TWOOF the biggest names from within V8 Supercar Racing have welcomed the chance tosee where they are placed against their rivals for the first time this year.
RedBull Racing Australia’s Craig Lowndes and Pepsi Max Crew / FPR driver MarkWinterbottom revelled in yesterday’s official pre-season test day at SydneyMotorsport Park – attended by a mammoth crowd of nearly 18,000 fans.
Winterbottomended the day ninth overall in his brand new FPR Falcon and told V8supercars.com.authat his team was still looking for more raw pace – though had their focusfirmly on the Adelaide season opener next week.
“Todayis definitely a benchmark. It’s the first time we’ve tested our cars againstour competitors and we thought we were going OK – but perhaps we need to liftthat benchmark a little bit higher,” he said.
“It’sgreat day though. Everyone tests together and with the crowd and everythingabout it – it’s the best test day that we’ve had.”
Winterbottomconfirmed that Saturday’s running would be the teams last before thealways-demanding Clipsal 500 Adelaide next week, stating his teams’ preferenceto get to the flag in the season’s opening round on the tough city streets.
“Thiswill be about it for us in terms of our preparation. Our car speed obviouslyneeds to be at its best, but the thing that is going to win reliability,” heexplained.
“Sodo we test and test and test, or try and focus on our parts? I think finishingAdelaide is going to be key – and if we’re fastest, that’s a bonus.”
CraigLowndes was coy about the pace of his new Red Bull Racing Holden, despitefinishing third on the time sheets behind the flying Brad Jones Racing duo ofJason Bright and Fabian Coulthard.
Teammate and reigning champion Jamie Whincup ended the day 7th in carNo. 1.
“We’regoing really well. The car has responded to everything we want but of course,there’s a lot more improvement to come,” Lowndes said.
Itis great that we have a benchmark against all the other cars to see where they’reat, and, like everyone else, to see where we are at before Clipsal.”
Bothagreed that the inclusion of Erebus Motorsport’s Mercedes E63 AMG entries andthe Nissan Motorsport Altima’s had upped the ante in V8 Supercars this year.
“It’snice to have all the cars back together again. The different sounding Mercedesand Nissan has created a big buzz and interest around here,” Lowndes said.
AddedWinterbottom: “It’s great to see support for Mercedes and the Nissan. The sportwas definitely always Ford and Holden but today there were people wearing theirhats proudly. There are three more rivals to the Ford brand, so it’s great.There’s a great energy.
“BradJones Racing look like they’ve started with the goods, so who can predict whatis going to happen this year. Hopefully it’s more us than anyone else, but atthe moment Brad Jones’ look like they’re the benchmark.
“Sportshould be different winners on different weekends and I think we’re going toget that this year.”
Click here to read V8supercars.com.au’s full wrap from yesterday's Sydney Motorsport Park test.