Saturday Sleuthing: Lowndes' 2005 Sandown Winner

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 05/09/2015
  • By V8 Sleuth

IT'S a daunting prospect for even the most professional of racing drivers.

Fly halfway around the world, race a car you've not been driving all season against drivers and teams that are some of the best in the world at what they do - and do it every second weekend.

Four international drivers will face this very task beginning with next weekend's Wilson Security Sandown 500 and among them are two Frenchmen - Alex Premat driving GRM'S Wilson Security Volvo S60 with Scott McLaughlin and Sebastian Bourdais with Lee Holdsworth for Walkinshaw Racing.

But neither of these drivers will be the first from France to taste victory in the '500 should they win next weekend - that honour went to Yvan Muller 10 years ago this year.

Today on Saturday Sleuthing we re-visit the story of the car he drove alongside Craig Lowndes to victory in the 2005 Sandown 500 - Triple Eight Race Engineering's Falcon chassis 888A-010.

Built new as a BA model in 2005, both Lowndes and the chassis debuted for Triple Eight at the non-championship Australian Grand Prix race at Albert Park that year.

The car was different in another major way to the team's 2004 machines given it now utilised a Stone Brothers Racing-built engine after Triple Eight had signed a deal with SBR in the off-season.

Lowndes drove it throughout the 2005 season, recording second place in the Clipsal 500, a round win at Queensland Raceway and victory at the Sandown 500 with Muller.

Many doubted Muller's pairing with the hard-charging Lowndes, but the 2003 British Touring Car Champion (who drove for Triple Eight's sister BTCC squad at the time and had driven for the V8 team in the 2004 enduros) proved his doubters wrong, skillfully tiptoeing through Melbourne's fickle early spring wet weather.

The Frenchman's stint began on wet weather tyres, yet almost perfectly coincided with the conclusion of liquid hostilities from above.

Soon the rains came again but Muller had done a good enough job of managing his grooved tyres on the essentially dry track to take advantage of the situation and be able to hand the car back to Lowndes in a position to challenge for the win.

Late in the race Lowndes was running second to a fuel-saving Mark Skaife, who was desperately trying to stretch his last tank of fuel to the end of the race. This economy run, combined with a damaged front splitter, meant that Lowndes was able to eat into what was a significant lead.

With four laps to go Lowndes was able to take the lead and he drove on to his third Sandown 500 victory of an eventual five - and Triple Eight's very first endurance win in Australia. It was even more perfect considering team sponsor Betta Electrical also sponsored the Sandown race!

As good as that was, more was to come for the Sandown 500-winning car.

Lowndes put the car on pole at Bathurst a few weeks later, but fell famously victim to an errant wheel from Paul Dumbrell's Castrol Commodore that smashed into the windscreen exiting Griffins Bend.

Driving the car for the remainder of the season, Lowndes eventually finished second in the title to Russell Ingall.

Retaining the car for the new season, he teamed with Jamie Whincup for victory in the 2006 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.

Lowndes held off Rick Kelly in a gripping dice to the end to win his first Bathurst in 10 years. It was also Whincup's first Bathurst victory and the first of an eventual three in a row for the duo.

It was an emotional victory for Lowndes, who shed a tear as he was presented with the inaugural Peter Brock Trophy, awarded after the death of his great friend and mentor a few weeks earlier.

For 2007 the car was updated to BF specification and re-stickered in new TeamVodafone livery for Whincup to race as car #88.

Whincup began racing it at the Clipsal 500 and won the round at Winton (after qualifying 20th!), driving the car through to the enduros, where it became car #888 driven by Lowndes and Whincup and it recorded another victory in the Sandown 500 for the team.

From then on it was retained by Triple Eight as a spare chassis into 2008 where it was again used by Lowndes at Eastern Creek and Albert Park after a major accident in his new car at the season-opener in Adelaide.

For the 2009 enduros it was leased to the Sieders Racing Team to use at Phillip Island and Bathurst, running as a wildcard entry. It was driven by Andrew Fisher and David Sieders as the #13 Jesus Racing entry but was crashed by Fisher in the lead-up to the Bathurst race - twice - and eventually was the first retirement from that year's race.

In 2011 Triple Eight engaged former team member Gary Bailey to begin restoring the car back to its 2006 Bathurst-winning livery and specification, including shifting the driver's seat back out towards the door again and fitting a H-pattern gearbox.

The restoration was completed early in 2012 and Jamie Whincup gave the chassis a shakedown at Queensland Raceway before it was put on permanent display in the National Motor Racing Museum at Bathurst.

Importantly, the car will move across from the Museum to join a display of over $10 million of important Bathurst race cars/bikes in Harris Park to celebrate the Bicentennial of the City of Bathurst at next month's Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.

Saturday Sleuthing take a break next weekend for the Wilson Security Sandown 500 but will return to the V8 Supercars website on Saturday September 19.

What car would you like to see featured in an upcoming story?

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