V8 Supercar powerhouse TeamVodafone has predicted a dramatic change to the face of a typical Tasmanian race weekend, with this weekend's Symmons Plains round switching from an all-out sprint to a strategy-based showdown.
Instead of the previous three-race programme, the event will feature two longer races - over 100km on Saturday and 200km on Sunday - while bringing the series' new soft option tyre into play, and TeamVodafone's Craig Lowndes, who won the first 'soft option weekend' at Winton, believes managing the rubber will play a big part in determining the outcome of the double-header.
“The new soft compound set of tyres will play a huge role, as we saw in Winton, but the difference here is we won't have a set to practice with, so we won't know until we put them on how they will respond on this particular track,” he noted
Lowndes, who secured seventh place in the standings, with 501 points, after his Winton success, will debut chassis #20 at Symmons Plains, following a successful shakedown last Friday, and is confident that he can maintain TeamVodafone's unbeaten start to the year.
“We took the new car for a shakedown on Friday and it was unbelievably good straight up,” Lowndes claimed, “As a team, we really got a handle on this track last year and there is no reason that some of that knowledge won't transfer to the new model FG. I am confident we can keep the momentum going with chassis #20.”
Coming off six consecutive race wins, the Brisbane-based team has enjoyed a dominant start to its championship defence, and reigning drivers' champion Jamie Whincup - who took four from four as the season began, before Lowndes completed a clean sweep at Winton - is eyeing another strong result at 2.4km Symmons Plains to preserve his place atop the standings.
He recorded championship-defining wins in both 2007 and 2008, and admits that he is looking forward to the challenge of longer races as he seeks to extend his
command of the series beyond his current 114-point advantage.
"We head to Symmons Plains with good confidence after winning here for the past two years," Whincup confirmed, "It's the first real high-speed track of the year and we've been working hard to set up the car accordingly.
"We don't have the luxury of running the new tyre in practice, so it will be interesting to see how it goes in the race, but I'm heading into the event all fired up, ready to erase the disappointing result at Winton."