LOWNDES TAKES TEAM BETTA TO THE TOP Craig Lowndes has saved the best until last at this afternoon's opening practice session at the Betta Electrical 500 from Sandown International Raceway, jumping to the top of the timesheets on his final ...
LOWNDES TAKES TEAM BETTA TO THE TOP
Craig Lowndes has saved the best until last at this afternoon's opening practice session at the Betta Electrical 500 from Sandown International Raceway, jumping to the top of the timesheets on his final lap.
The current series leader, paired with regular season teammate Jamie Whincup, turned the majority of laps for the session, biding his time while the team made continual improvements to the #888 Falcon.
As the chequered flag loomed, Lowndes turned his attention to putting in a quick time and certainly did not disappoint. The 2005 Sandown victor set a cracking pace, producing a near perfect lap to become the only driver to break the one-minute ten-second mark at the year's first endurance race.
He shaved less than a tenth of a second from the Holden pairing of Mark Skaife and Garth Tander on lap 44, recording a session-best 1.10.9708.
Overcast skies and a strong wind in certain areas of the track proved of little obstacle to the multiple-champion, and he maintained consistent pace through the varying conditions.
Lowndes said he was encouraged by the team's early speed and looked forward to chasing a quick qualifying lap tomorrow.
"The car was just fantastic today, we already had a solid knowledge of the base setup here at Sandown and the car had great drive out of the corners," said Lowndes.
"We made quite a few adjustments across the course of the session and these allowed us to make some really good progress, it was then a matter of finding a good gap in the traffic towards the end and just going for it," he said.
"It's great to close out the day on a high note, this really sets the team up well for tomorrow. Jamie only did a few laps today so he will take the wheel for the session tomorrow and no doubt make more inroads in finding a qualifying setup -- it is certainly a big advantage to us that we both race with similar settings."
While Whincup was confined to the sidelines for much of the extended session today, he was able to work closely with Lowndes and the lead Falcon engineer Campbell Little to ensure he would be fully-prepared for Saturday's 30 minute co-driver session.
He took to the track for just 5 laps, familiarising himself with the setup that had been put in place and working on establishing the perfect line into the corners across the back of the circuit.
"I'm pretty happy with the way everything's going, the car is fast and the team is on top of things so it's all going very well, I didn't really raise a sweat today but I'll get a more thorough run aboard the car tomorrow ahead of qualifying," said Whincup.
"Consistency is the key at the endurance events and I know what I need to do to bring the car home in a strong position."
"All signs are pointing to the team recording a quick qualifying time tomorrow and I'm confident the car will be a contender in the Shootout and equally quick in race trim," he ended.
Team Betta Electrical's second car pairing of Allan Simonsen and Richard Lyons had a solid opening stint, easing into the challenge and making a number of changes to the #88 Falcon ahead of tomorrow's practice session.
Lyons completed the majority of laps today and showed some encouraging pace, while Simonsen spent the majority of the session with engineer Ludo Lacroix, working through setup options to ensure he would be ready for tomorrow's task.
Interestingly, the duo's quickest lap of the session was also their last, with the #88 Falcon slotting into 29th place with a best time of 1.12.6141.
Team Betta Electrical's endurance pairings will contest a further practice session tomorrow ahead of a 20-minute qualifying dash, in which placings for the Top Ten Shootout will be determined.