Lowndes turns engine problem into gold in Ipswich win
TeamVodafone star Craig Lowndes bagged another win at his home track on a day when the mechanical gremlins tried to hijack his attack.
Lowndes romped away in the opening heat of the Coates Hire Ipswich 300 today to continue his trail-blazing form at the Queensland Raceway circuit.
However a developing engine issue which reared its head during the morning practice session indicated Lowndes was in for a challenging day.
TeamVodafone scrambled to give his Commodore a comprehensive health check as the clock began ticking for the qualifying session ahead of the 45-lap race.
The squad changed the engine and were lucky to have almost three hours in between the practice session and qualifying.
Indeed the team was extremely lucky that Queensland Raceway included a Saturday morning practice session which is not normal procedure for every meeting.
“We had a problem with the engine and we had to get pretty busy to get ready for qualifying,” Lowndes explained.
“The guys worked through everything and checked everything.”
Qualifying presented a nervous wait for Lowndes and his pit crew who were hoping it had knocked the engine problem on the head but the #888 Commodore had lost valuable set up time.
“Thankfully it is our test track and we had a direction with the car and we had to wait for the track to come to us a bit.”
“At the end of qualifying I only got one lap in but I was able to pip Jamie for pole.”
Lowndes rolled onto pole position, peered over to his left to see his team-mate Jamie Whincup sitting on the outside of the front row.
The five times Bathurst champion knew he needed to nail the start to lead into turn one if his day was to finish with a golden tinge.
“So the race really came down to the start,” Lowndes said.
Whincup had a clutch issue and bogged down loosing vital ground off the line which allowed Lowndes to spear into the first right-hander unchallenged.
“I needed to beat Jamie off the line to get into turn one and lucky we had a good start and obviously Jamie had a problem.”
“The car trended better as the race went on. It was oversteering too much at the beginning.”
“But as the fuel load reduced as the race went on the car got better.”
“Both cars are extremely quick and I know Jamie will bounce back tomorrow.”
“There is another 20 laps more than the 45 today so an extra pit stop can make or break a race.”
For Lowndes it was his fourth consecutive victory at Queensland Raceway and the 84th of his illustrious career.
He is fourth in the championship standings on 1646 points, trailing Whincup (1923), Mark Winterbottom (1832) and Will Davison (1756).