Race Preview: Sandown 500

We keep saying it and now we really mean it, the enduros are upon us.

In just four days, we will be hitting the track in Melbourne for the 49th annual Sandown 500.

Now what that means is the beginning of a massive six weeks of endurance racing with extra drivers, extra-long races and even extra tired people (thank goodness for Red Bull!).

The endurance season is always an important part of the year, although it is all the more important when the top five on the Supercars championship ladder are separated by 565 points.

No stranger to an endurance season is Craig Lowndes who is rubbing his hands together in excitement for the enduros to kick off this weekend at Sandown.

“I’m pretty confident to be honest, I think we’ve been progressing the car throughout the season,” Lowndes said ahead of the weekend’s racing.

“We’ve definitely found some gains on our setups and different ways of thinking about things. Sandown is a track that I enjoy and we’ve had great success there.”

Great success? How about record-worthy success… Because, since making his Sandown 500 debut in 1994, Lowndes has the most Sandown 500 podiums by any current driver and is a five-time winner at the event.

Once again, Lowndes has paired up with his co-driver Steve “Richo” Richards for the fifth consecutive year and the duo has a wealth of experience at the circuit.

“Steve knows the circuit as much as I do, so I’m looking forward to going there and getting into it,” continued Lowndes.

“We just need to have a good endurance season which is the part I really enjoy and I’m looking forward to kicking it off with a positive result at Sandown.”

Lowndes will go into Sandown in fourth position on the Supercars championship ladder, a position he’s looking to strengthen at Sandown before climbing it further throughout the remainder of the enduros.

“We’re obviously just hanging onto fourth position, so this is something that is really critical for our championship campaign,” said Lowndes.

“This part of the season is generally our strongest part and there’s 900 points up for grabs over the three events so it’s vital we get it right.”

While the pressure might be there for Lowndesy to have a strong endurance season, co-driver Richo feels the pressure to aid Lowndesy’s overall championship campaign.

“The car seems to have been going really well in the lead-up to Sandown, probably better than last year, so my expectations are pretty high for a good result,” said Richo.

“I need to play my part in making sure that Craig has a car at the end that he can fight with to get a podium.

“The biggest challenge at Sandown is just the fact that it’s the first enduro so everyone is just getting back into the swing of how it works. There’s a different format, we have shorter races in the lead-up to set the grid on Saturday, so the extra pressure comes from making sure we get through those two races on Saturday to line us up for a good starting position for Sunday’s main race.”

This year will mark 15 years since Triple Eight first put a car on track and Lowndesy and Richo are sure to celebrate it in style… Podium style of course!