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V8 Supercars return to @7Sport this weekend with the Sandown 500

SportKevin Perry
 The 2012 Sandown 500 was a bruising affair

The 2012 Sandown 500 was a bruising affair


The V8 Supercars are back on Seven this weekend, kicking of the       new season with the Sandown 500


Saturday 14 September: Live on Seven from 1:30pm AEST


Sunday 15 September: Live on Seven from 12:00 noon AEST


Here are Ten reasons to get excited.


 1. Craig Lowndes could make       history at this year's Wilson Security Sandown 500 and equal the late,       great Peter Brock's record of nine wins in the annual pre-Bathurst       endurance race.


Brock won all nine of his races at Sandown, though Lowndes has won       his across the three different venues that have hosted the annual       500-kilometre race in the V8 Supercar era.


He's clocked up five wins at Sandown (1996, 1997, 2005, 2007,       2012), two at Phillip Island (2010, 2011) and one at Queensland Raceway       (2000).


Lowndes, who sits fourth in the V8 Supercars Championship after a       25-point penalty post-Winton, has an amazing record in the '500.


He's finished on the podium in the last eight '500s straight since       2005 and all up has collected an outstanding 13 podiums from his last 17       starts in the '500 with eight wins, three runner-up finishes and a pair       of third places.


With five Sandown 500 wins he sits third only to Brock (nine) and       Allan Moffat (six) on the list of drivers to have won the Sandown       endurance classic.


2. The fight for the V8 Supercars Championship is tight with just       72 points covering the top four drivers heading into the first of three       events that count towards the Pirtek Enduro Cup.


Jamie Whincup heads Will Davison by just 55 points with Mark       Winterbottom and Craig Lowndes within striking distance.


Last year the same four drivers were also in the top four of the       championship but were separated by 154 points, while in 2011 the top four       drivers (Whincup, Lowndes, Shane van Gisbergen and Rick Kelly) were       separated by a massive 477 points heading into the first endurance event.


There are far more players in the championship battle in 2013 with       245 points - less than one weekend of racing (300 points are available at       every V8 Supercars Championship event) - covering leader Whincup through       to ninth-placed Garth Tander.


At the same time last year a whopping 952 points covered the top       nine drivers in the championship.


3. Triple Eight Race Engineering will celebrate its 10th       anniversary of racing in the V8 Supercars Championship on the Saturday of       this year's Wilson Security Sandown 500 - September 14.


It was on that day 10 years ago in 2003 that the team made its V8       Supercar racing debut after completing a buy-out of the Briggs Motorsport       squad.


Kiwi Paul Radisich and Swede Rickard Rydell finished seventh in       the rain-lashed race while teammates Dean Canto and Matthew White       finished 14th.


Since then the team has claimed four of the last five Driver's       Championships, a total of 108 V8SC race wins (including five Bathursts)       and 65 pole positions.


4. Lockwood Racing's Fabian Coulthard will make his 100th V8       Supercars Championship event start at the Wilson Security Sandown 500.


A three-time race winner this season, the English-born Kiwi made       his debut at Oran Park in 2004 and has been full-time in the championship       since 2008. He becomes just the 37th driver in championship history to       reach the '100' milestone.


Luke Youlden will co-drive with Coulthard at Sandown and has       recent form to call upon. He won the Porsche Rennsport Carrera Cup round       at Sydney Motorsport Park earlier in the year and took pole at Sandown       last year with Shane van Gisbergen for Stone Brothers Racing.


5. Pole position for the Wilson Security Sandown 500 will again be       decided by a pair of qualifying races, though unlike previous years there       will be no championship points awarded for the pair of 20-lap sprints.


Cars will be gridded for Qualifying Race 1 by their times in a       20-minute session, with either driver permitted to set the time.


Co-drivers will compete in the first Qualifying Race and the order       in which they finish sets the grid for Qualifying Race 2. The regular       drivers compete in this race and the order in which they cross the finish       line is the grid order for Sunday's 161-lap Wilson Security Sandown 500.


The winners of the 500-kilometre race on Sunday will       earn 300 Championship points, rather than the 200 of recent years.


6. The carry-over of co-driving combinations from 2012 to this       year's Pirtek Enduro Cup is at a much higher level than previous seasons.


A total of 11 combinations in the 28-car field (including those       that finished on the podium at both Sandown and Bathurst last year) have       remained intact from last year's endurance races with one - Dean       Fiore/Matthew Halliday - moving teams from 2012 to 2013.


The combinations to remain from 2012 are: 


#1 - Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell


#2 - Garth Tander/Nick Percat


#4 - Lee Holdsworth/Craig Baird


#5 - Mark Winterbottom/Steve Richards


#8 - Jason Bright/Andrew Jones


#19 - Jonathon Webb/Marc Lieb (only for Armor All Gold Coast 600       last year)


#21 - David Wall/Chris Pither


#47 - Tim Slade/Andrew Thompson


#55 - David Reynolds/Dean Canto


#88 - Dean Fiore/Matthew Halliday (moved from Dick Johnson Racing       to Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport)


#888 - Craig Lowndes/Warren Luff


Last year just six driver combinations carried over from the       endurance races from 2011 to 2012.


7. Reliability, more than ever in the 20-year history of the       current five-litre V8 Supercar technical rulebook, could become a major       factor in determining the winner of the Wilson Security Sandown 500.


The fact all 28 cars on the grid at Sandown will be competing in       their first endurance race since debuting at the beginning of the season       could throw up some surprise results.


The bulletproof nature and long-time development of the previous       generation of cars resulted in a finishing rate of 97% over the three       previous '500s at Phillip Island and Sandown (2010-2012) with all 28 cars       finishing in 2011.


In fact, the last time a car retired from the '500 due to a       mechanical problem was back in 2010!


Over the last 10 '500s since 2003, the finishing rate has been an       impressive 84%.


History shows that the introduction of new machinery and rules       sees the reliability rates fall.


The finishing rate in 1985 at Sandown (the first year of Group A       rules) was 56% and in 1993 (the first year of five-litre V8 rules now       known as V8 Supercars), the rate was 52%.


Both had different elements affecting them - the former was on the       tight infield circuit and the latter was not purely a field of V8s - but       the fact remains that this year's race could pan out very differently       from those of the recent past.


8. Five drivers are making their first Wilson Security Sandown 500       start this year, including three international drivers.


SP Tools Racing's Maro Engel (Germany) is a full-time driver in V8       Supercars this year but new to Sandown, while countryman Marc Lieb and       Dutchman Jeroen Bleekemolen will both drive for Tekno Autosports in their       first start in the Melbourne classic.


GT aces Lieb and Bleekemolen both competed last year in the Armor       All Gold Coast 600 with the former finishing on the podium on the Saturday with       Webb and the latter driving alongside Shane van Gisbergen at Stone       Brothers Racing.


Impressive rookie Chaz Mostert will make his first start in the       Sandown endurance classic though has raced in the Dunlop Series at the       circuit before.


The only driver making his debut appearance in the V8 Supercars       Championship is Ash Walsh, who will co-drive the #17 Wilson Security       Falcon with Tim Blanchard.


Walsh currently sits second in the Dunlop Series to Dale Wood, who       will co-drive with Mostert.


9. Nissan Motorsport's Altimas and Erebus Motorsport V8's       Mercedes-Benz AMG E63s will bring a new flavour to the V8 Supercar       endurance races this year.


The former has great history in the Wilson Security Sandown 500       with four wins in the Group A era of the 1980s and 1990s.


They won their first two back-to-back in 1986 and 1987 with George       Fury pairing with Glenn Seton and Terry Shiel respectively in Skyline       Turbos.


Mark Skaife scored his first major touring car win alongside Jim       Richards in a Skyline GTS-R in 1989, while GIO privateer combination Mark       Gibbs and Rohan Onslow won the 1991 race in their mighty GT-R.


Nissan also has a single Sandown 500 pole position to its name       with George Fury in the turbo Bluebird in 1984 - the first year the race       was run over 500-kilometres.


On the flipside, Mercedes-Benz machines have limited history in       the Melbourne endurance classic with just four starts in the race, the       first coming in the inaugural race in 1964 and the last in 1988, some 25       years ago.


Aussie racing legend Kevin Bartlett and Pedro Owen drove a 220SE       to 15th overall and second in class in the Six Hour race in 1964, while       Phil Ward and David Clement failed to finish in a 190E in the 1988 Enzed       500.


10. No less than nine former winners of the Wilson Security       Sandown 500 will line up on the grid for this year's race with three of       them acting as co-drivers - Greg Murphy, Greg Ritter and Warren Luff.


Jamie Whincup, Craig Lowndes, Mark Winterbottom, Todd Kelly, Jason       Bright and Russell Ingall are the six full-time drivers with their names       on the Sandown 500 honour roll.


One notable name missing is the Holden Racing Team's Garth Tander       who has never finished on the podium let alone won the Sandown classic.


The three-time Bathurst winner has racked up four fourth-placed       finishes in the race in his last five Sandown 500 starts (2004, 2005,       2007, 2012).