Triple Eight braced for increased competition
Triple Eight team manager Mark Dutton has stressed the importance of this week’s pre-season test amid predications that the competition will move up a level this year.
The Queensland squad finished last season as the Teams’ Champions but is fully expecting another highly competitive season as it ramps up its preparations at Queensland Raceway on Thursday.
Following a successful shakedown of its new chassis at the Ipswich circuit on Monday, the team is eager to make the most of the test day to ensure it starts the season ahead of its rivals.
Craig Lowndes will cut his first laps since suffering a broken collarbone with the three-time V8 Supercars champion joined by team-mates Jamie Whincup and new recruit Shane van Gisbergen.
DJR Team Penske and Tekno Autosports will join Triple Eight at Queensland Raceway on Thursday, while the remainder of the field will test at Winton on Monday.
With the Adelaide showpiece fast approaching, Dutton says his squad has plenty of work to do to be ready for the curtain raiser where it will launch its new three car attack.
“It (the test) is definitely important,” Dutton told Speedcafe.com.
“On Thursday there will be three teams here (at Queensland Raceway) so you will get a bit of a judge off them, but until you roll into Clipsal you won’t know for sure as we won’t have been on the track with the whole field.
“There has not been a lot of performance work as such (over the off season). We have been flat out but that has been more so with building new cars for Craig and Shane.
“We still have a lot of work to do before Clipsal so there is no buttoning off just yet.
“We will be working hard on everything up until and including the test day. There will be late nights the following week to make sure we roll out at Clipsal as smoothly as possible.”
Dutton has earmarked the emerging force of DJR Team Penske as one of Triple Eight’s biggest threats this year.
“You saw towards the end of last year that DJR Team Penske got more and more and form,” added Dutton.
“The size of their resources are pretty spectacular so there should be no reason that they won’t lift the bar.
“The Prodrive boys towards the end of the year were not as competitive but they will bounce back and come out strong.
“There are always another five or six cars that surprise you and present themselves as contenders. Every year people work hard so it doesn’t stop.”
Whincup echoes Dutton’s thoughts regarding this week’s running having experienced the effects of a troublesome test last year.
The team endured a difficult test day prior to the Sandown 500 when it encountered several issues with a new chassis which robbed the operation of valuable development time.
Whincup blew away the cobwebs by shaking down Lowndes’ new chassis yesterday while his team-mate continues to recover from a broken collarbone.
“I think (the test) is critical mainly because we wasted that test day before Sandown,” Whincup told Speedcafe.com.
“We really needed that day to move forward and unfortunately we didn’t.
“We ended the year strong but everybody has hit the reset button. We hope to have a good day to roll out strong for Adelaide.
“You have to assume that it will be every bit as tough out there as every year it steps up and it does get tougher.
“It is going to be on. It is going to be a painful grind for everyone in pit lane.
“The win is going to come for the supporters because they are going to see another level which is going to be exciting.”