Tyre saving in Townsville

LAST-start winner Craig Lowndes is confident he can maintain his winning form on the streets of Townsville after the V8 Supercars field had their first taste of the North Queensland on Friday.

Lowndes and Red Bull Racing Australia team-mate Jamie Whincup enter the Townsville 400 as No.2 and No.1 in the championship respectively, and Lowndes says Friday’s practice did little to dispel rising confidence among the team.

While others opted for new tyres for the third and final session of the day, both Lowndes and Whincup stayed on used rubber to preserve their best tyres for tomorrow’s qualifying.

“I actually feel really good despite the tyre,” said Lowndes, who with Whincup has shared eight of the past 10 race wins.

“We opted not to use a fresh set or a soft set, so pretty much used the best tyres of a bad bunch to get a feel for the circuit. The car balance was actually not too bad. It was nice to drive and very consistent, we just need a bit more grip but that will come with fresh tyres tomorrow. All in all, I’m happy with where the car is at. Jamie had a little issue at one stage there but overall, we’ve saved our best tyres for tomorrow and we’ll get to see where the cars elevate to with the new tyres.”

Like almost every practice session this season, the Red Bull Commodores finished outside the top 10 instead preferring to preserve their best equipment for Saturday’s qualifying.

A final practice session will be held tomorrow morning before qualifying for the first of two 200km races over the weekend. The Townsville race welcomes back re-fuelling pit-stops and longer format races for the first time this year on the back of several sprint rounds. Both hard and soft compound tyres will be used in both races.

Meanwhile, MotoGP champion-come-V8 Supercars debutant Casey Stoner posted the sixth quickest time of the day in Development Series practice.

In just his third event behind the wheel and first in two months, Stoner showed significant improvement to finish faster than more than two thirds of the experienced field.

“It felt good, we just need a little bit more time,” Stoner said.

“It’s hard getting all the little things together but we’re getting there and it’s a lot more enjoyable now. Plus the fact that I love street circuits – they’re fantastic. We had the first taste of it in Adelaide and then we did a few laps at Albert Park. I really enjoy the street ones. Hopefully we can stay in the top-10 for qualifying and spend more time up that end because we haven’t been there too much.”

Race one of the V8 Supercars will get under way at 3.35pm AEST on Saturday with the DVS series to run its first of three races at 12.35pm. Qualifying for both categories will begin from 9.55am. All races to be telecast on Channel 7 and 7 Mate, and you can check the TV schedule here.