V8 Supercars:New car for Lowndes

By Eric Thompson

Craig Lowndes can't wait for race to start, writes Eric Thompson

Craig Lowndes is set to pilot the #888 Red Bull Racing Australia Holden in his 20th trip to Bathurst.
Craig Lowndes is set to pilot the #888 Red Bull Racing Australia Holden in his 20th trip to Bathurst.

V8 Supercar stalwart and five-time Bathurst champion Craig Lowndes is bouncing up and down like a kid in a chocolate shop at the thought of zipping up his race suit for another yahoo around Mt Panorama.

The Red Bull Racing Australia driver is making his 20th trip to Bathurst and is as keen as he was at his debut in 1994 at the prospect of doing battle on one of the most feared, respected and admired street courses in Australasia.

Lowndes has been testing his mettle, sensibilities and various cars to the limit each and every time he leaves pit lane to head up Mountain Straight, and this year is no different.

"The energy is staring to build already here at the track with everything getting unloaded at the back of the pits,' said Lowndes.

"I'll never tire of this place, as we only get to come here once a year and, every time, it's an incredible feeling.

"This place has an incredible history and an almost a perceivable aura that makes you want to keep coming back every year."

Lowndes has seen a succession of cars come and go and has probably driven every conceivable V8 Supercar model of the modern era.

Yet again the Victorian will be snapping up the harness in a different model, or more correctly put, a completely new car for his latest punt around the mountain.

"I've seen some great evolution of cars over the years but I think the fastest I've been here was back in 1996 when we went 299km/h.

"Overall, the cars have got faster, but slower in a straight line. While we've been around the 290-294km/h mark, we'll have to see what the new car can produce."

On paper, it would be a safe bet to say, on current form, championship leader Jamie Whincup and co-driver Paul Dumbrell should be a shoo-in for the win.

However, Lowndes is paired with the experienced Warren Luff. Sure, Whincup and Dumbrell held out Lowndes and Luff to win the Sandown 500, but Bathurst is a different kettle of fish.

Over the years, the standard of the cars has improved as have the driver skills, and the race is now more a glorified qualifying jostle to get into the right position for the sprint home in the final session.

"I don't know if the race itself has got any harder as the track itself is still much the same but the depth of competition has made it more competitive," Lowndes said.

"The cars are now much more reliable and faster so it's definitely going to be a tough Sunday. It's going to be one of those races where we're going to have to be pushing hard from the start all the way to the finish.

"It's almost like what the Nascar guys do, spending three-quarters of the race making sure they're in the right spot for that sprint home.

"For us, it's no different. We want to be in the lead pack and, with about 60 laps to go, the race steps up another notch and we know it's close to the run home."

The cunning plan for Lowndes and Luff, and no doubt the rest of the contenders, is to be in the top three, preferably in the lead with 30 laps to go, just in case there's a safety car at the end.

"Our team one-two finish at Sandown gives us a lot of confidence heading into this weekend. We know the car speed is there and have turned things around since our bad rounds prior to Sandown.

"It was a great feeling to know we could bounce back as well as we did."

- NZ Herald

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