Mark Winterbottom has tightened his grip on the V8 Supercars championship taking a stunning Sandown 500 victory with co-driver Steve Owen.
The Pepsi Max Crew car No.5 sat patiently behind the leading No.1 car of Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell for more than 100 laps but pounced late in the race, undercutting his rivals thanks to a calculated pit-lane strategy.
Winterbottom won the race ahead of teammate Chaz Mostert, who was partnered by Cameron Waters, with Shane Van Gisbergen and Jonathon Webb in third.
The race’s decisive move came when Winterbottom swept past the pair as they exited the pit lane with 43 laps remaining.
But the result will be a bitter one for Whincup, who was heading for a third-straight Sandown victory when disaster struck.
The Red Bull Racing man had effective control of the race until a tyre puncture from a pit visit meant an unplanned stop – and an eventual 15th-place finish.
The one-two finish for the Ford Performance Racing team – their first at an endurance event – means the title seems destined for their garages.
Winterbottom moves 198 points ahead of Mostert, with previously third-placed Craig Lowndes now fourth after David Reynolds leapt into third overall in the championship after finishing fifth with co-driver Dean Canto.
Lowndes and co-driver Steve Richards couldn’t move far from their poor qualifying effort, finishing 13th.
Reynolds is 360 points behind series leader Winterbottom, while reigning champion Whincup slumps to eighth place and 629 points off the pace.
Mostert’s second place owes much to his 21-year-old co-driver Cameron Waters.
The car’s fuel strategy shuffled the youngster back through the field but he steadily moved back up the order, improving five positions in 10 laps in one of the day’s best drives.
After the co-drivers made way for the championship hunters, a key moment arrived on 86 laps when Alex Buncombe put his Nissan in the tyre wall at turn nine and brought the day’s first safety car.
The gap between top four Whincup, Van Gisbergen, Mostert and Winterbottom reduced from 20 seconds to less than two at the restart and laid the base for the Ford assault.
The biggest drama of the day spoiled Scott McLaughlin’s race.
Co-driver Alex Premat pitted for fuel but a refuelling bungle saw one of his crew leave the spike in the Frenchman’s Volvo, requiring him to pit again to get it removed and serve another pit-lane penalty.