November 7, 2003 - Ford Performance Racing team driver Craig Lowndes has qualified 5th after a highly competitive qualifying session at New Zealand's Pukekohe Park Raceway today.
After struggling through today's two practice sessions, improvements made to Lowndes' CAT FPR Falcon and a change in driving style to better suit this high speed 2.8 kilometre circuit ensured that he was able to set a top five lap time of 56.9390s, 4/10ths of a second behind local hero and three time Pukekohe winnner Greg Murphy (Holden) who was today's fastest qualifier. (56.5453s)
Ford Credit FPR Falcon driver Glenn Seton qualified 14th, (57.1729s) just 6/10ths of a second behind the leaders, with FPV FPR Falcon driver David Besnard 27th (57.6748s). Rear traction problems and a damaged front splitter after a brief drive through the infield contributed to his difficult session.
The top of the timesheets saw Murphy 2/100ths of a second ahead of Mark Skaife and Jason Bright - all in Holdens. The top 25 competitors qualified within one second, predicting a highly competitive and exciting first race tomorrow.
Auckland weather remained fine with scattered cloud throughout, with a Friday record of 23,412 fans in attendance. FPR returns to the track with Lowndes taking part in the top ten shootout, followed by the first of three races to decide the penultimate round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series.
#6 Craig Lowndes - "The car is improving all the time and I knew that I would have to set a 56 second lap to make the top ten -competing in the first group made it difficult to know how far into the 56's I needed to be. We still have a few issues to address with the car, but I changed my driving method, using higher gears in some of the corners, as Glenn had been doing this with good results in the practice sessions. This definitely made a major difference and overall it is a positive start to our weekend."
#5 Glenn Seton - "The car is OK, obviously we still have some areas that we need to work on. We seem to always end up around this position (14th), and it is frustrating being one tenth of a second from the top ten. When you look at the competitiveness of the field, we really aren't that far behind. I need to push hard tomorrow to get a good result in the first race, lining us up well for the two races on Sunday."
#7 David Besnard - "An extremely frustrating day, especially as I qualified second here last year and I love this circuit. We just don't have the car set up right and we need to do a lot of work to improve the car. Some hard work ahead tomorrow and I'll be up for the challenge."
FPR Chief Engineer, John Russell - "A mixed qualifying session for us, with David at the rear of the field due to an off track excursion and Craig setting a highly competitive time during the first half of the session. We didn't expect his time to place us 5th and this was very pleasing, giving us one car in the top ten. Glenn drove well all day, his best time eventually clipped to 14th during the session. Overall we are not in bad shape for the races ahead."