Craig Lowndes says his part of the three-car Triple Eight operation has come on “leaps and bounds” since the season-opening Clipsal 500.
Triple Eight’s off-season expansion has resulted in big changes for Lowndes, who was shifted out of the Red Bull-backed setup and into the team’s newly-created ‘third’ entry.
There was also an engineering change for Lowndes between the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, with Grant ‘Shippy’ McPherson moved over the new signing Shane van Gisbergen’s #97 entry, and Frenchman Ludo Lacroix drafted in for the #888 car.
After a less-than-spectacular start to the season in Adelaide, where Lowndes was outpaced by the Bulls in the dry, the veteran hit back hard at the Australian Grand Prix. He was able to essentially match both van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup for pace across the four races, finishing the weekend second overall.
And he says there is more to come, as he continues to settle in to the new arrangement.
“It’s one of those things where we’ve come on in leaps and bounds since Clipsal,” said Lowndes.
“Ludo and I are working really well together, the car is responding, and I’m feeling a lot more comfortable in it.
“I think that we’ve developed a long way from Clipsal, as a small team on our side. But as a whole, we’re still part of the Triple Eight family, and that’s the way it is.
Engineering shift the biggest change
While Lowndes has a new car for 2016, it is still a fully-blown Triple Eight entry – just like in 2015. What has taken some getting used to, however, is the engineering switch.
“There’s a little bit of difference – obviously talking to a Frenchman on the other end of the radio,” Lowndes said.
“But it’s all the same personnel, same mechanics. We all debrief together. So the process hasn’t changed.
“I’ve got to get used to Ludo, and he’s got to get used to me. It’s one of those things, you’ve just got to get used to that, to get that click going. When I tell him I’ve got a little bit of understeer, he’s got to understand how much that is.
“From Clipsal to this weekend [at the Grand Prix], I’m delighted to see the progress.”
Same, but different
When quizzed on the expansion to three cars, Lowndes admitted that as much he still feels like a big part of the T8 set-up, the reality is that all three drivers are looking for something different from their cars.
“We debrief [together], we share information in terms of data,” he said. “We all know the setup in each other’s car.
“But other than that, it’s all up to Shane to work with Shippy, Jamie to work with [David] Cauchi, and me to work with Ludo. We’re sort of still separate, but we know what each other has in their car.
“It’s how you drive, and what you want from the car. All three cars weren’t identical this weekend, we’re slightly different.”