Craig today came within touching distance of being the sport’s first centurion but, although it wasn’t to be, he does leave Perth with the championship lead in tow.
Having qualified sixth, a challenge for the race lead looked like a long shot for Lowndesy, but good speed on soft tyres and excellent strategy saw the No.888 Red Bull Holden blitz its way to the front of the pack after a safety car restart. With five laps to go, however, the soft tyres died underneath him and a fast-finishing Will Davison took the lead and the chequered flag.
“It’s been a good day,” Craig said. “Having a podium finish was obviously fantastic given where we started in sixth, so for us it was a good end to the weekend.
“The car was really good at the beginning. The second set of hard tyres was better, I think that that’s where we made our time up having that good run in the middle of the race.
“The car was responding really well with the soft tyre. I wasn’t pushing the car, I was just looking after the tyre, but with five laps to go I lost the rear tyres completely and just had nothing to fight with. It was a bit of a shame, but of course to end up on the podium starting from sixth around here is not too bad.
“We got a lot of confidence from today. We’ve got a little bit of work to do, but we’re looking forward to Winton, which should be good for us.”
On the other side of the garage, a fourth place start couldn’t be converted into a decent championship points haul as Jamie ran wide at the final corner early in the race, dropping him to the back of the field. His first pit stop saw him go a lap down as the Red Bull Racing Australia pit crew worked on any resulting damage, but he managed to claim the lap back after the safety car to finish 19th.
“It’s been a tough day all in all,” the reigning champ said afterwards. “The race started with a mistake by myself, I locked a wheel. I was probably pushing a little bit too hard for the car I had, but I was just trying to stay ahead and up there in the early stages. Anyway, lesson learnt.
“We still had no pace on the hard tyres. It was reasonable on the soft tyres, but then we struggled with tyre life.
“For the last bit of the race I was just watching Lowndesy battling with Will Davison, just hoping he could hang in there, but I knew he had the same car as me and knew he was struggling as much as I was. I thought it was going to be pretty tough for him and it unfortunately didn’t quite work out for him.”
We leave Western Australia with Lowndesy at the head of the championship on 717 points, with James Courtney in second on 665 points. A set of mixed results for the weekend sees Jamie now in fifth with 630 points. Tune in again in two weeks’ time when we’re back on track in Winton.