V8 » 27 March 2009
Lowndes wins race one in Melbourne.
TeamVodafone's Craig Lowndes smashed the lap record multiple times en route to an unchallenged win in the first Sprint Gas Racing Manufacturer's Challenge at the ING Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne.
Having nailed pole in the Top Ten Shootout and overcome a hiccup on the start line, the veteran easily accounted for Ford Performance Racing's Mark Winterbottom, beating last season's championship runner-up by a massive 5.7secs over the course of the 15-lap sprint, and was a further four seconds ahead of Toll Holden Racing Team's Will Davison.
Lowndes had said that, going into the Shootout, he was confident of getting close to the qualifying lap record of 1min 57.5723secs he had set during Thursday's qualifying, but ultimately came up a little short. However, his frontrunning pace clearly carried over into race one.
“The car is brilliant,” Lowndes enthused, “We were lucky enough to get a break on the field and, when you do that, you can really start looking after the car and the tyres a bit more."
Lowndes looked as though he might have blown it on the start line when he almost slipped sideways on the greasy surface. Winterbottom saw the slip and dissected Lowndes and Davison to take the lead into turn one, but the TeamVodafone ace waited just two more corners before pulling a big move on the inside of the FPR machine, After that, it was shut the gate.
“I was good enough to sneak up on the inside, and it would have been great today if the race ended at turn one,” Winterbottom admitted.
Lowndes set consecutive lap records to stretch away over the second and third laps and, by the end of lap three, had already established a huge 3.2secs lead which only grew as the race went on as he broke his own record a further couple of times.
Behind him, the action was aplenty, mostly between Davison and Toll Holden Racing team-mate Garth Tander. The two were duelling for third in the opening laps when Tander attempted to make a move. Surprisingly, his team-mate didn't yield, and Tander was pushed wide, losing track position.
Davison had been far from disappointed at just being pipped to what would have been his first ever V8 pole - then revealed that he and Tander were instruction not to damage their cars in the race in an effort to help Holden retain the Challenge title it scooped on the back of a Tander hat-trick in 2008.
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