Tire strategy pays off in Darwin victory for Lowndes

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Eric Mauk

Craig Lowndes had a monster drive in Saturday’s V8 Supercar opener at Darwin’s Hidden Valley Raceway, coming from 21st to fourth.

Sunday, Lowndes had an equally impressive march through the field at Darwin, but this time he didn’t stop when he got to the fourth spot in the field. Lowndes used strong strategy and fresh Dunlop rubber to get past his Team Vodafone teammate Jamie Whincup with three laps to go, taking his 83rd career V8 Supercar win.

Lowndes’ Holden started his day on the harder compound tires and paid the price early, falling behind Whincup as well as the Ford of Mark Winterbottom. But the team’s early sacrifice left Lowndes with one fresh pair of Dunlop soft-compound shoes for the end of the race, while other teams were strapping on scuffed tires for their final stops.

“We struggled a little bit in the early stage of the race on the hard tire, and Jamie was able to get a gap on us,” said Lowndes. “We were going backwards in a hurry once everyone else got on Soft tires. We elected to stay out to split out the next two runs we had to do. Once we put the soft tire on it was quick – the car is looking after its tires really well, especially the soft tire, so I can get the best out of it. We went into the last stint with a lot of confidence knowing that we had a green tire; we wanted to leave a brand new set for the race and make sure we were in a position to use it.”

Whincup made his final stop on lap 46 and Lowndes followed one lap later, but a brand-new set of tires for Lowndes – compared to used Dunlop’s on Whincup’s car – gave the driver the Aussies call The People’s Champion the decisive edge in the final ten laps. The teammates went nose-to-tail for three laps before Lowndes made his move inside of Turn Six, taking the lead for good with three laps to go.

“It’s been fantastic and it’s been a long time since TeamVodafone has had a 1-2 finish, so it’s a good reward for all the boys who have been working so hard.” Lowndes remarked.

Michael Caruso came from last to finish fourth at Darwin
Michael Caruso came from last to finish fourth at Darwin

Photo by: John Maricic

The second-place finish, combined with Will Davison’s sixth-place run, allowed Whincup to further widen the lead in the championship that he earned with his Saturday win. Whincup leads Davison by 38 points with Mark Winterbottom’s third-place run moving him to within 10 points of Davison on the year.

Michael Caruso stalled on the grid and fell all the way back to last, but fought all the way back to place fourth, while Fabian Coulthard rounded out the top five.

“I’m really happy with that. The start was not ideal but the boys put me on a good strategy and we had some good speed in the middle stint and carved up the field,” Caruso said. “I’m really happy the Fujitsu Commodore punched well above its weight today.”

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Series V8SUPERCARS
Tags darwin, featured, lowndes, mauk, v8 supercars, whincup