Craig Lowndes has explained how a driving error ultimately caused him to be baulked on a flying lap by James Golding and qualify last for Race 4 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
The veteran driver will be buried in the field for the start of the second race of the Coates Hire Melbourne 400 after he came up behind rookie driver Golding at the Turn 9/Turn 10 complex during Thursday’s second 10-minute qualifying session.
Lowndes will line up on the grid in 26th position after Garth Tander managed to claw himself two positions off the bottom of the timesheets following an engine misfire with a late lap.
Earlier, the 43-year-old qualified 17th for Race 3 following an off at Turn 3 in the Autobarn-backed Triple Eight Commodore.
Lowndes had spoken of how he felt he had overcome the qualifying struggles that hampered his 2017 campaign following the opening event of the season at Adelaide and started the practice sessions at Albert Park promisingly.
However, the qualifying mishaps in the two short sessions on the second-longest track on the calendar mean Lowndes faces a tough task in the opening Supercars races of the weekend.
“It was a very productive day to begin with,” he recounted.
“We worked on the car balance during the two practice sessions, made it nicer towards the end of the second session and we were confident going into qualifying.
“(In) Qualifying (for Race 3), we locked up a tyre into Turn 3 and ran wide.
“We opted to put another set of tyres on; by that time the quality of the track had disappeared, but we still got a reasonable lap in. It was disappointing from where we were in practice though.
“We tried to rebound for quali two (for Race 4) and I made another error in the first lap, so we opted to do a second lap and then got caught with another competitor who was dawdling back to the pits.
“I’m sure that the stewards will look at it, but we start where we start.
“It’s not a good representation of where the car’s at, so we’re going to have a lot of fun in race one (3) and race two (4) to bounce back.”
Race Control advised that the incident with the Garry Rogers Motorsport rookie was under investigation, though there has been no word yet on a penalty.
Golding admitted fault when speaking on television shortly after the conclusion of the session.
“Obviously, I held Craig up on his quick lap there,” he said.
“I just didn’t see him at all so my mistake, so just try not to do that again.”
Golding qualified 22nd and 19th for the two races respectively, though the latter position may change after the investigation is complete.
Qualifying for Races 5 and 6 commences tomorrow from 1350 local time/AEDT.
Race 3, over 25 laps, follows in the evening at 1750 while Race 4, over 13 laps, takes place on Saturday.