T8 drivers made decision to swap positions
Craig Lowndes and Shane van Gisbergen made the call to swap positions late in Saturday’s race at the WD-40 Phillip Island 500.
Struggling with an intermittent power steering issue, van Gisbergen ceded fourth place to Lowndes with half a dozen laps remaining while trailing Rick Kelly.
“That was the driver’s playing swapsies for a while,” team manager Mark Dutton told Speedcafe.com.
“Not from the team, but from them, saying ‘Let’s do this, Craig, if you can get him, cool, you’re the next person – if you can’t, give it back’ sort of thing.”
For five laps Lowndes tried to latch onto the back of Kelly’s Nissan, before handing the place back to van Gisbergen on the final lap after his attempts proved unsuccessful.
Though the plan ultimately came to nothing, Dutton was happy to see his drivers working together in pursuit of a better result for the team.
“I really thought Craig was going to get Rick, he was going strong, but hey, credit to Rick, he pushed on those last few laps and made it out of reach,” he said.
“We are a team, and we are a three car team, so if the drivers are willing to work together on the track then we’re all for it.
“It’s something that we do encourage the whole time. While they score their individual points we’re still a team, so we do still work together.”
The opportunity arose after van Gisbergen struggled with inconsistent power steering, which left the Kiwi wrestling the car at times.
“Basically, he wasn’t getting enough or consistent assistance from the power steering,” Dutton explained.
“We could see that live once he reported the issue, but there was nothing we could do about it during the race, so he obviously managed it extremely well.
“To me it looks like its pump side, maybe the pump’s got a score in the bore or something’s happened with the valve and its blowing off too early.”
It’s the second issue van Gisbergen has experienced in as many races following Sunday’s race at Symmons Plains, where a balance bar in the pedal box saw him drop to the last classified running, a point not lost on the team.
“We’re beating ourselves up pretty hard over it, for sure,” Dutton said.
“One issue is bad enough, let alone two issues – albeit completely different in two race weekends. As a group, Triple Eight, we pride ourselves on not having these errors.
“We need to check, is there something we could be doing better? Is it a run of bad luck?
“We don’t believe in bad luck, so we need to analyse and be really self critical. We are (self critical), but we need to ramp that up a little bit more to see how we could we do things better.”
The squad also spent the night analysing Jamie Whincup’s performance, after he struggled for pace in the final stint of the race.
Having led through both pit stop cycles, Whincup fell victim to Scott McLaughlin on Lap 40 and ultimately trailed him home in second.
Ironically, a post-race penalty for a pit lane infringement demoted him to 14th, promoting van Gisbergen to the final podium place with Lowndes fourth.
“Scott had good pace the whole race but we need to analyse,” Dutton admitted.
“We didn’t think we were as speedy in the last stint, which definitely therefore shows (McLaughlin) coming on strong and making the passing move. It was a good move, but we need to look inside.
“To give (DJR Team Penske) credit, they did a good job but we think we left something on the table there, so we need to analyse and understand why.
“Craig was lightning, and so was Shane. So those two definitely in that last stint had better pace than Car 1 so we do need to understand that.
“But it is very promising because if two out of the three cars had really good pace we have a lot of data there to learn from.”