Hidden Valley: Round four preview

Lowndes sticking with Ford in V8 Supercar Championship Series Former V8 Supercar Series champion Craig Lowndes is standing firmly behind a Ford Performance Racing team that is desperate for a top end result in this weekend's fourth round of the...

Lowndes sticking with Ford in V8 Supercar Championship Series

Former V8 Supercar Series champion Craig Lowndes is standing firmly behind a Ford Performance Racing team that is desperate for a top end result in this weekend's fourth round of the country's premier Motorsport series in Darwin.

Lowndes won the first V8 Supercar race at the Hidden Valley track in 1998. In doing so he became the first winner of a national motor racing event in the Northern Territory.

Six years later, Lowndes finds himself in the relatively unfamiliar position of series battler as the FPR team struggle to find speed, knowing that results are the way to end all speculation about their performance this year.

"The entire team wants to be better sooner rather than later," Lowndes said.

"This is a very tight unit that is working every single hour of the day so that Glenn (Seton) and I can start putting better finishes on the board.

"Finishing second at Eastern Creek a few weeks back was heartening but we have plenty of work to do. I am absolutely confident we can achieve our goals for this year and begin pressing the top of the championship."

So concerted is their effort, FPR flew both of their cars back to Australia after New Zealand almost a fortnight ago to give engineers and mechanics more time to prepare for Darwin. It will be there that FPRs' straight line speed will be tested.

The team's decision to air freight the two Falcons back proved to be a wise move, enabling the team to continue important chassis and engine work.

The Hidden Valley track features a 1.1km main straight where speeds of 280 kilometres per hour are reached. Lowndes and Glenn Seton have competed in all six Hidden Valley V8 Supercar rounds since the circuit's introduction to the series in 1998.

"It should be an exciting weekend," Lowndes said.

"This is a difficult race for all of the drivers due to the heat - making it more of a challenge in regards to who is best prepared for the trying conditions. I have always enjoyed racing there and I hope that we can turn things around after what was a hard weekend in New Zealand."

Lowndes' team-mate Seton said the speed of Darwin would be a great test for FPR and all the teams. Seton took pole position in Darwin in 1999.

"I thoroughly enjoy racing there as it is a challenging circuit with the longest straight in the series," Seton said. "The circuit lets us wind out our V8 Supercars as hard as they will go."

All drivers will have to contend with the heat. They will be required to wear full length fire protection under their racing suits as directed by the sport's governing body the FIA.

The Australian Vee Eight Supercar Company (AVESCO) is looking at ways to improve cabin temperatures following an unsuccessful appeal to the FIA to ease the regulations and allow drivers to wear lighter clothing under race suits.

Another former champion looking for a turnaround in Darwin is Mark Skaife. Like Lowndes the Holden Racing Team driver and owner is struggling.

"We've always had good car speed at Hidden Valley and I'd like to convert that into a result this weekend," Skaife said.

"The Darwin round is a tough one on cars and drivers because of the heat, so the key is to manage the situation to the best of your's and the team's ability to do well."

Jason Bright, the last round winner in New Zealand, has a contrasting view as he looks to assert his place at the top of the field. He started last season in similar fashion.

Bright streeted the field in two of the three races at Pukekohe Park Raceway to comfortably win round three, while team-mate Paul Weel found finished a superb sixth.

Last year at Hidden Valley, Bright and Weel finished third and 10th respectively.

"It was pretty enjoyable to take the lead so early on in the championship and hold on to it for the first half of the season," Bright said of season 2004.

"But I can look back now and say I'd trade all of that to be holding the lead for just one round -- the last one.

"Hidden Valley has been a pretty happy hunting ground for me, the second year the V8s went there I won the round in a Ford, and I've won a few races there since coming over to Holden as well."

All teams have been buoyed by making it to Darwin earlier than expected when the ship transporting them from New Zealand arrived back well ahead of time in Brisbane.

-avesco-

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Jason Bright , Paul Weel , Craig Lowndes , Glenn Seton
Teams Holden Racing Team