PERTH, Western Australia — Recap by Race Chaser Online International Motorsport Correspondent Jack Cobourn — V8SC photo —
Classic Craig Lowndes.
That was the only descriptor to describe the flawless and masterful drive put in by the three-time V8 Supercars champion Saturday at the Perth SuperSprint, where he led the final four laps of the weekend’s opening 120 kilometer event en route to his track-record 16th score at Barbagallo Raceway, long considered his favorite and statistically-best facility.
Utilizing a two-stop pit strategy suggested by his engineer Ludo Lacroix, Lowndes notched his series-leading 104th career Supercars victory after having to drive from 22nd and overcome a near-30 second deficit in a caution-free, 50-lap affair at the fast Western Australia road course that took just 51 minutes and three seconds to complete.
“Great strategy got us here,” Lowndes said upon climbing from his No. 888 TeamVortex Holden Commodore. “We looked after our tires all day and it allowed us to push when we needed to there at the end. It was interesting at times, but Ludo was counting the laps and we got there first to the flag. It’s huge for Team Vortex, our first win together as a group.”
The race started under wet conditions after a deluge swamped the race track a mere half hour before the start, despite the fact that the sun popped out just prior to the green flag.
Rookie polesitter Cameron Waters got a decent start considering the surface, but it was Chaz Mostert who bogged down off the grid, losing two positions to Lowndes and Shane van Gisbergen before the first lap was ever complete. Waters officially led the opening lap, but van Gisbergen was looking racy early on and passed Waters at turn six on the second round.
The circuit began to dry out quickly, and the drivers were searching for water on track to help feed their wet tires. The teams, however, were trying to dry the pit boxes to make them hospitable for the first (and likely only) set of stops.
Waters and Mostert were the first to blink on those stops, diving into the pits on lap 11, switching to slicks and struggling for grip as they returned to the track. Van Gisbergen came in the next lap, coming out ahead of the duo and retaining the lead by the time the stops cycled all the way through on the 15th lap.
Waters began to hassle the leader, but Mostert got by Waters for second to stall the charge as a near-safety car period erupted for the Michael Caruso machine.
Caruso’s poor weekend continued as he headed to the garage with a power steering problem, almost stalling out on track but making it safely in. Back up front, however, Mostert closed in on van Gisbergen, hunting him down fiercely.
Mostert finally got van Gisbergen out of six on the 19th circuit, timing his momentum to perfection, but the New Zealander got the lead back down the front straight and into turn one starting lap 20. Mostert, however, was nipping at van Gisbergen’s heels like a determined terrier, locking a wheel at turn seven and bumping van Gisbergen’s rear bumper as a result.
More drivers began to lap the track underneath the one minute mark as the track really began to dry. Mostert was closing in, but driving smart, not forcing the issue, but rather biding his time. At the halfway mark on lap 25, the margin was just shy of two tenths of a second between the leaders.
The left rear tires were the drivers’ biggest complaint as the second half of the race kicked on, but Lowndes would make the critical move for the win as he pitted for four tires with 21 laps to go. At that point, he exited the pits in 22nd — 30 seconds behind the race leaders — and seemingly had no prayer of a chance to grab the top hardware, or even a podium spot.
With 20 to go, Van Gisbergen still led from Mostert and was not showing signs of crumbling, as the gap had visibly grown between the two. Ultimately, it would be Mostert that started to fade, as he lost second to Whincup with 12 to go and dropped all the way to fifth behind Will Davison with nine laps remaining.
Meanwhile, Lowndes was coming at a breakneck pace, having erased nearly 20 seconds between he and the leaders over an 11 lap span and showing no signs of slowing. He streaked by both Pither and James Courtney at seven to go to move into the top five. He dispatched Garth Tander moments later to shoot to fourth and rolled a five second gap between he and the podium into nothing over the course of a single lap.
He finally cleared Davison on lap 46 and set after his two teammates with four laps remaining, blowing by Whincup at turn six and then passing van Gisbergen on the downhill run to turn seven to assume the top spot for the first time all race long.
It was a position he would not relinquish again, despite a massive rain shower drenching the track on the final lap, as he pulled away to a 5.8635 second victory after leading by as much as 18 seconds going into the final lap when the rains came down one last time.
“I questioned (the call) at first, and honestly when Ludo said (you have an) ’18 second lead’ I said back, ‘Are you nuts?’” Lowndes admitted after the race. “This whole race really came to us, though, and the car was really good so it was all in all a great day. Really happy with this run.”
Van Gisbergen held on for second, with Whincup following in third to complete a sweep of the podium for Triple Eight Race Engineering.
“It was a good day for the team,” Whincup smiled. “As soon as I saw Craig pull in (to the pits) I thought to myself, ‘Ooh, I think that’s going to work today,’ and sure enough it did. We just stuck to our guns though, on this 88 team, and it got us on the podium. We’re happy with that and predicting another great day tomorrow.”
Davison finished fourth for Tekno Autosport and the Holden Racing Team Commodores of Garth Tander and James Courtney trailed in fifth and sixth.
Todd Kelly was seventh and Chris Pither notched his career-best finish as a solo driver in eighth. Rick Kelly and Tim Slade completed the top 10.
Polesitter Waters faded to 13th in the final rundown, with defending champion Winterbottom finishing a distant 22nd after two separate off-course excursions that resulted in an extra pit stop for a grill clean and brief repairs to his Ford Falcon FG X.
The V8 Supercars Championship returns to action for round nine of their 2016 season on Sunday at Barbagallo Raceway, in the 200 kilometer finale of the Perth SuperSprint.
Preliminary racing action gets underway at 10:45 a.m. local time with ARMOR ALL Pole Qualifying, and the main event goes green at 2 p.m.
RESULTS: V8 Supercars Championship; Perth SuperSprint; Barbagallo Raceway; May 6, 2016
- Craig Lowndes
- Shane van Gisbergen
- Jamie Whincup
- Will Davison
- Garth Tander
- James Courtney
- Todd Kelly
- Chris Pither
- Rick Kelly
- Tim Slade
- Scott McLaughlin
- Chaz Mostert
- Cameron Waters
- James Moffat
- Lee Holdsworth
- Jason Bright
- Fabian Coulthard
- Dale Wood
- David Reynolds
- Nick Percat
- Andre Heimgartner
- Mark Winterbottom
- Tim Blanchard
- Scott Pye
- Aaren Russell
- Michael Caruso (DNF)
About the Writer
Jack Cobourn is the international motorsports correspondent at Race Chaser Online, and covers the V8 Supercars Championship, Rally Cars and the FIA World Rally Championship.
Cobourn has been an avid follower of motorsports for years, having not missed a Formula One race in 16 seasons. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware, with a degree in history and a minor in journalism.
Email Jack at: Jack.Cobourn@yahoo.com
Follow Jack on Twitter: @JackCWriter92
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