Craig Lowndes Storms To Second in Sydney
April 4, 2004 - Ford Performance Racing (FPR) driver Craig Lowndes raced to second place in today's stormy second round of the Australian V8 Supercar Championship Series at Sydney's Eastern Creek Raceway. Team mate Glenn Seton finished 15th after a consistent drive in the inclement conditions.
The 29 year old triple V8 Supercar Champion drove an aggressive and superbly controlled race from 15th on the starting grid in wet conditions from the start to the end of the Safety-Car shortened 67 lap race.
FPR was the only Ford team in today's top five, with the race victory going to Holden driver Rick Kelly, followed by CAT FPR Falcon driver Lowndes with Holden drivers Garth Tander, Steven Richards and Greg Murphy behind.
Starting from 15th on the grid, Lowndes raced his way to 5th by lap 32, when the team called him into the pits for his first of two compulsory stops. After a quick re-fuel and suspension adjustment, Lowndes continued until the next Safety Car period on lap 45 for his tyre stop. A cross threaded wheel nut on the CAT FPR Falcon's front right wheel caused a lengthy delay, with Lowndes emerging from the stop 45 seconds later. He re-joined the race in 15th position and began the fight again, setting some super-fast lap times as he forced his way through the field. By lap 49 Lowndes was up to 11th, by lap 52 he was up to 7th and by lap 58 he had joined the top three. From this point on a fierce water-logged battle for position took place between Lowndes and Holden rival Garth Tander for second position, the FPR driver making his way past after several attempts on lap 66. Two laps later the Safety Car emerged due to the dangerous heavy rain and on the following lap the race was declared, securing the blue oval team's fifth podium finish in a little over one year in the world's most competitive Touring Car category.
Ford Credit FPV Falcon driver Seton endured a difficult start to the race with handling problems in the wet conditions. Starting from 14th on the grid, an early race spin saw him drop to the rear of the field. The double Champion was called into the pits the 8th lap for his first stop (tyres) and by lap 30 he was 23rd. Aided by competitor pit stops, Seton made his way up to 9th by lap 38 and he was badly delayed on his second stop (fuel) as he waited behind his team mate in the pit lane due to the wheel nut problem. From this point the Ford Credit FPV Falcon driver complete a solid race performance over the next 20 laps, working his way up to 15th by the end of the shortened race, ahead of Holden driver Simon Wills and Ford drivers David Besnard and John Bowe.
This result represents a welcome return to the V8 Supercar podium for FPR, following the Prodrive owned team's disappointing start to the 2004 season in Adelaide last month. The result also mirrors Lowndes' second place at Eastern Creek in the corresponding round last year with FPR and continues the 29 year old driver's impressive run of success at this circuit, highlighted by it being the venue of his career first V8 Supercar round victory in 1996.
#6 Craig Lowndes - "We struggled a bit early in the race, as the car was not as quick as I would have liked. We made an adjustment during our fuel stop and as the track became drier the car was reacting very well. We lost a lot of time in the pits due to the cross threaded wheel nut and from then it was a matter of racing as fast and as aggressively as we could to gain a great result. I had to drive off line to gain any kind of advantage through the corners and the battle with Garth was great. My car had good brakes and turn in to the corners, but Garth had strong corner exit speed, so this made it a good battle. We had a knock or two but it was good, close racing given the conditions. The team worked hard to ensure that we had good reliability for this race and we know that we have a lot of work to do before New Zealand to ensure we keep progressing. While it is great to have a fast car in the wet, we need to be fast in the dry as well, so we will keep working towards this as the season continues.The officials made the right decision to stop the race because it was undriveable out there in the closing stages."
#5 Glenn Seton - "That was an eventful race - it was very wet at some stages and I struggled with understeer throughout. I locked the front brakes early in the race and had a spin, which set me back, but I didn't have the car speed that I needed today. We soldiered on to the end of the race and it was a reliable run throughout, so I'm looking forward to New Zealand."
FPR Chief Engineer John Russell - "Eastern Creek has been very kind to us with Craig - another wet race and another Safety Car finish, it is starting to become a bit of a familiar pattern and it would be nice to do it in the dry and somewhere else for a change. A great drive by Craig and the crew worked very hard all weekend and they really needed this result to keep the team moving forward. A good drive by Glenn in difficult circumstances and we move on to New Zealand now with very little damage and renewed enthusiasm."
Lowndes earned 186 points for his efforts today, placing him 16th in the V8 Supercar Championship points standings with 10 rounds remaining in the series. Seton is placed 18th with 177 points. The early season points leader is Holden driver Steven Richards with 360 points from Ford's Marcos Ambrose (348) and Holden driver Rick Kelly (336).