Sandown: TeamVodafone preview

Whincup and Lowndes seeking Sandown spoils Ford's two leading championship contenders will combine forces next weekend as TeamVodafone gears up for the Just Car Insurance Sandown 500, the first of the year's endurance events. Jamie...

Whincup and Lowndes seeking Sandown spoils

Ford's two leading championship contenders will combine forces next weekend as TeamVodafone gears up for the Just Car Insurance Sandown 500, the first of the year's endurance events.

Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes will unite as one, with the #888 Ford Falcon BF set to be a frontrunner from the outset of the 161-lap showdown which demands peak physical and mental strength.

The decision to pair the gun drivers was an easy one for the team, who see reward rather than risk with the duo's previous successes at the Victorian circuit.

Both Whincup and Lowndes have finished on the podium at Sandown for the last two years, and the drivers are extremely confident that the ever-improving TeamVodafone Falcons will be quick once again.

The endurance events often require drivers to compromise on settings and seat position, but after a strong test session at Queensland Raceway Jamie and Craig found that they enjoyed close to an identical setup, a definite advantage in such a gruelling race format.

Whincup, the third-placed driver in the race for the 2007 title, said he felt good about the team's chances of winning at Sandown next weekend.

"We had the test day we needed heading into our first dual-driver endurance race at Sandown," explained Whincup.

"Both Craig and myself felt very comfortable in our compromised seat position. We extinguished any theories that our driving styles had changed from 2006," he said.

"We both liked the same settings in the car which is one element that made us strong last year. All components that we will be using at Sandown were run in nicely, so once again we are very confident."

"We are both fit and prepared for battle and our car speed has been excellent, so on paper we are a strong combination," he added.

"But like always, focus, and excellent team work over the 3 days of competition will be vital for a strong result, and reducing the championship points gap to the Toll cars," Whincup finished.

Lowndes, who shone at the wet and wild Oran Park weekend and moved into fourth in the series standings, is looking forward to a successful weekend, this time playing the role of co-driver to his younger teammate.

"We had a fantastic test at Queensland Raceway, Jamie and I were both running pretty much the same lap times and coming back to the team with similar feedback on the car," said Lowndes.

"Because we were both after the same thing in terms of car setup we were able to experiment a bit more."

"We are going to run with our strongest combination for each race - Jamie will qualify at Sandown as he has out-qualified me for most of this year," he finished.

Returning to the team for the endurance events this year are the international pairing of Richard Lyons and Allan Simonsen, two drivers who are renowned for their versatility and ability to adapt to racecars in next to no time.

The duo delivered solid results at both Sandown and Bathurst last year, and will definitely be a dark-horse combination as the race goes on.

Lyons, who will be the lead driver in car #88 for the event, said he was looking forward to a return to V8 Supercar racing and felt as though the team's recent test had Allan and himself well-prepared for the task at hand.

"It was a very good test we got through everything we wanted to on the day," said Lyons.

"Because we had run the endurance races together last year we weren't starting from scratch."

"We found a race setup we were both comfortable with so once we get to Sandown we can really concentrate on familiarising ourselves with the track and working on a good qualifying run."

Simonsen was equally enthusiastic at the team's chances and was hoping to factor within the top 10 with a solid race strategy.

"It is fantastic to be coming back into the same team, with the same team mates. Having all worked together last year made the test day a lot easier and we really got a lot more out of it this year," said Simonsen.

"Our practiced driver changes were a lot slicker, we did more laps in the car and found a good race car setup that suits both Richard and I quite easily."

Both Simonsen and Lyons will arrive early this week after competing in rounds of their respective European and Japanese sports car series.

The Just Car Insurance Sandown 500 which the prelude to the Super Cheap Auto Bathurst 1000 will be held September 14-16 at Melbourne's Sandown International Raceway.

Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup will be meeting fans and talking to the media in Federation Square at 1.00pm tomorrow (Tuesday 11th September) when they take on AFL players Jamie Charman and Nathan Brown in a physical challenge.

-credit: tv

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Series V8SUPERCARS