JJ: “Qualifying is the Achilles heel”

Argh! Damn qualifying. It’s been the bane of Jeromy Moore and Craig Lowndes’ existence the past few years. Always on race pace and more often than not the fastest car on circuit, the No.888 Holden is regularly faced with the uphill task of fighting its way through the pack on the back of average qualifying results.

We saw it in Darwin in races one and two, when Lowndes started 10th after qualifying, only to power through the field as the fastest man on track and claim five positions in race one – before the restart carnage ensued – and a podium in race two.

“Qualifying has been Craig’s Achilles heel for the late part of his career and it’s something we need to keep focusing on – we know what he is capable of when he qualifies well,” No.888 engineer Jeromy says.

“We always have fairly good race pace. We started 10th and got our way to fifth in race one before the re-start. Even in Texas, we were always fighting Jamie hard and passed him in one. So it’s not like we have a slow race car. It’s just a matter of getting the track position at the start of the race by qualifying better. That’s still the main focus for the year, especially for the shorter races. Where you start is sort of where you finish in those races.”

Sunday’s race win in Darwin marked Lowndesy’s third victory of the season. And on the back of several second and third-place finishes to J-Dub, JJ admits it’s a welcome change to be on the victorious side of garage – mostly because it means car No.1 engineer Dutto will keep his shirt on.

“Three seconds in a row is a bit frustrating, being the bridesmaid so many times, so it was good to get a win,” JJ says.

“And it’s our third win of the year. Last year, it took us all the way to Darwin, the same race actually, to get our first win and we’re already two up on that. Hopefully we can keep the trend going to the end and have a fight with the team-mate for the championship – that’d be perfect.

“And it’s definitely a much better feeling the week after a race with a win after so many years of being second to the other side of the garage.”

Red Bull Racing Australia is a family – and Jamie and Craig the playful brothers always vying to get one-up on each other.

“It’s still open slather and anyone’s game and we’ll try our hardest to get there,” JJ says.

“Last year the difference between first and second was far greater. Craig’s only 156 points behind Jamie and it’s 100 points for a race win. Plus, there is a long way to go. It doesn’t take much to swing that around, it’s just a matter of qualifying better – as it usually is.

“Without the fuel stops this year stacking in the pits hasn’t really been an issue. And if and when it does happen, you only lose four seconds for a tyre stop rather than 20 seconds for a fuel stop. But we will be doing fuel stops in Townsville and with the new cars, it takes longer to fill the tank. So if you get stacked for a 25-second fuel stop, you’re effectively out of the race. So there’s a lot of pressure in every team to out-qualify your team-mate as pit lane priority is always given to whoever is higher up the order on track. And it’s something we’ll be working very hard on.”

Townsville will feature two 70-lap races on July 6 and 7, with mandatory fuel stops and both the soft and hard tyre to be used.