Qualifying fumble triggers day of drama for Lowndes
A bungled shock absorber change at a critical moment in morning qualifying has been blamed for triggering a disastrous series of events for Craig Lowndes at Symmons Plains.
Topping Friday practice heightened hype surrounding the three-time champion’s ability to break the all-time Australian Touring Car Championship/V8 Supercars Championship race win record he currently shares with Mark Skaife.
It didn’t take long for things to come apart today, however, with the final result a 26th place finish and a loss of the championship points lead.
“We decided to do a three-run quali instead of two-run so we made a change after the second run and it just snowballed out of control,” Red Bull Racing Australia team manager Adrian Burgess told Speedcafe.com at day’s end.
“The guys had a bit of trouble lining the damper up, we damaged part of the clevis; the change took longer than it should have and we missed the run.
“It was our fault for trying to do too much but as always you’re trying to improve the car run to run.
“We paid the price on the grid and the knock-on from that is you’re fighting people in the middle of the field on the first lap when maybe we should have been further up.
“We got fed a wheel (in an opening lap dice with Shane van Gisbergen), pushed onto the mud and it all went on from there.”
“I was a bit angry,” added Lowndes of the contact with Van Gisbergen.
“It’s very frustrating and I’m pretty disappointed about it because we’ve always been told to give racing room.”
Things quickly got worse from there, with the punctured tyre leading to a spin two corners later.
Gearbox damage incurred in the rejoin saw Lowndes complete the rest of the race without first gear, while limping back to the pits for new rubber dropped the Red Bull Holden a lap off the pace.
“We went into that race knowing that if you go a lap down or get penalised that it was potentially a huge disaster and for us it was a massive one,” he said in light of the two-part nature of the Super Sprint races.
“Not only to have the contact (with Van Gisbergen), but to then lose the tyre, lose first gear and then go a back down – it couldn’t have gotten much worse.
“We just limped around until the end to keep out of trouble.”
Lowndes’ car will receive a new gearbox ahead of Race 4 qualifying tomorrow morning, with the damaged unit being sent immediately back to the team’s Queensland base, where it can be refurbished and potentially sent to Melbourne for inclusion in the team’s air freight container to Pukekohe, New Zealand.
The Symmons Plains event also proved troublesome for Lowndes last year, where contact with Will Davison in Race 4 resulted in a failure to finish, putting the veteran at an early points deficit.
Lowndes is third in the 2013 championship standings after today’s race, losing places only to team-mate Jamie Whincup and Ford Performance Racing’s Will Davison.