Team Vodafone's Craig Lowndes and Mark Skaife won the LH 500 Supercar V8 feature race at Phillip Island as their teammates' hopes went up in smoke in the closing laps of the race.
Lowndes and Skaife hung around the front of the field throughout of the race, Lowndes capitalizing in the last stint to close on leader and teammate Jamie Whincup in the car he was sharing with Steve Owen.
After several laps of close racing, lap 92 saw Lowndes take the lead when Whincup ran wide after locking a front brake, possibly as a result of light damage to his front splitter. Lowndes continued on to take victory with one of his teammates from his Holden Racing Team days, Mark Skaife, with Mark Winterbottom and Luke Youlden taking second place after passing Jason Richards and Andrew Jones's Team BOC car with five laps remaining in the 113-lap event.
Rick Kelly and Owen Kelly showed early speed, leading the opening segment of the race before just slightly dropping off the pace and finished fourth, with Tim Slade and Jack Perkins completing the top five after keeping out of trouble all day.
The fortunes of the two championship contenders fluctuated throughout the day, both ending worse than they started. Jamie Whincup's teammate Steve Owen ran second in the early going, taking over the lead in the middle of the second stint, Whincup following suit in the lead in the next stint.
But a couple of safety cars didn't help, and then in the final stint Whincup struggled for speed, possibly a result of the damaged splitter and/or what ended his hopes of decent finish, when smoke began to pour from his car just after losing the lead. Black-flagged, his car was put into the garage for repairs. He returned, but he was nine laps down and last car running in 29th place, the third year in a row Whincup's hopes of victory in the event have disappeared in the closing stages of the race, this year's result by far the worst.
It all came as good news for James Courtney, who flat-spotted a tire in the middle of the race while running sixth, forcing an extra stop for tires. An off in the closing laps then saw him fall from seventh to 10th, and lose another two place by the finish.
Despite this, Courtney extended his lead in the championship by 59 points to 179 points over Whincup, having looked set to see most of his lead wiped out with 20 laps remaining in the race.
Pos Drivers Make Time
1. Craig Lowndes/Mark Skaife Holden 3h11m47.3551s
2. Mark Winterbottom/Luke Youlden Ford + 3.2870s
3. Jason Richards/Andrew Jones Holden + 5.0157s
4. Rick Kelly/Owen Kelly Holden + 5.6937s
5. Tim Slade/Jack Perkins Ford + 19.7154s
6. Jonathon Webb/David Russell Ford + 28.4812s
7. Paul Dumbrell/Dean Canto Ford + 29.9485s
8. Russell Ingall/Paul Morris Holden + 30.0940s
9. Garth Tander/Cameron McConville Holden + 31.4981s
10. Alex Davison/David Brabham Ford + 35.6968s
11. Michael Caruso/Greg Ritter Holden + 38.1971s
12. James Courtney/Warren Luff Ford + 39.1294s
13. Greg Murphy/Tim Blanchard Holden + 39.4895s
14. Dean Fiore/Michael Patrizi Ford + 40.8356s
15. Tony D'Alberto/Shane Price Holden + 41.5593s
16. Steven Johnson/Marcus Marshall Ford + 41.9244s
17. Karl Reindler/David Wall Holden + 51.1301s
18. Todd Kelly/Dale Wood Holden + 53.0749s
19. Fabian Coulthard/Craig Baird Holden + 53.6839s
20. Jason Bargwanna/Glenn Seton Holden + 1m25.0449s
21. Steven Richards/James Moffat Ford + 1 lap
22. Damian Assaillit/Ant Pedersen Ford + 1 lap
23. Geoff Emery/Marcus Zukanovic Holden + 1 lap
24. Mark Noske/Nathan Pretty Holden + 1 lap
25. Tony Ricciardello/Taz Douglas Holden + 1 lap
26. Andrew Thompson/Nick Percat Holden + 2 laps
27. Shane van Gisbergen/John McIntyre Ford + 3 laps
28. Will Davison/David Reynolds Holden + 4 laps
29. Jamie Whincup/Steve Owen Holden + 9 laps
Drivers Make Laps
Lee Holdsworth/David Besnard Holden 68
Jason Bright/Matt Halliday Holden 55