Whincup and Dumbrell are bookies favourites for Sandown

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The annual 500 kilometre pre-Bathurst endurance race returns to its traditional home of Sandown this weekend.

In what promises to be a thrilling race, a handful of V8 Supercars championship contenders will look to keep their title hopes alive, while others will be using it as an opportunity to prepare for the Bathurst 1000.

It is the first time since 2007 that the 500km race has been held at Sandown after Phillip Island hosted the event for the last four years.

Jamie Whincup and his co-driver Paul Dumbrell are the bookies favourites to get the win. Whincup is the series leader and Dumbrell was in hot demand after his retirement from full-time driving last year.

They are $2.50 favourites with fellow Triple Eight drivers Craig Lowndes and Warren Luff the next most popular at $2.75.

Lowndes and Luff shared an Audi R8 at the Bathurst 12 Hour for the last two years and work well together.

The Ford Performance Racing pairings of Mark Winterbottom and Steven Richards and Will Davison and John McIntyre are $6 and $7 respectively.

Along with Whincup and Lowndes, Winterbottom and Davison are the other main contenders for the championship.

The Winterbottom Richards combination is one of the most experienced in the race and while they haven't had much success together, if they have a solid car and stay out of trouble, they could be hard to beat.

John McIntyre proved to be a very solid co-driver with Shane van Gisbergen last year and he will help Davison to be among the quickest pairings over the weekend.

Incredibly, the remaining 24 cars are considered outsiders. That lost includes some very credible contenders like last year's Bathurst winners Garth Tander and Nick Percat (Holden Racing Team, $15), David Reynolds and Dean Canto (Bottle-O FPR, $21) and van Gisbergen and Luke Youlden (Stone Bros, $23).

Other former Sandown winners in the field include Russell Ingall, who is paired with former F1 driver Christian Klien, Greg Murphy, teamed with Owen Kelly, Jason Bright with co-driver Andrew Jones along with Jack Daniels racer Todd Kelly, who will be partnered by Tim Blanchard.

While the general theory is that Triple Eight and FPR will maintain dominance of the 2012 season, there are plenty of other strong combinations that will be fighting for places in the top 10 and on their day can challenge for the win.

While it hasn't been a good season for Jim Beam Racing, Steven Johnson and Allan Simonsen are an experienced pairing, while the sister car of James Moffat and Alex Davidson is also strong.

Fujistu Racings Michael Caruso and Greg Ritter look competitive, Lockwood Racings Fabian Coulthard and David Besnard will be out to impress and the young Stone Bros pairing of Tim Slade and Andrew Thompson have plenty of talent between them.

The Sandown 500 gets underway today (Friday) with three 40 minute practise sessions while tomorrow includes practice, qualifying and then two qualifying races which will determine starting positions for Sunday's race.

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