A decision to race more as ateam and less against each other has proved to be a key factor in Red BullRacing’s Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes re-emerging as the pace-setters of theV8 Supercars field.
The two Triple Eight RaceEngineering Holden VF Commodore drivers won all three races that comprised theChill Perth 360 at Barbagallo Raceway, reasserting themselves after three Championshipevents had seen seven drivers from five teams take race victories.
RBRA heads to this weekend’sinaugural Austin 400 with Whincup back on top of the championship on 958points, while Lowndes is third on 843 points. FPR’s Will Davison sits second on893, with BJR’s Jason Bright (797) and Tekno Autosports’ Shane van Gisbergen(720) rounding out the top five.
Triple Eight technicaldirector Ludo Lacroix told v8supercars.com.au that a conscious decision hadbeen taken after the non-Championship Australian Grand Prix meeting forLowndes, Whincup and their engineering teams to share information more closelyto accelerate the team’s understanding of the new Car of the Future racer.
Lacroix said the startingpoint was to approach the race meetings with both cars set up similarly andsimply: “We go together with the same sort of tools to start with and see wherewe get with plenty of freedom, but we talk to each other more. It’s all aboutmaking back the team work.”
Lacroix has also attendedthe last two Championship events as part of the same process. The Frenchman,who has been a key influence on V8 Supercars Ford and Holden design for adecade, is rarely seen at races these days apart from the Supercheap Auto Bathurst1000.
“If we are not winning racesthen I have to come, it’s part of the deal,” said Lacroix, who was also usinghis time at the tracks to assist Triple Eight customer team Lucas DumbrellMotorsport.
Lacroix said that becauseWhincup and Lowndes had raced head-to-head for the Championship the last twoyears it was inevitable a rivalry had grown within the operation and teamwork hadbeen less pronounced.
“The two guys were racingeach other more than racing together,” Lacroix explained. “When you are so farahead you can do that. But sometimes when you are starting a new business –tyres, car etcetera – you need to work together because that makes the familylearn quicker.
“They have done very welland that work has been done in basically two events and that was justrecognising that we were not on top anymore and we needed to go back on top. Weare not on top yet, we are getting there, we are getting some good results, butit is a long process.”
Lacroix was clear thatWhincup and Lowndes had a healthy working relationship prior to this recentfocus on pooling information. For instance data has always been shared betweenthe two drivers.
“We were always sharing thedata, sometimes you can share data but you don’t necessarily look at it becauseyou are one-two-or two-one, but then when you are P5 or P6, it’s a case of whatdo we do together to get back to one-two and that’s what they have done.”
Lacroix admitted that TripleEight’s heavy CotF workload building six race cars, two spare chassis and otherspares and componentry – including front-end packages for BJR and NissanMotorsport – had also distracted the team’s focus.
“Unfortunately we did notfocus enough on the racing business, which is learning your tyre and … too muchof ‘last year we did that and it worked’. And that’s where the engineersprobably got a little lost and which is why I am back here… Somebody needs tobe able to step back and look at the overall picture, what’s happening overallover the weekend.”
Lacroix warned that the newCotF regulations meant Triple Eight would not dominate V8 Supercars racing inthe way it had in the past seven years, winning four drivers’ Championships withWhincup and five Bathurst wins.
“You have to remember thiscar will never have a complete domination,” he said. “There will be alwayspeople finding a little bit for the first two years which is going to make thembetter in the one track than others, so we are going to share the wining cakemore. Which is a good thing I think.”