Fans right on track

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Motorsport - Craig Lown­des V8 Su­per­car cham­pion

DON’T read too much into my lap record at the East­ern Creek test and fan day last week­end. Ob­vi­ously, I was very happy beat­ing Skaifey’s 1999 record by about half a sec­ond and com­ing out first thing with a car that still has plenty of speed from last year.

But that was East­ern Creek, and we don’t race there, so a lot of the set-up work could be wasted and the things we learnt may not be able to be ap­plied to other tracks.

We put a base set-up in the car which we be­lieved would work and it proved to be 95 per cent right, but there are al­ways ar­eas you can im­prove.

My race en­gi­neer, Jeromy Moore, and I are work­ing as well as we’ve ever done, and it looks like the changes of per­son­nel in the team such as my new No.1 me­chanic, Nick from DJR, are also work­ing well.

On the other side of the garage, Jamie (Whin­cup) was a bit dis­ap­pointed with his car speed, fin­ish­ing up 12th in the times.

Even fur­ther back was James Court­ney, but that’s no sur­prise. It’ll take time for him and Will Dav­i­son to set­tle into their new teams, but they will still be forces to reckon with this year.

The new con­cept of a manda­tory pre-sea­son test day was an out­stand­ing suc­cess with a big crowd turn­ing out. Not sure of the crowd num­bers, but it’s a lot more than footy teams get along for prac­tice.

We’ve strug­gled in re­cent years to get a fan base for East­ern Creek race meet­ings. While it doesn’t look like we’ll be re­turn­ing for races any­time in the fu­ture, it was still good to hear that mil­lions of dol­lars are be­ing in­vested in the Syd­ney cir­cuit.

Most peo­ple know I am a big sup­porter of cir­cuits for a mul­ti­tude of uses, es­pe­cially driver train­ing. East­ern Creek is go­ing to get a lot more fa­cil­i­ties as well as four dif­fer­ent tracks on two in­de­pen­dent cir­cuits. That’s fan­tas­tic news for driver ed­u­ca­tion and road safety.

East­ern Creek is a fan­tas­tic fa­cil­ity and it’s in the right place, es­pe­cially since Syd­ney lost Oran Park in re­cent years.

I hear that the boss of Subaru in Aus­tralia has claimed motorsport in Aus­tralia is ir­rel­e­vant to our mar­ket and of no in­ter­est to youth.

While there’s al­ways room for new motorsport cat­e­gories, I dis­agree that V8s are ir­rel­e­vant. The cat­e­gory has es­tab­lished it­self over many years as an iconic se­ries, not just some­thing rep­re­sen­ta­tive of what mo­torists are driv­ing.

You can in­vent a new cat­e­gory but you can’t in­vent his­tory and that’s what V8s has in spades.

And if you look at our fan base, our de­mo­graphic cov­ers a huge age range.

I’m sure Subaru would be happy to be a part of it if the com­pany can come up with a ve­hi­cle to race when we in­tro­duce the car of the fu­ture.

My im­me­di­ate fu­ture is driv­ing the Audi R8 in the Bathurst 12-Hour this week­end.

I’m not ner­vous about it, even though it’s a new team and the first time I’ve driven a race car with pad­dle shifts, ABS, sta­bil­ity con­trol, left-hand drive and in­di­ca­tors. I had Audi Sport Team Joest email me the cock­pit lay­out, switches and con­trols and I’ve been study­ing them.

The first thing I have to do is learn the car, the team and most im­por­tantly fig­ure out what I’ll do about ABS and sta­bil­ity con­trol. I’ll have to get my head around how they work and how sen­si­tive they are, but I’ll prob­a­bly start by turn­ing them off.

Some peo­ple have asked how I’m able to drive an Audi, but they don’t re­alise I’m not con­tracted to Holden.

I’m con­tracted to Triple 8, so there are no is­sues.

It’s ac­tu­ally the first time in my ca­reer I’ve had no di­rect con­nec­tion with a man­u­fac­turer.

I don’t know whether this will lead to any­thing with Audi, but I do hope it leads to com­pet­ing in the Le Mans 24-Hour race.

The June race doesn’t clash with any V8 round, so there’s al­ways a chance for this year. I’d love to think that if not this year, then def­i­nitely next year.

There has been a lot of talk about sell­ing off half the V8 Su­per­cars Aus­tralia. It’s an in­ter­est­ing move and I’ll keep a close eye on how it de­vel­ops. While there is a real dan­ger of it be­ing sold to for­eign in­ter­ests, HRT, FPR and Triple 8 are all for­eign owned and that hasn’t done any dam­age to the se­ries.

Speed king: Craig Lown­des slams down the ac­cel­er­a­tor to beat Skaifey’s East­ern Creek record.

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