Top three start for the Red Bull Commodores

RED BULL RACING AUSTRALIA duo Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes will start second and third in Sunday’s Sandown 500 behind championship rival Will Davison, the duo having emerged from a chaotic qualifying session unscathed and with a new track record in tow.

Both Lowndes and Whincup predicted lap records would fall over the course of the weekend and each lowered Lowndes’ Friday practice record again in Saturday’s final session with Whincup taking ownership of the new Sandown lap record in the dying seconds.

And the series leader continued his return to form in initial qualifying, putting the No.1 Red Bull VF Commodore on pole for the first of two 20-lap qualifying races unique to the Sandown round.

A flying Lowndes looked set to better his team-mate only to be impeded in the last sector of his flying lap. That saw co-driver Warren Luff start fifth in the first qualifying race behind Dumbrell in first.

The pair finished in the same positions they started but the job was only half done, returning their Red Bull Commodores for Whincup and Lowndes to cement positions for Sunday’s 161-lap race in the second of two qualifying races.

Like their co-drivers, Whincup and Lowndes managed to avoid early chaos to qualify second and third.

“I think we were P20 this time last year so I’m very happy today – I think I must be getting better with age,” said a grinning Whincup, who is debuting a brand new chassis this weekend.

“Paul did a great job in his qualifying race and the new car is working great for both of us. It’s working almost perfectly but we’ll try and tune it up to go a little quicker and from there it’s a long 500km. To be on the front row or in the top five is where you want to be. And to have both cars there is awesome.”

Lowndes added: “We made some adjustments to the car and it was really good. For us, it couldn’t be much better after being held-up in qualifying. Now we’re back to where we thought we should be.”

The Red Bull Racing Australia drivers are sandwiched between the two Fords of championship rivals Davison and Mark Winterbottom, who opted to use four new tyres instead of just two like Lowndes and Whincup, meaning the Fords will have a reduced tyre stock for the race.