John Maricic, V8 Supercars Correspondent
Team Vodafone driver Craig Lowndes racked up his 86th career win at the revamped Eastern Creek Raceway today, four behind all time leader Mark Skaife. Ford team mates Mark Winterbottom and Will Davison grabbed 2nd and 3rd catapulting Winterbottom into the championship lead after Jamie Whincup finished back in 23rd place after earlier taking pole position.
It just wasn’t Whincup’s day after he failed to get off the start line and dropped back to 6th and in the closing stages suffered tyre problems. Privateer Jonathon Webb took advantage and led the pack into the first corner. He continued to build on his lead whilst on the soft compound tyres but that all changed after he pitted despite taking the lap record on his 2nd lap.
After only a handful of laps Jim Beam drivers Steven Johnson and Dean Fiore came together resulting in both spinning off the circuit.
Lowndes who started in 6th moved through the field passing and took the lead from Webb who took on the hard tyres whilst Lowndes crew put on the soft tyres and he never looked back, taking his third race win in a row and now 196 points behind Winterbottom who leads Whincup by 80.
With another effort like today Lowndes is growing hungrier for the title which he last won in 1999 and with the endurance races around the corner there appears to be no stopping him, “I’m happy, I’m confident.....I was lucky enough at Queensland Raceway to get the results.....the circuit is fast flowing, when you’ve got a good car around here it’s very satisfying, it’s damn hard work if you don’t” Lowndes said. “Hooking into Turn 1 at 260 ks requires a fair bit of commitment and then around the back of Corporate Hill when the cars move around”.
Winterbottom said, “We’ve got to work a little harder now, prepare the car for tomorrow and try and have another go. We need to keep finishing races and we are well aware of Craig and keep our fingers crossed for the rest of the year”
Davison, “It was a decent result today but to be honest it was a bit disappointing, I struggled a bit with pace and made a meal of the start. It’s good to be back on the podium and back here.....these guys have all had a great run, Jamie had a shocker today, we’ve all had them, the brains ticking, we’ll go and do a few changes tonight”
The V8 Supercars returned to Sydney’s home of motorsport which now sports a new name, Sydney Motorsport Park after a four year absence. Drivers used the old 3.93 kilometre circuit, forgoing the additional 800 metres which has only recently been completed after the precinct underwent major upgrades in 2011.
With the last V8 race in 2008, Tony Cochrane vowed not to return, however, since then an $11M injection will see the new complex host Australia’s premier motorsport category until 2014.