Craig Lowndes took a crucial victory in the penultimate round of the V8 Supercars championship in Sydney as his title rival Jamie Whincup finished only 20th after having to pit for repairs.
Lowndes had looked unlikely to make any inroads into his Triple Eight Holden teammate's points lead when he spun in the top 10 shoot-out qualifying session this morning and left himself only 10th on the grid.
But in a race shaped by incidents and fuel strategy amid several safety car periods, Lowndes carefully worked his way to the front, taking the lead from Garry Rogers Holden driver Michael Caruso on lap 61 of 74, and then nursing his car to the flag on its last drops of fuel – the timing of the final safety car and pit stops having forced most of the field to conserve fuel through the last 28 laps.
Lowndes held off Holden Racing Team's Garth Tander by just under a second, with Shane van Gisbergen making it back to third in his Stone Brothers Ford despite a clash with Rick Kelly (Kelly Holden) and final corner contact with a slowing Caruso, whose car had run dry.
Whincup was part of the lead pack initially before sustaining suspension damage which required a four-lap pit stop to repair, leaving him back in 20th at the flag, and meaning his lead over Lowndes in the championship has come down from 188 to 83 points going into Sunday's season finale.
Ford Performance Racing driver Mark Winterbottom recovered from a penalty for colliding with Greg Murphy to take fifth, while his polesitting teammate Will Davison led the early laps before damaging his steering and eventually crashing.
Rick Kelly fell from third to 10th when he had to make a final-lap fuel stop. Lee Holdsworth (Garry Rogers Holden) was another victory contender but dropped back when he made his final pitstop just before a safety car period, leaving him 14th in the end.