Mark Winterbottom all but ensured a Ford victory in the Sprint Gas Manufacturers' Challenge by turning the tables on Craig Lowndes in the second of three non-championship races at the ING Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
'Frosty' made sure he didn't make the same mistake as in race one - when he lost the lead on the first lap - by leading from start to finish to come home ahead of Toll Holden Racing Team's Will Davison and TeamVodafone's Lowndes, who had overcome the FPR pilot on lap one on Friday to claim victory.
“Track position was the key,” Winterbottom admitted, “It was a good win, and it's good to show that we are competitive. Temperatures were better early today, so the car was great at the start and then it was a matter of holding on at the end.”
In an action replay of Friday, Lowndes again slipped from the start line, allowing Winterbottom to sneak straight through the middle and into the lead. This time, however, Lowndes didn't get around Winterbottom early in the race, and Davison also snuck past as Winterbottom assumed the role that Lowndes played in race one.
“It was an improvement,” Davison said of his second place, “We made some reasonably large changes and made some small gains. I got close at the end and wanted to put on a bit of a show. A few more laps would have been interesting, as I was desperately trying to get a run so I could pull the demon pass in the end.”
A combination of older tyres and a track with more grip have played havoc with car balance for Lowndes, who was never really in a position to mount a serious challenge to the top two, but withstood pressure from Steven Johnson to complete the podium. Acknowledging the track had a lot more grip than he thought, Lowndes said it was still a good test for the team ahead of the next scoring round.
“The car was not as good as yesterday,” the veteran admitted, “I just couldn't find the balance I was looking for. A combination of older tyres and a lot more grip on the track than we expected was definitely the catalyst in us not being as fast as we were yesterday. We will have a good look at data tonight and try a few more changes for tomorrow. The beauty of this event is that we can be a lot more radical in our changes.”
A stray tyre bundle that detached from a corner brought out the safety car on lap eleven of 15, giving the frontrunners one last chance to wind in Winterbottom.
There was further chaos on the restart, with some crazy passing attempts and some questionable manoeuvres. At one point, Jim Beam Racing's in-form Steven Johnson appeared to push Jamie Whincup off the track and, then, almost inexplicably Irwin Racing's Shane Van Gisbergen followed.