The PIRTEK Enduro Cup events are here. The Wilson Security Sandown 500 kick-starts the endurance season from Friday September 13.
The 3.1km Victorian circuit has always been the home of brilliant racing and holds the Sandown Endurance Race for the 42nd time this year.
Last year’s qualifying races were so good, they inspired the 60/60 Super Sprint format run this season.
And while Craig Lowndes (with co-driver Warren Luff) drove to his eighth ‘500’ victory, behind – battling for the podium – we saw the temperature turn up on a rivalry that has continued into the 2013 season with an incident between Mark Winterbottom and Jamie Whincup.
Winterbottom passed aggressively and managed to finish second with Steven Richards, Whincup and Paul Dumbrell behind in third. Whincup said after the race he didn’t think that pass “was on”, while Winterbottom stood by the move.
That same top three will be pairing up again this year, and with the Championship wide open, it’s anybody’s guess who will take the win.
Red Bull Racing Australia has seen a downturn in form, but Lowndes particularly has strong history at the 500km races.
The Pepsi Max FPR cars have jumped Lowndes in the points, sitting second and third, and will be looking to strike to climb to the top of the Championship tally.
And Holden Racing Team has recently come into form, with James Courtney and Garth Tander having taken wins at the last two of three events.
Throw into the mix Brad Jones Racing – after two test days, more podium results and Bright’s good form in the 500km races, David Reynolds and Dean Canto after their almost victory at Bathurst last year, and those with international drivers in the team – TEKNO Autosports have been top 10 contenders, and Russell Ingall’s partner Ryan Briscoe landed provisional pole in debut in a V8 Supercar at Sandown in 2006.
There will be two 20-lap qualifying races. A qualifying session will determine starting positions of the co-drivers in the first qualifying race. Their finishing positions will dictate starting order for the main series driver and where they finish will determine the grid for the following day’s race.
With supporting categories Formula 5000, the V8 Utes and Touring Car Masters, the Wilson Security Sandown 500 is sure to start what will be an electric endurance season.
The ARMOR ALL Gold Coast 600 this year joins Sandown and the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, giving drivers three races to fight for the first ever PIRTEK Enduro Cup.
For those following at home, stay tuned for the Channel Seven telecast times, or sign up to V8 SuperView for a live and uninterrupted stream.