Lowndes strikes black-top gold in Texas

DON’T mess with Texas – or Craig Lowndes. The Red Bull Racing Australia driver made his Circuit of the Americas debut in spectacular fashion this morning, out-classing the rest of the 27-strong field to post the fastest time in practice in his VF Commodore.

The No.888 Holden was the only car to go sub 01.33.00 seconds in the four practice sessions, Lowndes setting the perfect preparation for qualifying ahead of races one and two on Sunday morning AEST.

“Obviously it’s a great start to the weekend,” said Lowndes, who sits third in the V8 Supercars championship behind Will Davison and Red Bull Racing Australia team-mate Jamie Whincup.

“It was the first time on track and it was quite difficult to try and get a balance on one set of tyres so we opted to put a second set on right at the end, which gave us a good understanding of where the car is at and I’ve got to say the car’s pretty good.

“We worked pretty hard at it. Probably the rear tyres are something that we’re still looking forward to actually getting a better handle on, but all in all quite a good session for us.”

Other than a steep turn one at the end of the straight where drivers have joked the field would be 28-wide, the smooth and ultra fast track features as many as six genuine passing opportunities.

“It’s a circuit that is a fast, flowing and beautiful track and of course I’m loving it all,” Lowndes said.

“There’s quite a fast section at turns two, three, four and five – you’ve really got to have a car that flows well there, and of course you’ve got to have a car that stops and turns as well. The way the tyre grips the track here is different to what we’ve had in the past. It’s a fun track and for me it brings back the European days of faster flowing tracks.”

While Lowndes opted for a fresh set of tyres right at the end, reigning champion Whincup chose to preserve his limited tyre stock for qualifying on Saturday and as such didn’t feature heavily inside the top 10.

“Everybody would have been happier if we had more tyres,” Lowndes said.

The majority of the field opted to run on wets at the start to preserve tyres and get a feel for the track. “We’ll go faster, there’s no doubt about that. After the first day on track we’re all very happy at Red Bull Racing Australia and looking forward to tomorrow’s qualifying and some racing.”

Qualifying will be telecast live on Seven Mate from 5am AEST Sunday with races one and two live from 6am AEST. All races will be 100km with mandatory pit-stops in each. Check out the full telecast schedule on the V8 Supercars website.