Lowndes: Practice didn’t show our real speed

FRESH from a dominant display in Texas, Red Bull Racing Australia duo Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup are confident they can maintain their recent success in Darwin this weekend.

Currently No.1 and No.2 in the championship respectively, Whincup and Lowndes have shared the past six race wins of the championship between them and go into Hidden Valley as reigning event winners after having each stood atop the Darwin podium in 2012.

And Friday’s practice did little to suggest the pair couldn’t repeat the success in 2013, both drivers extremely happy with their VF Commodores despite finishing outside the top-five on the timesheets.

“The car balance was good,” said Lowndes, who claimed his first race win of 2012 at the Darwin circuit.

“The consistency was actually surprisingly good as well. We’re really happy with the cars. The practice times weren’t actually indicative of our real speed. With one set of soft tyres and two sets of hard tyres for practice you’ve got to decide how you use them over the three sessions. We ran the first session on used soft tyres, the quicker tyre, and did a 12-lap race run to see how they’d perform over the weekend and after that we went to hards for the final two sessions when the rest of the field went to softs. So the timesheet doesn’t concern us, both Jamie and I were simulating race runs on each of the tyres because there’s big tyre degradation at this circuit and we made a decision to save our softs for qualifying.”

Lowndes and Whincup have history in the Top End. They went on to claim 17 of the final 18 races of the 2012 season after dominating in Darwin. In fact, the pair has won seven races in Darwin since 2006 with Lowndes claiming four of the wins. The only prize that has eluded both drivers in the Top End is a pole position start. But perhaps not for much longer.

“I think we have the car to finally crack that elusive pole position here in Darwin,” Lowndes said.

“The car is working really well. Personally, I’ve got confidence coming out of our performance in Texas, we’ve had a good break and I’m really fit and healthy and looking forward to pushing hard. I think we can break the hoodoo.”

Saturday’s race one will be split into two 60km halves including a 15-minute break, with hard tyres to be enforced on all teams. Sunday will feature two sprint races with tyre stops, allowing teams to utilise both the hard and soft compound tyres.

Qualifying will get under way at 11.30am AEST on Saturday with race one to be broadcast live on Channel Seven from 3.30pm AEST.