CAT Ford Performance Racing's Jason Bright and Mark Winterbottom have won the Betta Electrical Sandown 500 by just 0.1586 of a second from Todd and Rick Kelly.
It was Ford's third-straight Sandown 500 win and the Blue Oval's fifth win of the season from eight rounds.
The win was the first V8 Supercar Championship round win for Winterbottom and Bright's first since rejoining Ford last year.
The victory to Ford Performance Racing was only its second ever and the first since April 2003 (Craig Lowndes - Phillip Island).
Ford finished with six in the top-10, with Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup (Team Betta Electrical) in third, Steven Johnson and Will Davison (First Rock Homes Loans Racing) in fourth, Brad Jones and John Bowe (Team BOC) in fifth, Jason Bargwanna and Craig Baird (WPS Racing) in seventh, and James Courtney and Glenn Seton (Jeld-Wen Motorsport) in ninth.
Winterbottom started the 500 kilometre race and kept the CAT Falcon inside the top-five throughout his 89-lap stint.
The decision to put Bright in the car for the run to the flag proved the winning move, as the team had to make just one more short fuel stop on lap #117.
Sitting in third position behind the Kelly car and then leader Mark Skaife, Bright began to attack. The race opened for the Ford driver when Skaife's car left the track with steering dramas and he closed-in on Rick Kelly.
On lap #138 he made a bold move on the final corner of the Sandown track to snatch the lead. He began to power away, before brake dramas late in the race put Rick Kelly back on his bumper.
Bright was able to hold off all of Kelly's moves to cross the line for a popular win.
"What a win," said Bright.
"The race was a cracker from the driver's seat, so I can only imagine what it was like for the crew and the Ford fans!
"This is an important win for this team. We have showed all year that we have the potential to win but just have not finished it off. I said before this weekend that I would be happy to wait if it meant winning Sandown and Bathurst. Now I have one of the boxes ticked.
"Mark did a great job in his stint. Looking at it from the outside it didn't have to have the highlights I had, but he put us in a position to fight for the win. I'm wrapped for him to finally get a win.
"In the middle of the race you had different teams trying different strategies. I have to say that the opportunity to get in the car on lap #89 was the trick. I knew we would have to stop again, but only take around ten seconds of fuel. That also allowed us to get fresh tyres and go on the attack.
"The move on Rick was a big one. I had been setting it up for a few laps and knew I had just the one shot at making it stick. I have to say that Rick could have chopped across me, but he showed plenty of professionalism.
"He did come back at us, but I was pretty determined to win and that was probably the difference."
For Mark Winterbottom it was his seventh straight top-10 finish and now has him placed third in the championship chase.
"I'm thrilled to finally get the big trophy, but there were times I thought it wasn't going to be," said Winterbottom.
"Jason's drive was just unreal. He attacked and I'm pleased that we went for the win and didn't settle for second.
"I was very pleased with my stint. I felt that I made few mistakes and gave Jason the car in just the right position.
"I was also pleased with just how comfortable the car was to drive. I knew that if the balance remained for the second half of the race we were in with a chance.
"The result is great for my championship position. I certainly never thought I would be third in the point's chase going into Bathurst. In saying that, I want to attack at Bathurst. The championship is still a very long shot but Bathurst is a big possibility for this team.
"Ford has not won at Mount Panorama since 1998. On that occasion it was Jason Bright behind the wheel - I'm all for a repeat performance!
Craig Lowndes effort to finish third was sensational. Co-driver Jamie Whincup stopped on lap #58 to ensure Lowndes could drive to the end of the race. However, a stuck brake pad during the compulsory change dropped him from first to 22nd and a lap down.
Lowndes went on an incredible attack passing all the cars a lap down and climbed to ninth. Then when the leaders pitted he stayed on the track before a safety car elevated him back onto the lead lap. Although he was at the back of the line of cars he charged through the field to finish third.
"If they handed out points for passing cars I know we would have been way out in front," said Lowndes.
"It shows that you just never give up. The crew kept me updated all the way, although it was pretty much keep on passing them!
"I got frustrated at times, but I just had to get aggressive in the traffic.
"I knew that we were on a different pit stop strategy to the leaders would be pitting first. Then the safety car allowed us to go around and join the back of the lead lap.
"I have to say that the car was very strong so I knew that if we had a chance we could take it.
"I only gave up 10 points in the championship chase to Rick Kelly today, but I can tell you I thought it was going to be a lot worse when we lost the lap and Garth Tander and Rick were heading the field!
"Jamie drove very well and he handed me the car in a great position. It was good to see him out front from the start. It has me very confident of our combination going to Bathurst."
Whincup was pleased with the result, although it was unexpected after the long pit stop.
"I'm still in disbelief on how we came back," said Whincup.
"A lesser team and driver would have thrown in the towel, but we attacked. I really learnt a lot from watching all that today, it was real championship stuff.
"I was pleased with my stint and leading the early stages. I was under pretty strict instructions to drive to a plan and keep the car in one piece for Craig's run to the flag.
"The car was very strong and that was clearly on show when I drove it and then Craig.
"I can't wait for Bathurst. The car is good, Craig is awesome and I'm more than happy to play my part in what is required to win."
Heading to next month's Super Cheap Auto 1000 at Bathurst with confidence will be the First Rock Home Loans team of Johnson and Will Davison, as well as the Team BOC duo of Brad Jones and John Bowe.
Both teams showed canny team management by pitting at the right time and not losing a lap. It's experience like that which will be invaluable over 1000 kilometres of racing at Mount Panorama.
Just the one major disappointment for Ford today with Russell Ingall and Luke Youlden (Caltex Racing) finishing in 27th position.
Sever brake dramas throughout race put them on the back-foot. This was highlighted when Youlden went off the track, and brought out the first safety car. They finished 20-laps behind the winners.
For the V8 Supercar Championship Series it's now off to the biggest race in Australian motor sports, the Super Cheap Auto 1000 at Bathurst from the 5-8 October.
The gruelling 1000 kilometre journey over 161-laps is one of the iconic events on the Australian sporting landscape.
Top-10 - Sandown 500.
1. Jason Bright / Mark Winterbottom : CAT Ford Performance Racing : Ford Falcon
2. Rick Kelly / Todd Kelly : Toll HSV : Holden Commodore
3. Craig Lowndes / Jamie Whincup : Team Betta Electrical : Ford Falcon
4. Steven Johnson / Will Davison : First Rock Homes Loans Racing : Ford Falcon
5. Brad Jones / John Bowe : Team BOC : Ford Falcon
6. Dean Canto / Lee Holdsworth : Valvoline Racing : Holden Commodore
7. Jason Bargwanna / Craig Baird : WPS Racing : Ford Falcon
8. Paul Morris / Steve Ellery : Siromet Racing : Holden Commodore
9. James Courtney / Glenn Seton : Jeld-Wen Motorsport : Ford Falcon
10. Nathan Pretty / Paul Weel : Super Cheap Auto Racing : Holden Commodore
Championship after 8 of 13 rounds
1. Craig Lowndes : Team Betta Electrical : Ford Falcon 2218 pts
2. Rick Kelly : Toll HSV : Holden Commodore -27 pts
3. Mark Winterbottom : Ford Credit FPR : Ford Falcon -235 pts
4. Garth Tander : Toll HSV : Holden Commodore -370 pts
5. Jamie Whincup : Team Betta Electrical : Ford Falcon -494 pts
6. Russell Ingall : Caltex Racing : Ford Falcon -496 pts
7. Jason Bright : CAT FPR : Ford Falcon -504 pts
8. Steven Johnson : First Rock Home Loans Racing : Ford Falcon -525 pts
9 Steven Richards : Jack Daniel's Racing : Holden Commodore -636 pts
10. Mark Skaife : Holden Racing Team : Holden Commodore -800 pts
WAG363: AUII LTD Supercharged 363 Dart Stroker [Supercharged 363 LTD Build]
Joined: 18th Sep 2005
Ride: ef fairmont
well done to the team as it does show ford is first on race day
was a great day for ford... and a great lead up to Bathurst.. after Bright and lowndes finished 1st and 3rd i was jumping for joy around the tv at home... was such a dramatik finish.. had no finger nails left..
Todd: Nurse, suction.
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