Championship lead in tact despite lack of pace in Tasmania

REIGNING series champion Jamie Whincup has finished the Tasmanian V8 Supercars round atop the championship (513 points), with team-mate Craig Lowndes holding out fourth (397 points) after a testing weekend at Symmons Plains.

After dominating Adelaide in the opening round of the series to lead the championship one-two, the Red Bull Racing Australia VF Commodores didn’t have things all their own way in Tasmania. But under trying circumstances there was some cause for rejoice, both drivers doing enough to keep themselves at the pointy end of the championship table and gain valuable data ahead of New Zealand.

Impressive speed from race-winners Jason Bright (race two) and Fabian Coulthard (race three) combined with less-than-ideal tyre wear on the compulsory soft compound option had the Red Bull drivers faced with an uphill task from qualifying onwards. The soft tyre hadn’t been kind to the Red Bull Racing Australia cars on Saturday and under a far warmer Tasmanian sun on Sunday proved even crueler.

As a result, Whincup scraped the No.1 car to third in qualifying for both races to finish fourth and fifth from tough opposition.

“We did have set-up issues, I’ve said that from the start of the season and that will take a while to get right, but overall I think we improved since Adelaide and the grand prix,” Whincup said.

“We were a fair bit behind at the GP and were close to the podium but that’s mostly because other guys were falling off. Now, we’re genuinely fourth or fifth in pace which is encouraging but we’ve got some work to get the car right.

“I feel like I extracted the most out of it. We’ve just got to keep doing our homework and we’ll get there. We’re not panicking. It’s a new car and we’re getting closer.”

Lowndes was also surprisingly upbeat despite admitting it was a weekend he’d sooner rather forget, finishing 10th in race two and 11th in race three.

“It was the worst weekend we’ve had for quite some time but I think we actually made some gains in the last race,” Lowndes said.

“We’ve still got to get our heads around the soft tyre wear, that’s pretty evident. But the hard tyre, which we’re on next weekend, has been working well for us.”

The cars will leave on Tuesday for the ITM Auckland 400.