Lowndes happy sidelined to Sandman

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 19/07/2019
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus

Craig Lowndes was happy to let Jamie Whincup have the #88 Commodore largely to himself during the Red Bull Holden Racing Team’s test on Thursday at Ipswich.

The 45-year-old logged only a handful of laps in the car towards the end of the day, as Whincup went through an exhaustive development schedule.

In his first year out of a full-time Supercars drive, Lowndes hasn’t raced since February’s Bathurst 12 Hour and is unlikely to do so in any category before October’s Great Race.

He’s only had brief runs in the #88 entry during additional driver practice at Symmons Plains and Winton, but said he was “not too stressed” about the lack of laps.

“The ergonomics inside the car are no different to when I last drove it at Winton, so I’m comfortable with all that,” Lowndes told Supercars.com.

“It was more important for the team to get through their program of changes that they had.

“It’s been no secret that they’ve struggled this year, either one of them [Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen] has had performance at certain tracks, but not consistency.

“[The test was] more about them understanding, doing a number of changes you wouldn’t do at a race weekend and seeing if there’s something in it.”

Recently admitting the squad is missing the input of a third entry in 2019, team manager Mark Dutton explained why more of Lowndes’ feedback wasn’t being sought during the test.

“It is tough when you’ve got multiple drivers and you’re trying to get through so much test stuff,” he said.

“Any time you change drivers they need to [do a] baseline [run] at that point before you do a change, so you effectively lose one [set-up] change every time you change drivers.

“So when you’re trying to do so many changes and learn so much, you do have to minimise the amount of driver changes.”

Another additional driver session is scheduled for next month’s OTR SuperSprint at Tailem Bend, while the team will have a second Ipswich test in September.

Enter Sandman

Lowndes’ focus during the test was instead on the team’s Sandman ride car.

The car underwent a shakedown on Thursday following its conversion from V6 turbo development mule back to V8 power, ahead of upcoming ride duties.

Supercars’ technical team also took the opportunity to work with the car’s drive-by-wire throttle system, as it weighs up introducing the technology to the category next year.

The 2014 Sandman build project featured a drive-by-wire system and a paddle-shift, which has had to be adapted to the latest ECU software.

“All the electronics have moved on since it last ran [in 2017], so it was a matter of making sure they all work together,” he said.

“The big thing [with drive-by-wire] as a driver is the weight of the pedal, because you’re not operating a cable.

“The beauty is you can change the linearity of the way it ramps up by programming it, rather than redesigning a cam that sits on the bottom of the pedal box.

“There’s a lot more flexibility in that side of it for drivers with driveability.

“You can have maps for wet and dry, tuning it to suit a drivers’ feel and the way they’d like the pedal to be. I think it’s a great thing.”

As for the paddle-shift: “It’s fun to have, but I still love the gear-lever. This almost feels like a computer game!”

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