PERTH, Tasmania, Australia — Story by Race Chaser Online V8 Supercars Correspondent James Pike – Robert Cianflone/Getty Images AsiaPac photo —
For Red Bull Racing Australia, it was a weekend back to form at Symmons Plains Raceway in Tasmania.
They swept all three races, with Craig Lowndes winning Races Four and Five on Saturday, and teammate Jamie Whincup claiming Sunday’s Race Six.
The pair of victories for Lowndes moves him to 99 for his career, as he extended his lead in the all-time wins category over Whincup (who is second on that list with 91).
Lowndes had the chance to hit the century mark in career wins with a victory on Sunday, but those hopes were dashed at the beginning of the race. Starting from the pole, Lowndes was beat off the line at the start by the Bottle-O Racing Ford Falcon of David Reynolds. Lowndes tried to hold his line entering the first corner, but was too far behind Reynolds to do so properly, and instead hit Reynolds’ left-rear quarter panel and spun him around.
Reynolds was able to right his car around and continue, but would not see the front of the field again for the duration of the race. He would finish 11th. Lowndes, on the other hand, was called to serve a pit-lane penalty for his role in the incident. He would recover to seventh, but it was not the finish he had expected. His perspective on the matter was terse and decisive, as he rued the fact that he ‘gave (the race) away’.
The podium for Race Six was completed by Prodrive Racing Australia’s Chaz Mostert (who finished second) and Tekno Autosport’s Shane van Gisbergen (who finished third).
Regardless of Sunday’s results, there is no denying the fact that Lowndes was perfect on Saturday in Tasmania — he led all 50 laps of Races Four and Five en route to his victories. Mostert’s teammate Mark Winterbottom would finish second in Race Four, and the Holden Racing Team’s James Courtney would finish third.
After Race Five, Lowndes was quick to give credit to his team.
“The guys made an adjustment between (Race Four) and (Race Five) today. The temps cooled down and the car moved around more than I would have liked, but it still was good.”
Lowndes also spoke on the historical significance of being right on the cusp of 100 race victories, and noted that the change in the race calendar over the years has played a part in his chase.
“The (series) has completely changed in the sense that when I first started,” he said. “Back then, we had about six or seven rounds of the Championship, and then we had Sandown and Bathurst, which weren’t part of the Championship. Now we’ve got 15 rounds and over 30 races – it is a different era, a different time.”
While Lowndes fell off on Sunday after a strong start, Jamie Whincup became more alive in his efforts as the weekend rolled on. After spinning in the Turn Three hairpin during Race Four, he could only finish seventh, but he rebounded for a runner-up finish in Race Five (sandwiched on the podium by Lowndes and Courtney, who finished third again) before taking home the victory on Sunday.
In a seeming rarity given his recent dominance of V8 Supercars, Whincup took his victory on Sunday as a pleasant surprise.
“I certainly didn’t expect to be sitting here this weekend,” he said. “I wasn’t the quickest out there. I would have preferred to have the pace and race hard for the win but I need someone to trip up. We (rode around) this weekend and just had enough to win!”
Courtney, the points leader coming into Tasmania, had an adventurous start to his weekend. He was in the middle of the pack at the start of Race Four when he got into the back of Erebus Motorsport’s Will Davison at the Turn Three hairpin. Davison went around and spent the whole of the race trying to climb back up to his starting position of fourth. He would only make it to 17th.
Davison was not pleased with Courtney’s efforts and paid a visit to Courtney’s garage post-race for an exchange of words. Afterwards, Davison gave his view on the incident to V8 Supercars TV’s Greg Murphy.
“Maybe he was hit from behind. I reckon he’s hit me and then he was hit from behind,” said Davison, who was not long to hold back his opinion on Courtney’s driving in general. “Every time the guy’s near me, he’s gotta drill me. He just cannot help himself to be smart and sensible. Someone in a position like his should know better. The arrogance on the guy is pathetic! It’s just a shame.”
Courtney, on the other hand, held his ground after the contact with Davison to finish third in Race Four. He would follow that effort up with another third in Race 5 before slipping to a 10th-place finish in Race Six.
As a result of their Sunday performances, Courtney lost the points lead to Jamie Whincup, who now controls the standings by 19 points over the Holden Racing Team driver. Lowndes sits in third after the weekend, 23 points behind.
The V8 Supercars Championship is off in April and returns to action from May 1-3, when they make their annual trip to Western Australia and run at Barbagallo Raceway.
For more information on the V8 Supercars Championship, visit http://www.v8supercars.com.au/.