Craig Lowndes took a walk in the park, almost literally, with the easiest of wins in the third leg of the non-championship Sprint Gas Manufacturers Challenge V8 Supercar event in Melbourne.

Lowndes looked as though a leisurely Sunday drive was on the agenda when he took the third and final race supporting the ING Australian Formula One Grand Prix through the streets of Albert Park.

His win, ironically, helped seal the Sprint Gas Challenge for Ford - the manufacturer that, last year, chose not to continue backing Lowndes' championship-winning TeamVodafone outfit - but that was all forgotten as the veteran's 'Purple Pig' car scored a massive overall win over Ford Performance Racing's Mark Winterbottom and Toll Holden Racing Team's Will Davison.

This time around, Winterbottom flew out of the blocks and tore away from the field as, for the third time, Lowndes seemed to struggle from the start line, allowing Davison to sneak up the inside for an early second position. Lowndes, however, was not to be undone.

The TeamVodafone racer was clearly on new tyres for the final race, having alluded the previous day to the fact that TeamVodafone had kept a set up its sleeve for Sunday's race.

"Our starts haven't been too great this weekend," Lowndes admitted, "We tried different methods, but it's not good enough going into the next championship event in Hamilton in a few weeks' time.

"The car was working really well. We didn't take too many risks. I'm enthusiastic about the year and we have hit the ground running. It's a much better start than last year, with a crash in Adelaide, so all is looking good."

It took Lowndes no time to lap up Winterbottom, and was on his bumper on just the second lap, before taking the lead back late on lap three with a neat pass underneath into turn 15.

Davison, a podium getter in the first round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series in Adelaide last weekend, knew things might be tough with Lowndes on new tyres.

"I had a few ideas what was going on after yesterday," he said of the battle of the tyres, "It usually happens here when you are trying to save tyres for the year ahead. I think we had tyres from about a year ago...."

Davison was on track to complete the final 15-lap race in third position before suffering a steering issue in the closing laps, forcing him to nurse the car home and allowing charging veteran Russell Ingall to catch and pass him through the last few corners. The Toll HRT driver eventually finished fourth, but had done enough in races one and two to claim third overall for the weekend.

"It looks like the car lost a power steering belt and I had to manhandle it home," Davison reported, "but I've had two great results in my first two weekends with the Toll Holden Racing Team so I'm rapt."

Ingall's charge denied Jason Richards the chance to improve on the fifth place he had taken in each of the previous two legs, but the Kiwi continued his own impressive start to a new relationship, this time with Team BOC.

Richards swapped places with Jim Beam Racing's Steven Johnson to retain fifth place, while Garth Tander, Shane van Gisbergen, Fabian Coulthard and Jamie Whincup found themselves shuffled at the foot of the top ten.

The V8 Supercar Championship Series now continues with a full points-paying weekend at the Hamilton 400 in New Zealand over 17-19 April, round two of the season.



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