A typically excited Craig Lowndes is looking forward to the unpredictability of the PIRTEK Enduro Cup.
The five-time Sandown 500 and five-time Bathurst 1000 winner traditionally displays some of his best form in the long distance races, but knows nothing can be taken for granted in 2013.
“I am excited because it is going to be a challenge for all of us,” the Red Bull Racing Holden Commodore VF driver told v8supercars.com.au. “You can’t discount anyone the way it is, including the Mercedes-Benzes and the Nissans. Anyone could have a really good performance.”
The new Car of the Future technical regulations is the reason unpredictability has become the only predictable factor about V8 Supercars racing in 2013, Lowndes says.
“Car of the Future has created all this up and down of teams. We have had multiple winners, which is great for the Championship and it is closer than it has ever been at this point of the year.
“So Car of the Future has created that unknown, so we go to weekends and we think we have it right and you get there and of course you struggle. You search and at the end of the weekend you look back and think ‘if only the weekend started again now’.”
Following James Moffat’s breakthrough for Nissan in Race 25 at the Winton 360 and James Courtney’s drought-breaker in Race 27 for the Holden Racing Team, no less than 12 different drivers have claimed wins in 2013.
There are also nine drivers within 245 points of the Championship lead going into the PIRTEK Enduro Cup. After copping a points penalty after the Winton 360, Lowndes dropped from second to fourth on the table behind teammate Jamie Whincup, with the two Ford Performance Racing Pepsi Max drivers Will Davison and Mark Winterbottom leap-frogging him.
But he is still only 72 points from the Championship lead, which places him right in contention. Lowndes has finished runner-up to Whincup in the Championship the last two years. He won the last of his three drivers’ titles in 1999.
“Of course I am thinking about the Championship, I always think about it,” said Lowndes. “I think the four cars are all within 70-odd points. It’s amazing what’s unfolded as the year has gone on and it’s great.
“It’s what the Championship needs, the unknowns going into weekends, who is going to be fast, who is going to end up the Champion. It’s great for the Championship.”
With 300 points up for grabs at each of the Wilson Security Sandown 500, Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 and ARMOR ALL Gold Coast 600, the PIRTEK Enduro Cup should be a Championship shaper. Lowndes will be partnered for the second consecutive year by Warren Luff.
Lowndes said the enduros introduced yet another layer of complexity to the racing equation because the new cars had yet to do such long, continuous runs.
“We will know out of the back of Sandown what the car is like; whether it breaks something, whether it is fragile. We don’t expect that to be the case, but we will know then what to expect after Sandown. The form guide for Bathurst will be better known when you get past Sandown.”
Another issue is that because of the transition from a Watts link located live rear axle to independent rear suspension in CotF, the ability at pit stops to quickly adjust the rear roll centre – and therefore the car’s handling – has been lost.
“I don’t know what the cars are going to do over a long run,” admitted Lowndes. “That’s probably the thing, we are now restricted on the adjustment of the car through the pit stops because the roll centre is no longer there.
“We have never had a long race, never had a long distance where we have had to adjust the car throughout the race.”