Craig Lowndes has ended the first V8 Supercars practice session at the Bahrain International Circuit at the top of the time sheets ahead of tomorrow’s first Desert 400 race.
The TeamVodafone driver lapped the ‘old Grand Prix’ circuit in 2:05.3174s, almost 0.3s ahead of his Holden team-mate Jamie Whincup and Jack Daniel’s Racing’s Todd Kelly.
Lowndes set his time shod with new tyres and admitted that the abrasive track surface will play its part in the results this weekend.
“The circuit has good grip for the first couple of laps, it’s more our tyre on this circuit (that’s the issue),” he said.
“We found at Yas Marina that the time of day that we raced was far better compared to when we race here at midday. It really hurts the tyre a lot.”
The three-time V8 champ said that strategy will be a critical area in the twin 200km races, and it will be more about tyre management rather than fuel strategy.
“I think that qualifying is one thing, but getting the car to last for the duration of the stints, that’s the going the be the key.
“You’re going to need the car to be consistent with new and used tyres. At the moment our car is good on the new tyre, but we’re going to have to work on the used tyre package, and that’s what we’re going to have to think about tomorrow afternoon when we do the race.
“For strategy, at Abu Dhabi, I pitted early and Jamie went long in both races, but the time lost wasn’t a great amount of difference. It is more about getting clean air and track position, rather than fuel usage.”
Whincup strapped on brand-new tyres at the end of the session and found a 1.5s gain compared to old rubber. He says the new-to-V8s track has its charms.
“The new section of the track is exactly the same as the old section, it’s quite low-grip, but it’s probably the best section of the track,” he said.
“Going through that chicane down the hill is a good bit of race track, for sure.”
Kelly’s JDR Commodore VE developed a misfire in practice sessions three and four, but his quick time in the third practice session was enough to give him third overall.
“Compared to last time we were at this event, we need to tuned it in a little bit different,” he said.
“It was consistent, and we could punch out laps, even when the tyres were past their best.”
Fourth place went to SP Tools’s Shane van Gisbergen, ahead of Dunlop Super Dealers FPR driver Steven Richards and Toll Holden Racing Team’s Garth Tander.
Qualifying for Race 3 will be held tomorrow at 1pm local Bahraini time, followed by the 200km race at 3.35pm.
Practice results; Combined practice; V8 Supercars; Bahrain International Circuit
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Below is a short video, focussing on Castrol Racing’s Greg Murphy and the new-for-V8s Bahrain layout.