Lowndsey: “The competition is going to be tough”

You hear that? Bring your ear a little closer. Like a shell mimics the sound of the ocean, these words are echoing a familiar call – that of the roaring 640HP V8 Holden engine.

Yep, it’s that time of the year again – springtime, or as we at Red Bull Racing Australia like to call it, enduro time. Creatures are waking from their slumbers, birds are singing, leaves are sprouting and that wondrous, sweet yet powerful scent of high-octane fuel is wafting through the air. Mmm, don’t you just love the smell of the E85 in the morning…

Oh yeah, it’s time for the Sandown 500 and today marks the first time in 12 months the V8 Supercars field has set tyre on this most awesome of race circuits. And there are a couple of guys by the name of C. Lowndes and W. Luff who will today go about defending a title they hold close to their hearts. To do so, they have brought with them some new artillery in the form of their Red Bull Racing Australia VF Commodore packed with new componentry.

“And we’re feeling really good,” Lowndesy says ahead of today’s three practice sessions.

“Luffy and I are really excited. We had a great victory here last year and a great testing day last week. We hold the title and we’re really excited for the longer format and hopefully defending our crown.

“Luffy and I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. We’ve had Luffy in the car on and off all year. He adapts to the car very well and he enjoys the car the same way I do – which is especially important when you need both drivers working together as easily as possible. We’ve both got grins ear to ear.”

As do team-mates J-Dub and PD who might just have something to say about the boys reigning supreme at Sandown. But first, both the No.1 and the No.888 cars must overcome some recent set-up complaints.

“We have struggled in the past with a bumpy track – and Sandown is especially bumpy.” Lowndesy admits.

“You’re going to need to be able to ride the curbs, get the power down well and brake late. That’s something we focused on in testing last week.  And the competition is going to be tough. It’s definitely going to show where the cars are at, where the drivers are at and of course where you’re at in the championship.”

Ah, the championship. Courtesy of a post-race penalty from Winton, Lowndesy has dropped from second to a narrow fourth in the championship while J-Dub holds the lead by the narrowest of margins. Separating them are the two FPR Falcons of Mark Winterbottom and Will Davison. And whoever finishes the best this weekend of the four will almost certainly leave Sandown with the championship lead.

“There are 300 points up for grabs and for the championship, it’s really important to get those points and, if you can’t, to finish as close as you can because this race can make or break your championship,” Lowndesy says.

And there are a few factors that will come into play, none more important than long-term reliability.

“Reliability is a big question mark over all cars,” Lowndesy says.

“The longest race so far has been 250km – we haven’t gone any further in one stint. It’s going to be interesting. But we believe we’ve prepared the cars as best as possible.”

Cars hit the track today for practice with Saturday to feature a unique qualifying format – where both the lead driver and co-driver will contest separate qualifying “races” – before the big race gets under way at 1.30pm on Sunday.

Check the broadcast schedule for this weekend here or watch it on V8 SuperView.

Friends, foes and colleagues alike, the time is nigh to shake… and bake.