Surprise, surprise, we have yet another sprint round on our hands in Perth this weekend. And after a run of bad luck and less than ideal results in Tasmania and New Zealand, Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes are prepared to do anything it takes to reclaim the championship lead and win some sprint redemption – including an actual sprint finish across the line, Ricky Bobby style, should fortunes not be in their favour at Barbagallo.
The Red Bull Racing Australia duo remains second and third in the championships despite what team principal Adrian Burgess described as “their worst round in recent memory” in Tasmania last month. And outside of J-Dub’s return to the winners’ circle in one of four races in New Zealand, Auckland didn’t prove much better.
So with the bad luck out of the way – we’re talking tyres inexplicably ripping from rims, feet slipping from foot pedals and random brainsnaps from rival drivers – the entire Red Bull Racing Australia team, especially RD, are hoping for a well overdue incident-free weekend.
“I’m a big believer in making your own luck and because the team hasn’t been absolutely firing, our guards been down a little,” J-Dub says.
“We’ve had to push that little bit harder than we normally would, like with that tyre in New Zealand. And things have a tendency to snowball from there. You’ve got to milk a bit more out of everything.
“But we’ve made some adjustments and some key learnings from New Zealand, and we’re prepared for a big weekend. Qualifying has been great, it’s just a matter of actually converting that speed and maintaining it in the race.”
Like Tasmania, Saturday’s race one will be split into two 60km halves, with a 15-minute gap in between them. There will be two 120km races on the Sunday. And each will have an exclusive qualifying session. Barbagallo also sees the return of the soft tyre, Lowndes wary that it could cause some serious chaos for the entire field on the Sunday.
“It’s been no secret the soft tyre hasn’t been as kind to us as we’d like so far this year,” Lowndes says.
“And with Barbagallo a long track, tyre-wear here in Perth usually plays a big part in the race. It’s a really tough track on tyres.
“We’ve done some work on the set-up of the cars and have better expectations but I think for everyone, the Sunday races are really going to test the longevity of the tyres and while it’s meant to be a sprint race, I expect there could be some tyre strategy and forced pit-stops. It’s going to be interesting.”
Both Lowndes and Whincup have typically been quick at Barbagallo and here’s hoping the lads can return to the top step of the podium.
‘”It’s not nice being off the pace,” Whincup says.
“I’ve been spending most of the races looking in my rearview mirror but this weekend I plan on spending more time looking out the front windscreen.”
The boys landed in Perth on Tuesday and while they haven’t had a chance to set foot on Barbagallo, they have experienced another race track of sorts.
J-Dub and Crackers were handed steel-capped boots and the keys to 100-tonne Komatsu mining trucks at Perth’s RMS Quarry, where they competed in a series of challenges including a head-to-head race, filling the tipper with sand using an excavator and reverse-parking the mammoth trucks to tip the loads.
After a Le Mans start it came down to a foot race to the finish line, J-Dub’s highly unusual running style – think Forest Gump – just sneaking him across the line in front of Lowndes, who suffered a five-second time penalty after bogging his truck.
“Typical Jamie, getting all the best equipment,” Lowndes said with a chuckle.
“They tell me it takes years of experience, precision and real effort to bog one of those trucks and I managed to do it in two seconds. It was a great fun though.”