Mark Skaife answered any suggestions that he is over the hill after teaming up with current V8 Supercar champion Garth Tander to claim victory in the L&H 500 at Phillip Island.
The Holden Racing Team pair looked out of the race as they slipped back to 15th after a botched pit stop and slow car speed, but they took full advantage of safety car periods and a heavy rain shower mid-race, finally slipping into the lead eleven laps from the end of the 113-lap enduro.
Defending endurance champions Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup, who dominated with faultless tactics, had to settle for second ahead of fellow Ford pairing of Will Davison and Steven Johnson.
It was Skaife's first win for a year and after a horror run of issues, he was delighted with his win but quick to praise his team-mate.
“After an ordinary run we came here looking for better fortune,” he said. “This was personally very satisfying but the win was Garth's. He drove very, very well.”
It was Tander who drove superbly in the wet and once the leaders returned to slicks, he closed in after a safety period to slide under Whincup on lap 102 and hold on to win by less than two seconds. This extended Tander's lead in the championship to 53 points over Mark Winterbottom, who finished fourth today Steven Richards. Whincup remains third a further 27 points behind but was devastated by his efforts.
“It was a good result I suppose but not as good as it could have been,” Whincup said. “The guys did a faultless performance all weekend. When we put the car on the track it was pretty well perfect. They made an amazing strategy to pit at the right time, put the right tyres on at the right time. Craig did a faultless performance but I just dropped the bundle with ten laps to go.”
FPR ace Winterbottom dominated early on, taking advantage of an early stop to gain clear track to open a 19 second lead. But their chances were washed away in the rain when they decided to leave Steven Richards out on slicks. After skating his way around they dropped back out of the top-ten before recovering to fourth.
Teenager Shane Van Gisbergen showed his class to push into the lead on wets during the rain but their hopes went the other way, when they stayed out too long when Whincup chose to pit for slicks.