Lowndes gives Holden the edge in Sydney
Holden struck the first blow in their last-weekend battle with fierce rival Ford when veteran Craig Lowndes weaved his way to victory at the Sydney 500 V8 Supercars event on Saturday.
The 38-year-old started from 16th on the grid and dropped back to 22nd at the end of lap one, but recovered to claim his 89th career win and move to second in the championship.
In sweltering heat, Lowndes sped to win the 250km race by just 1.105sec ahead of Ford driver and pole sitter Tim Slade, with Holden's James Courtney more than 20 seconds further back in third.
Lowndes climbed above Ford's Mark Winterbottom by just three points in the overall standings and became the only repeat winner in the fourth year of the event.
Lowndes later paid tribute to champion-in-waiting Jamie Whincup, who was good to his pre-race promise to help out his fellow TeamVodafone pilot.
"Jamie basically gave me the win in the sense that for the last pit stop, he moved over and let me through," said Lowndes.
"Otherwise we would've been queuing and we would've been back in the pack."
"It was the scenario we talked about as we were very mindful of trying to get the one-two in the championship."
After claiming his first pole position in his fourth season, Slade led for a majority of the race but ran wide in the late stages to hand Lowndes a lead he would not relinquish.
"I'm kicking myself a little bit for throwing it away there at the end," said Slade.
"It's hard to be in front and saving fuel and get all your markers right every lap ... (but) I'm pretty stoked."
Temperatures of 38C and the tight 3.42km Sydney Olympic Park street circuit combined to take a big toll on the field as seven drivers failed to finish in a drama-filled race.
With the mercury getting up to 65C in the cabins of the cars, Frenchman Alex Premat was dragged limp from his car three-quarters of the way through due to severe dehydration while David Reynolds was forced to make a bizarre pit stop.
While the safety car was out, the Ford driver took the opportunity to change his driving boots after the excessive heat burnt a hole in his soles.
Shane van Gisbergen earlier had race fans shaking their heads when steering failure on the opening lap caused him to swerve left and he crashed into the approaching medical car.
Lee Holdsworth, Steve Johnson and Greg Murphy pulled out due to mechanical problems, with the aggressive profile of the kerbs and tricky corners taking a big toll on steering, suspension and brakes.
Holden fans were on a high as their drivers grabbed six of the top seven spots with Jonathon Webb, Jamie Whincup and Rick Kelly and Karl Reindler coming in behind Courtney, while James Moffat was the next best for Ford in eighth.
It will the last head-to-head battle between Ford and Holden after a notorious 20-year rivalry, with Nissan and Mercedes to join the category in 2013.
The V8 Supercars season will conclude on Sunday with another 250km race after which Whincup will be crowned as the championship winner for the fourth time.