Red Bull duo confident of NZ resurgence
Red Bull Racing Australia team-mates Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes are confident of bouncing back strongly from their Winton woes at Pukekohe this weekend.
Having dominated the event leading into Winton, the Tyrepower 400 at Symmons Plains, the two Triple Eight Holdens were uncharacteristically off-song at the Victorian venue.
Craig Lowndes continues to lead the championship despite failing to trouble the front-runners at Winton, holding a reduced 28 point margin over Ford Performance Racing’s Mark Winterbottom.
Remarkably, none of Lowndes’ 96 career V8 Supercars Championship race wins have come at Pukekohe.
Last year saw the veteran score his first top three finish at the venue on the Saturday, before poor qualifying efforts hampered his charge on Sunday.
“I’m still confident we can get good results this weekend even though Winton wasn’t great,” he said in a team preview.
“Pukekohe is a track I enjoy. It’s probably one of the bumpiest tracks that we race on, which gives drivers a challenge to set their cars up.
“The new chicane on the back straight has reduced the top speed but introduced a whole new technical section.
“I think the car wasn’t perfect last year. I struggled throughout the weekend as well so hopefully this year we can turn it around and make it a much better weekend in results.”
Lowndes is expecting the three local drivers – Brad Jones Racing’s Fabian Coulthard, Volvo’s Scott McLaughlin and Tekno’s Shane van Gisbergen – to be among Red Bull’s biggest threats this weekend.
“There’s no doubt that the Kiwi drivers go well at Pukekohe, this being their home country,” he added.
“I think that they’ll definitely lift their game for the special occasion.”
Whincup slipped to fifth in points across the Winton 400 and admits he now has a point to prove.
Whincup was a magnet for trouble in New Zealand last year, with the now five-time champion’s dramas including a puncture, a drive-through for contact with Winterbottom and a costly unforced error at the hairpin.
The #1 Commodore was unarguably one of the fastest in the field however, scoring two poles and a race win during the frantic weekend.
“It was nice to have Easter off with my family and I’m looking forward to getting back to Pukekohe,” he said after the Winton event that included a low of 21st in Race 8 qualifying.
“We showed good pace last year, but we tripped ourselves up a couple of times.
“I’m confident we should have good pace and come back where we left off last year.
“We’ve got a bit to prove after a poor showing at Winton.”
The V8 Supercars will hit the track for practice, qualifying and the opening race of the weekend on Friday.
Pukekohe marks Lowndes’ 226th V8 Supercars event start, equalling John Bowe for second on the all-time list behind Russell Ingall.
VIDEO: Speedcafe TV Pukekohe preview
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