an incredibly stupid collision down the back straight, as Wood had the overlap trying to pass Muscat ahead, but he was squeezed by the GRM car, showing no regard for his mirrors, and at the same time, Youlden went for an overlap that simply wasn’t there, he didn’t ease out of the throttle, and spun the Alitma into the fence, clipping the rear of the Erebus as it also cannoned into the fence, bringing out the first safety car of the race.

Both cars were mobilised and returned to pit lane, and the Kelly crew somehow got the #15 going again, but the #9 Erebus was damaged beyond repair, and retired without Dave Reynolds ever hopping in.

The race resumed on Lap 36, with Lowndes leading from Jack Perkins in #22, who was on an alternate strategy, and the chaos resumed straight away when Kostecki fired a pass on Michael Caruso at Turn 4, and bumped the Mustang straight into the the concrete, destroying its steering and putting Caruso and Cam Waters out of contention from a Top 10 spot.

I hope somebody got the dash cam footage and sent it in to the Dash Cam Owners Australia compilation for November.

Tickford got car 6 back out on the track, and Brodie had a message for Waters as he drove past him, after hearing some of Cam’s comments about their wildcard entry regarding the incident.

“I’m going for first, says John Cleland!”

Around this time, car #17, which was loitering in 17th with Premat still at the wheel, copped another hit, getting pinged 15 seconds for the DJR crew dropping the car while it was still being refueled- A pretty straightforward safety breach.

Tander’s charge through the field continued when he passed Perkins on Lap 45, moving him up to 2nd, and D’Alberto had also charged up to 3rd in the other Shell Mustang, in a seriously good drive that I thought was bound to end in disaster once Fabian Coulthard hopped in and ran over an imaginary black cat.

Erebus suffered another real bummer, when Brown was forced to pit on Lap 52, after having what appeared to be only a minor lock-up, but in actuality was shredding several bands of the front right tyre on the car, which was massively unlucky, because it was only 2 laps short of Brown completing the minimum distance required before de Pasquale could go to the end.

Eventually, the main game drivers started hopping in their cars, with Whincup replacing Lowndes on Lap 56, D’Alberto for Coulthard on Lap 57, and DJR Penske kept Premat out until Lap 64, and Scotty hopped in, re-emerging in a lonely 20th after serving the time penalty.

Tander wrapped up his super effort by pitting from the lead from Lap 72, and Van Gisbergen would go until the end, emerging in a clear 3rd behind Warren Luff (On the other of Walkinshaw’s alternate strategies), and of course, Jamie Whincup, who had a healthy lead thanks to Old Man Lowndes handing a paddling to the young whippersnappers.

As they hit half-race distance, Gizzy would clear Luff and make it a Red Bull 1-2, while McLaughlin was stuck down in 16th, a minute off the lead, realistically needing a Safety Car to get anywhere near the Top 5.

At this point, the race became a tad boring, as several drivers did the usual Jim’s Mowing gag at several parts of the track, mainly at Turns 1 & 2.

Whincup pitted on Lap 95, giving the lead to Gizzy, with McLaughlin up to 3rd thanks to everyone else pitting, until he came in Lap 98, and drop back down to 14th.

In all honesty, it was pretty damn lifeless viewing, given Red Bull had everyone bent over a barrel, but I suppose that’s what happens when you stockpile 4 previous series champs in your arsenal.

Gizzy would pit on Lap 106, coming back out some 10 seconds behind Whincup, but with differing strategies, that gap would dwindle to nothing through the remainder of the stint.

In all honesty, the fight for 3rd was more interesting at that point in time given the closeness between the Mustangs of Coulthard, Lee Holdsworth and Chaz Mostert, and despite Lee having the advantage of track position over his Tickford teammate, Mostert was low flying, having passed Pye for 5th, and was showing the best pace of the Non-Red Bull cars.

Chaz would eventually win that fight, and was on for a really solid podium in that Coca-Cola Moffat Trans-Am.

As the field reached the critical Lap 120 for fuel to the end and began making their final stops, McLaughlin made his final pit stop on Lap 128, and the Fox cameras showed the exhaust on Car #17 was bent, thanks to Premat’s battles in the early laps.

Still, he came back out in 11th, still doing exactly what he needed to do to wrap up the Championship.

de Pasquale had a scary moment fighting with Heimgartner on Lap 131, when he lost the car at Turn 6, in a manner that would usually result in a monster collision with the barriers, but thanks to the extended run-off this year, he continued with nothing but soiled underwear.

By Lap 134, Gizzy passed Whincup for the lead thanks to a mistake at Dandenong Road, although Jamie was coming straight in for his last stop, and #97 would come in on Lap 138, putting on a fresh new set of tyres to go to the end.

For those of you who still don’t understand Supercars and Shane’s driving style, that’s like letting a dog off the lead down at the park, and watching it go spastic due to happiness at being free.

As Whincup battled the traffic after returning to the road, Van Gisbergen re-emerged with a very healthy lead, and on fresh rubber, was about to absolutely go wild and, one would think he’d put away his first Sandown win.

The lead blew out past what appeared to be an unassailable 12 seconds, but, to paraphrase Murray Walker, anything can happen in motorsport… and in this case, it did.

On Lap 148, out of absolutely nowhere, disaster and utterly cruelty struck The Giz, as a bolt fell out of the right-rear corner of his Commodore, which caused the shock absorber to jam on the bottom suspension arm, and made the bodywork rub on the tyre!

In the words of the Kiwi, “The right rear’s ****ed!”

Given that tyre was a good chance of letting go at high speed, Gizzy eventually had to pit the car, and after the T8 crew managed to get the tyre off and inspect the damage, he dropped 2 laps and fell down to 18th, as Whincup now led by 26 seconds to Mostert and Holdsworth, and Triple 8 had lost a certain hat-trick of 1-2 finishes!

As well as deciding the Enduro Cup in Jamie and Craig’s favour, it also had a massive effect on the team’s championship, as Triple 8 went from gaining the lead over DJR by 49 points, to being as you were- 116 points behind, as both teams scored 340 points for the race.

With his nearest threat gone, Whincup coasted to the end and claimed another Sandown win, 20 seconds ahead of Tickfords cars of Mostert/Moffat and Holdsworth/Randle completing the podium in 2nd and 3rd after their wild Saturday, with Coulthard/D’Alberto in 4th, Pye/Luff in 5th, and McLaughlin, to very little fanfare, finished in 9th, and wrapped up BACK-TO-BACK SUPERCARS TITLES.

The crap of the last month has kind of made us forget that he really did drop a steaming hot log on everyone this year, and heck, if it weren’t for getting taken out before a race at the Grand Prix, and the crash at the Gold Coast, he’d have wrapped the title up a fortnight ago.

Pye and Luff- 22nd to 5th!

Aside from Whincup & Lowndes winning their first Sandown as a duo in 12 years, the good stories were Holdsworth scoring his first podium in 5 years- His last was driving an Erebus Mercedes of all things- as well as Tom Randle’s first career podium in his first crack at the 500, Mostert bouncing back from the Gold Coast wipeout, and Jimmy Moffat appearing on the podium on the same day as his dad’s 80th birthday!

Holdsworth and Randle were the odd couple of Enduro pairings, and it appears that Lee playing the role of Felix to Tom’s Oscar was a success.

But really, the story had to be that spectacular race of Giz and GT, going from last to first and spending a good 150 laps on an absolute tear, looking like they had the race done to rites with 10 laps to go.. and then it all went up in smoke in a matter of seconds.

Poor old GT, that’s the second time he’s lost a certain Sandown 500 win, after what happened in 2006 when he got partnered with Mark Skaife at HRT in the infamous Walkinshaw driver swap.

Long story short, they started on pole by 7 tenths, had a bad start, roared back into the lead, had pace that couldn’t be matched… until the car shat the bed with 40 laps to go.

Anyway, it’s all ancient history, as we say farewell once again to the often crazy enduro that was the Sandown 500.

Next Up: The season finale in Newcastle in a fortnight… possibly not featuring KISS.

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