Ipswich preview: The King of Queensland Raceway

If Queensland Raceway is to Red Bull Racing Australia what Suncorp Stadium is to the Queensland Maroons, then Craig Lowndes is “The King”.

Fortunately, Lowndesy has a significantly stronger hairline than Wally Lewis but like the rugby league legends, Lowndes’ dominance of his home track is the thing of legends.

The 39-year-old cult figure is a back-to-back winner at Queensland Raceway, having claimed five of his six race wins there with Triple Eight over the past two years alone. And after testing at the circuit last week Lowndesy is again shaping as a likely contender at this weekend’s Ipswich 360.

“Yep, we’re going for the three-peat,” an always jovial Lowndesy said.

“We’ve had a great run there these past few years and after testing last week there’s no reason to think we’re not in with a shot. We’re back on the soft tyres all weekend, which has worked well for us in the past and I think after a few things we learned from Townsville, we’re in pretty good shape. I can’t wait for the weekend.”

QR is one of the few tracks where championship leader and reigning champion Jamie Whincup has struggled in the past. Well, by struggled we mean he’s had to settle for only one win and a handful of podiums. And with Lowndesy slowly creeping up on the championship lead – just 111 points separate the pair – J-Dub will be hoping to switch fortunes with his good friend and team-mate.

“And I’ll be hoping not,” Lowndesy said with a laugh.

“We had a horrible weekend in Townsville and the only good thing to come out of it for me was that Jamie had a worse weekend so we were able to make up some points rather than lose some.

“We’ve made up almost 100 championship points I think since Darwin so hopefully we can get a three-peat in Ipswich and claw him back again.”

Just last week on the back of the Maroons’ eighth-straight State of Origin series win, J-Dub called for more vocal local support at Queensland Raceway. And Lowndesy seconded the motion.

“That’d be great, create a real spectacle,” Lowndesy said.

“We’ve got a strong record at Queensland. I love going there and it’s not too far from my house or the workshop. We test there all year and spend a lot of our time there or nearby, so it really is the team’s home track. It’s one of only two races we don’t have to hop on a plane for.”

Better yet for Red Bull fans is the fact that only last week both J-Dub and Crackers put their VF Commodores through their paces in testing and Lowndesy is confident the much-needed updates will work a treat come this weekend.

“We got to simulate race circumstances from Townsville and really alienate the issue – and thankfully, it wasn’t me,” he said with a chuckle.

“We were chasing our tails a bit and while we still have some work to do, the cars should be much improved. We tried some new componentry and set-ups and to be quite honest, we can’t wait to get into race conditions and test them out.”

Practice starts Friday at Queensland Raceway with one 60/60 sprint format race to be held on Saturday afternoon at 3.40pm AEST, before two 120km races on Sunday kicking off at 1.45pm. Check out the telecast times and don’t miss a moment of the action.

Casey Stoner will also get back behind the wheel of his Red Bull Pirtek Holden in the Dunlop series as he looks to convert his top-six race speed into a podium result.