Lowndes smashes Sandown record

REIGNING Sandown 500 champion Craig Lowndes has predicted records to tumble at Sandown this weekend after smashing the practice lap record in his Red Bull Racing Australia VF Commodore on Friday.

After co-driver Warren Luff gave the Red Bull Commodore the seal of approval in practice two, Lowndes went about stamping his authority on the event by posting a sizzling 1.08.93 lap – the first driver ever to post a time below the nine-second mark.

Just 72 points adrift of team-mate Jamie Whincup in the championship race and with 300 points on offer for a win on Sunday, Lowndes has made his intentions clear as he continues his push for a fourth V8 Supercars championship.

“We’re very happy – the car is responding extremely well and what we’ve learned from the test day last week in how to manage the car better over bumpy tracks like this is paying dividends,” an ecstatic Lowndes said.

“The car is nicer to drive now and I’m really happy. The biggest thing we have to keep an eye on really is the weather as there’s likely going to be some wet conditions. But our car works really well. We’ve found some good balance.

“And with the four corners re-surfaced there is definitely more grip out there, which suits us too. There’s great potential here with these Cars of the Future that we can break the race record for the first time. I’m very excited for the weekend ahead.”

Lowndes and Luff were among the pace-setters all day but the former waited until the final lap of the third practice session to post his record lap.

Meanwhile, Whincup and co-driver Paul Dumbrell have had their first outing in Whincup’s all-new race car after his previous chassis suffered damage at last month’s Winton round.

Holding the championship lead by 55 points from Ford’s Will Davison, with Mark Winterbottom and Lowndes close behind, Whincup needs a result to stave off his rivals and is impressed with the new car.

“Today was all about the new car, testing out what does and doesn’t work,” Whincup said.

“We’ve got four practice sessions to get to grips with it and out of the box, it’s a lot better. It feels much better and there are no vibrations like those we suffered at Winton. We’re looking good. We’ve got another practice session to work on a few things tomorrow before qualifying.”

For the first time this year, Saturday won’t feature an official race with the return of two qualifying races – each featuring one of two drivers – that will ultimately decide starting positions for Sunday’s 500km race.

Check the TV schedule for details.