Craig Lowndes thought engineer Ludo Lacroix’s winning strategy call was “strange” when it came through to pit mid-race – but it proved to be the winning formula at Barbagallo Raceway.
Lowndes was one of the front-runners at that point and thought TeamVortex was using a one-stop strategy until he got word from Lacroix to pit on lap 28 of 50.
With rain holding out until the final lap, it was ultimately the winning call, with the fan favourite carving up the field in his Commodore and storming to his 16th race win at the Barbagallo circuit.
“I wasn’t sure if he thought or was expecting everyone else to come in for the second stop,” Lowndes said in the post-race press conference.
“When he called me in I thought it was a bit strange, but I didn’t question him, I came in.
“I didn’t see anyone else in pit lane all set up – so we came in, got out and from that point on it was actually quite strange.
“It was counting down the laps obviously, and Ludo was telling me I had the lead. “I’m looking at the big screen and these two guys were disappearing over turns 4-5 as I was coming down the main straight.
“I couldn’t work out how I had [that] lead but then I realised these guys weren’t going to pit, they were going to do the one stop strategy.
“Then he asked me to push, which the car responded and it was good enough to do the lap times towards the end, which last year we struggled with five or six laps to go – but today was really good.”
He knew the strategy was risky, but had full faith in his squad, who crunch numbers during the race and often have to think on their feet.
“He actually told me while I was going up 4-5, he said, pit this lap, and I wasn’t sure.
“Obviously they’ve got more eyes on the screen than I have, at that point I think we were comfortably in third or fourth or wherever we were, thinking we were going to do a one stop strategy but he opted to change that.
“I’m very thankful we pulled it off because it could’ve gone either way for us.”
Some extra grip was all he needed.
“For us it was a matter of trying to hit the numbers and look after the car – but when you’ve got ultimate tyre grip over everyone else it’s so much easier to come out of turn six,” he said.
“You can keep the car tighter and then get on the throttle earlier and drive up the inside of them so it makes life a lot easier when you’re got superior tyre grip, that’s all we had.”
Starting on the second row of the grid, Lowndes got a good start but dropped back in the wet.
“It is like driving on ice in some regard – you need a well balanced car,” he said of the unique Perth circuit.
“We did struggle at the start of the race on the wets to be honest – we just couldn’t generate the grip that we wanted. When we got on the slick tyre, it came to us again.
“We’re very thankful and we’ve got a longer race tomorrow.”
Lowndes’ efforts pushed him up to second in the Championship standings, 15 points behind teammate Jamie Whincup.
It was his first win for the season as TeamVortex driver and Triple Eight’s first one-two-three finish in a Championship race.