New regulations bring Craig Lowndes back to glory days
Red Bull Racing Australia’s Craig Lowndes is in no doubt as to which aspect of the new-for-2013 V8 Supercars technical regulations has played directly into the hands of his driving style.
The 38-year-old says that the 18-inch wheel and tyre package, uprated from the previous 17-inch, have resulted in a similar driving feel to that experienced in the class in the 1990s.
Lowndes shocked the V8 Supercars establishment during his first full-time campaign in 1996, winning the Australian Touring Car Championship, Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000 treble.
The now Queensland-based Victorian’s rise to prominence came during the height of the open-tyre era, where the rubber manufacturers made different steer and drive tyres for the two ends of the cars.
“For me, it’s a great transformation from last year to this year – this car now feels very much like the cars I had way back in the ’90s,” said Lowndes in the lead-up to this weekend’s second championship event of the season at Symmons Plains.
“(In those days) you were able to work with the car and tyres, and for the first time in a long time it feels very much like the touring cars of old for me.
“I’m able to carry speed into the corner where I couldn’t last year, I’m able to trail-brake later and deeper into the corner which again you couldn’t last year.
“To be blatantly honest, this car has suited my driving a style a lot more and a lot better than what I’ve had in the past.”
Although a lot of other elements have changed year-on-year, including a move to independent rear suspension and an improvement to the weight distribution of the 1400kg behemoths, Lowndes’ race engineer Jeromy Moore concurs with his driver’s singling out of the tyre’s characteristics.
“With the change from 17-inch to 18-inch, there is a shorter side wall so the tyres don’t flex as much laterally when you load them up, allowing a bit more mid-corner grip, which suits Craig’s style,” he said.
“Craig likes more of a car with which he can carry speed into a corner not so much just brake really late and get on the power really hard. That’s more his forte.
“That’s why he does really well when he drives GT cars at Bathurst. The tyres are actually very similar to that and that suits his style more than last year’s car for sure.”
Lowndes leads the championship after last month’s season-opening Clipsal 500 Adelaide, where he took first and third place finishes from the two races.
All three of Lowndes’ V8 Supercars titles came with the Bridgestone-shod Holden Racing Team Commodores during the 1990s.