Big Names Get Testing Fever
By: V8 Supercars
TWO OF the biggest names from within V8 Supercar Racing have welcomed the chance to see where they are placed against their rivals for the first time this year.
Red Bull Racing Australia’s Craig Lowndes and Pepsi Max Crew / FPR driver Mark Winterbottom revelled in yesterday’s official pre-season test day at Sydney Motorsport Park – attended by a mammoth crowd of nearly 18,000 fans.
Winterbottom ended the day ninth overall in his brand new FPR Falcon and told V8supercars.com.au that his team was still looking for more raw pace – though had their focus firmly on the Adelaide season opener next week.
“Today is definitely a benchmark. It’s the first time we’ve tested our cars against our competitors and we thought we were going OK – but perhaps we need to lift that benchmark a little bit higher,” he said.
“It’s great day though. Everyone tests together and with the crowd and everything about it – it’s the best test day that we’ve had.”
Winterbottom confirmed that Saturday’s running would be the teams last before the always-demanding Clipsal 500 Adelaide next week, stating his teams’ preference to get to the flag in the season’s opening round on the tough city streets.
“This will be about it for us in terms of our preparation. Our car speed obviously needs to be at its best, but the thing that is going to win reliability,” he explained.
“So do we test and test and test, or try and focus on our parts? I think finishing Adelaide is going to be key – and if we’re fastest, that’s a bonus.”
Craig Lowndes was coy about the pace of his new Red Bull Racing Holden, despite finishing third on the time sheets behind the flying Brad Jones Racing duo of Jason Bright and Fabian Coulthard.
Team mate and reigning champion Jamie Whincup ended the day 7th in car No. 1.
“We’re going really well. The car has responded to everything we want but of course, there’s a lot more improvement to come,” Lowndes said.
It is great that we have a benchmark against all the other cars to see where they’re at, and, like everyone else, to see where we are at before Clipsal.”
Both agreed that the inclusion of Erebus Motorsport’s Mercedes E63 AMG entries and the Nissan Motorsport Altima’s had upped the ante in V8 Supercars this year.
“It’s nice to have all the cars back together again. The different sounding Mercedes and Nissan has created a big buzz and interest around here,” Lowndes said.
Added Winterbottom: “It’s great to see support for Mercedes and the Nissan. The sport was definitely always Ford and Holden but today there were people wearing their hats proudly. There are three more rivals to the Ford brand, so it’s great. There’s a great energy.
“Brad Jones Racing look like they’ve started with the goods, so who can predict what is going to happen this year. Hopefully it’s more us than anyone else, but at the moment Brad Jones’ look like they’re the benchmark.
“Sport should be different winners on different weekends and I think we’re going to get that this year.”
Click here to read V8supercars.com.au’s full wrap from yesterday's Sydney Motorsport Park test.