Craig Lowndes expects Shane van Gisbergen to attack Tasmania with “all gun blazing” as he shifts his mindset to being the hunter.
Heading to the NED Whisky Tasmania SuperSprint, the defending champion is 136 points down on leader Brodie Kostecki.
Kostecki and van Gisbergen have been the two form drivers so far in 2023, although the Erebus Motorsport driver has been more consistent.
Through nine races, Kostecki has eight podiums — including two wins — and is 100 points ahead of closest rival, Chaz Mostert.
For the first time since 2020, van Gisbergen is deep into a season chasing the points leader, rather than extending his own margin.
Had he not been disqualified from Race 1 in Newcastle, it would have been a different scenario, and a different mindset altogether — van Gisbergen would be leading Kostecki by 32 points.
Triple Eight, meanwhile, would be leading Erebus Motorsport by 155 points, rather than being 180 points behind.
Given the deficit, Lowndes believes the reigning champion has a point to prove in Tasmania.
“The last two years, Shane was leading from the front. So far this year, he’s been playing catch-up,” Lowndes told Supercars.com.
“Symmons Plains is a circuit he likes — he had a great run there last year with a clean sweep.
“He’ll go into this weekend feeling confident, but wary that he’s been more inconsistent than we’ve seen in a while.
“Even then, if you adjust the points with the Newcastle race, he’d be leading the championship.
“The mindset has very much changed — Shane is now the hunter, rather than the hunted.
“Knowing Shane, he loves that challenge. I believe he’ll come out this weekend all guns blazing.
“It’ll be a big weekend for him to see where he sits in this championship fight.”
Despite the wins, Lowndes says inconsistency is proving van Gisbergen’s biggest hurdle in winning a third straight title.
After beating Kostecki on the Saturday in Perth, van Gisbergen ceded 58 points to his rival.
That was off the back of two poor qualifying efforts, while Kostecki finished second twice to open his margin.
“Shane’s had three wins this year already. You put in Newcastle, and he’s had four out of nine,” Lowndes said.
“Brodie’s had two wins, Broc’s had two, Cam and Will have one each.
“With such an even spread, it shows how detrimental it can be to your championship if you have a bad result, a DNF or start weekends on the back foot.
“I was like that — a bit inconsistent. Always finishing weekends strongly, but never started strongly.
“It’s why I like Bathurst — it’s a long race, a long day to find that speed.
“A championship is all about consistency, and getting every weekend right."
However, Lowndes reiterated that — despite the 100-point buffer — Kostecki has no room for error with a maximum of 2835 points is still to be won over the final nine rounds.
“Brodie should be trying to consolidate his points lead this weekend,” Lowndes said.
"He has a healthy lead, but we’ve seen bigger leads disappear.
“If you have a bad result, a DNF or a mechanical problem, points can evaporate very quickly.
“For Brodie, it’s about attack — he can’t afford to sit still at the moment."
The 2023 Repco Supercars Championship will resume at the NED Whisky Tasmania SuperSprint this weekend.
Tickets for the event are on sale on Supercars.com and Ticketek.com.