V8 Supercars' form outfit TeamVodafone outsmarted the field once again although this time Championship leader Jamie Whincup proved beatable, at least by his team-mate Craig Lowndes, at Winton.

The addition of the 'soft' option Dunlop Sport Maxx Sprint tyre produced the race of the year and came down to who got it exactly right and when. Today that was Whincup's team-mate Craig Lowndes, Whincup himself and Ford Performance Racing's Steven Richards.

Richards called it a weekend that made for 'a lot of bald engineers' who had to work out exactly what was the winning formula. No matter the result the Dunlop option tyre certainly turned the short 100km race on its head.

It started with Whincup using the soft tyre and Lowndes not. Then Whincup pitted on lap one without having crossed the start finish line and took fuel.

A slightly different strategy came from Garry Rogers Motorsport's Michael Caruso who cleared out by 10 seconds early only to get swallowed up by the field towards the end.

It seemed everybody had a variation on a theme. There were plenty of admirable drives, none the least from Toll Holden Racing Team's Will Davison who went from 22nd to seventh and WOW Racing's Cameron McConville from 12th to fifth.

"You just had to keep an eye on who was on that option tyre because there was no way you were going to hold them up," Lowndes explained. "The closing speed between the two tyres was so great that you just had to be aware of who was on what.

"The extra grip you had mid corner was so strong you could just monster people in the corners. Normally it takes you about five laps to make up 100 metres but here it took about 20 metres."

Whincup was beaten for the first time in five races this year but still holds a commanding lead in the V8 Supercar Championship Series. He said the soft tyre option was a great initiative to the sport, even though he was confused at what was going on around him.

"I had no idea who was where, I was completely confused," he said. "So I just put my head down and got on with the job. The tyres were pretty shot at the end and it was a great job from Richo, he could have turned me around 87 times.

"It does spice things up, no doubt. Michael Caruso clearly pulled a good strategy and if there had been no safety car he would have won the race."

The strategy was intriguing and riveting. In just three laps the race was a corker with teams trying all number of different variations in the race of the year. The move to the Sport Maxx Sprint did exactly what was intended.

Many teams changed earlier, some took fuel, others didn't. What did eventuate was all the action on track was exceptional.

Caruso initially appeared to be the biggest winner. He cleared out to a massive lead after just six laps on the soft tyre. After 12 laps he had a 10 second lead when he came into pit lane.

But surprisingly Caruso did not change tyres and only took fuel. It was a massive gamble on just how long the tyres would last and he could hold his lead, but he didn't when the one and only safety car brought the field back to him.

Of the field of 30, 10 of the starters in race one of the weekend were on the new Dunlop Sport Maxx Sprint tyre. Pit lane mind games were on for young and old as many left their cars on the jacks right until they were release on track.

This was to give the impression that there might be a late change yet not one team did. Some teams race both cars on soft tyres such as Jack Daniel's Racing, Wilson Security Racing and Garry Rogers Motorsport while others, such as TeamVodafone and Stone Brothers Racing went with one each.

In Armor All qualifying Winterbottom fired once again ahead of Tander. Both TeamVodafone cars were third and fourth. The surprise of the pack was Tander's Toll Holden Racing Team partner Will Davison who was way back in 22nd.