Lowndes' lap record under threat.
Three-time champion Craig Lowndes could well relinquish his eight–year grip on the lap record at Barbagallo Raceway in this weekend’s fifth round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series in Perth.
Lowndes set the record of 57.995 seconds back in 1996 – the year he won his first championship – but almost $500,000 in resurfacing work on the track promises drivers, Lowndes included, that the chance is on to re-write the history books.
And, following on from the most competitive event of the series so far in Darwin where no quarter was given by any driver, it’s set for a free for all in Perth.
Holden Racing Team’s Mark Skaife, who is the most qualified ‘pole sitter’ in the field and a Top 10 Shootout expert, will be one of those chasing the record as he begins to pull out of a form slump that started the season.
He has just also had the luxury of a full day putting his slowly improving car through its paces at Winton in Victoria along with team-mate Todd Kelly, who won the last V8 Supercar Championship Series event in Darwin.
“We’ve been following the re-surfacing program of the Barbagallo track very closely and have been impressed by the planning and execution of the job,” Skaife said.
“From what we’ve heard lap times have been given a bit of a hammering so it will be interesting to see how it affects the V8 Supercar times.”
Current champion Marcos Ambrose, one of the fastest in the field in his Pirtek Falcon, made no bones about his intentions in Perth.
“I want to win Perth, it’s as simple as that,” Ambrose said.
“It’s hard to predict what the lap times are going to be but certainly they will be quicker. Not only will times be quicker but it will help tyre life.”
PWR Racing’s Jason Bright is another with renowned speed. He proved just how fast and competitive he is with victories at the Australian Grand Prix and in New Zealand.
“The boys are giving me a really competitive car every time we hit the track,” Bright said.
“New Zealand showed what this car can do … it’s up to me to drive it cleanly and bring it back in one piece.”
So intent is Kiwi Greg Murphy on getting it right that he has swapped cars, going back to the car that won him Bathurst last year. Murphy has still managed to sit in third but was unhappy with the performance he had been getting from his 2004 car.
“To be in serious championship contention you need to qualify at the front end of the field at every race and while we don’t know if this car will provide us with the answers we’ve been searching for it certainly can’t hurt us,” Murphy said.
The fifth round begins with practice on Friday, qualifying, a Top 10 shootout and race one on Saturday with two more races on Sunday. Drivers accumulate points in each race to decide the winner of the weekend.
*courtesy of the V8 Supercar website*
Marcos Ambrose, V8 Supercar Champion 2003 2004.