Craig Lowndes believes that he has found a set-up direction with the new ZB Commodore which will deliver better results after breaking a 12-month podium drought at Symmons Plains.
Lowndes had not finished on the podium in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship since the corresponding race 12 months ago, a race which ultimately did not count for points after a long red flag.
His last points-paying podium therefore came back at Sydney Motorsport Park in 2016 when he finished second in the Sunday race.
The runner-up finish in the opening race of this year’s Tyrepower Tasmania SuperSprint broke a 41-race podium drought if the red flagged 2017 race is not included.
Lowndes made a strong start from the second row in Race 7 of the season but found his path blocked by team-mates Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup.
The Autobarn Commodore emerged ahead of van Gisbergen after pit stops, albeit very briefly, but he re-passed Car #97 for an effective second position just beyond halfway and remained there for the duration.
Earlier, the three-time Supercars champion actually set the second-fastest time in qualifying, during the second part of the new three-part format, off the back of a strong Friday showing.
He says that greater understanding of Holden’s new Supercar, which as a hatchback is a significant departure from previous Commodore shapes, is a key factor in the upturn.
“Last year (Saturday at Symmons Plains) we didn’t get points either, which was a bugger,” said Lowndes.
“We’ve been working hard for the last 18 months.
“Last year was a terrible up and down year and we just didn’t get any results we wanted.
“Once the new Commodore had come out, we obviously drove it, we’ve tested it once and would love to have another test day and I think we’ve definitely got the direction we want to go with the car.
“The car suits my style, it’s great under brakes, it’s got really good rear stability, so for me I think that it shows good signs.
“I think also that this tyre suits what I do too. We talked too many times last year about not being able to switch the tyre on in qualifying; this year we seem to be able to do that.”
Lowndes also refuted suggestions that he missed out on a race win due to falling back behind van Gisbergen midway through his out lap.
Car #888 pitted with Whincup in Car #1, six laps later than van Gisbergen, both exiting the lane ahead of the initial race leader.
While Whincup skipped away, Lowndes ran wide on cold tyres at the hairpin and spent the next 14 laps tailing van Gisbergen.
By the time he got back ahead, on Lap 26, Whincup was approximately four seconds ahead, Lowndes making only slight inroads until the leader began to cruise home.
“Not really,” he said when it was suggested the delay had cost him the race.
“I think that we had good pace, good tyre life.
“I had another slow pit stop on the right front. For us we’ve got to clean that side up if we want to continue to be on the podium. That was a disappointing part of it.
“We came out and Jamie already had a healthy gap at the point. Whether we could have run Jamie down, who knows?
“I’m sure, Jamie had a four-, five-second gap at that point, I’m sure he was looking after his tyres like everyone else was.
“I actually used (van Gisbergen) for a number of laps to try and slipstream and get a gap on Scotty (McLaughlin) and we were able to do that.
“But then there was a point there where James (Courtney) and Dave Reynolds were coming up pretty quick behind Scotty, got past Scotty, and then we had to really do something about where we were.”
The result moves Lowndes from 13th to seventh in the championship, 141 points behind leader van Gisbergen.