A buoyant Red Bull Racing Australia has its work cut out ahead of this weekend’s Auckland 400 after mixed results in Tasmania left the team still searching for that little something to return to the top step of the podium.
Despite early success in Adelaide on the hard tyre, Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup struggled to find the required pace on the soft tyre as the team continues to fine tune the cars they believe can lead Red Bull Racing Australia to the 2013 championship.
So there’s no cause for concern race fans, the big dog Roland Dane reckons it’s just a case of teething problems.
“Unfortunately, we’re going through our soft tyres and compared to the likes of BJR we don’t quite have the set-up,” RD said.
“We’ve made gains. Jamie is a lot happier with his car than he was in Adelaide but we’re not entirely happy with the race car.
“From a power standpoint there’s not an issue, but it’s just getting a handle on the setup. We’ve got a lot of good in this car and the sooner we can perfect the setup the sooner we can show what we can really do.
“We’re back on the hard tyre in Auckland, which we seem to have a grip on and it’s very early in the season, we’re only two rounds in with 12 to go.”
Ironically, Symmons Plains race winners Brad Jones Racing is a customer of Triple Eight Race Engineering. But head engineers Jeromy Moore (No.888) and Mark Dutton (No.1) are confident the mother ship is zeroing in on the true capabilities of the new cars – the team upbeat about Red Bull’s potential in Auckland.
Despite just one podium finish from the three races in Tasmania, Whincup leads the championship with Lowndes in fourth. It was a horror weekend for the latter. What started as a minor suspension issue in qualifying on Saturday led to an eighth-place start which ultimately saw Lowndes forced off the track by Shane Van Gisbergen and left with a shredded tyre, broken gearbox and serious body damage. And with a much hotter track on Sunday playing havoc with the soft tyre, the weekend didn’t get much better for the three-time champion.
Lowndes finished with a 10th and 11th on the Sunday, making it the No.888 driver’s worst round in recent memory. But some good did prevail, setup changes in Race three allowing the No.888 Commodore to use its tyres far better.
Team-mate Whincup has said all along it would take a number of months to perfect the car and with five races down in the championship, he’s confident that end date is nearing.
“Look, the good news is we don’t have engine dramas or mechanical problems,” Whincup said.
“Power-wise, I think we’ve got something there and maybe even a small advantage in a straight line. The issue is the setup and once we get that right, I think will have a very good race car.”
Whincup finished fourth and fifth on Sunday after a pole position on Saturday that resulted in a second-placed finish behind Fabian Coulthard.
“One pole is great but from three races and three qualifying sessions we expect better,” Dane said.
“It’s not that we’re unhappy, we’re still ticking along in the points and it’s great to see our customers doing well, but we know we can do better.”
Better news yet, there are still 12 rounds and more than 20 races left to contest.
The season’s only just begun, friends (evil laugh).