Craig Lowndes has kicked off his 2011 V8 Supercars Championship season in positive style, by topping the timesheets and breaking the circuit’s lap record on the opening day of pre-season testing at Sydney’s Eastern Creek Raceway, which was attended by a strong crowd of over 10,000 fans.
The three-time series champion posted his best effort late in the day, using the cooler track temperatures and a set of super-soft Dunlop tyres to good effect en route to posting the fastest-ever lap of the circuit in a touring car, a record that has stood for over ten years.
The morning’s session saw Ford Performance Racing’s new-hire Will Davison head the timesheets in the morning’s session ahead of fellow Ford runner Shane van Gisbergen (SP Tools), Lowndes and Mark Winterbottom (FPR).
Holden cars wound up in the top seven positions in the afternoon’s practice session, when the 28-car field was allowed to run on the softer-compound Dunlop tyre, having been restricted to the control-tyre compound in the morning’s running.
Michael Caruso took his Fujitsu/GRM Commodore second-quickest – some six-tenths adrift of Lowndes’ fastest time – while his team-mate Lee Holdsworth was fourth-fastest. The pair was split by Jason Bright in his BOC-liveried Brad Jones Racing entry.
Mark Winterbottom (Ford Performance Racing) was the fastest Ford driver in the session, while his team-mate Davison dropped to 19th after being fastest in the morning’s running.
Reigning champion James Courtney never featured highly in either session, winding up 14th quickest in the morning session and 16th fastest in the afternoon.
The field also welcomed the return of Team BOC driver Jason Richards, who was given the chance to post some laps after several months away from the sport while undergoing treatment for a rare stomach cancer. The New Zealander hopes to return for the endurance races later in the season.
The only reliability incident of the day was for Russell Ingall (SuperCheap Autos), whose Holden Commodore ground to a halt after just three laps in the morning session and needed an engine change.
The entire circus now packs up and heads to Abu Dhabi for the season-opening event between February 10-12.
[Original image via V8 Supercars Australia]