Craig's Corner: Why there's no margin for error in Perth

15 May
Craig Lowndes's exclusive Perth SuperSprint column for Supercars.com

This is the fourth exclusive Supercars.com column by Supercars Hall of Famer Craig Lowndes for the 2024 season. Seven-time Bathurst winner Lowndes will preview each round of the 2024 Repco Supercars Championship from his own perspective, continuing with this weekend’s Bosch Power Tools Perth SuperSprint.

Perth is a super exciting track. I love the place because it's almost like driving on an ice skating rink!

After about four or five laps, the tyres start to degrade. You've just got to be really smooth on the application of the throttle exiting Turn 1, and slide it over the crest into the short run to Turn 6, into which we call the 'Bowl'. Then, get good drive out of 6, and power down to the big braking zone at Turn 7.

You've got to have the whole car moving, not just have understeer or oversteer. To go well in Perth, you have to have a set-up to literally allow the whole car to slide. It's a great challenge!

Perth will have some of the most important Qualifying sessions of the whole season, because unless you're starting from the first couple of rows on the grid, you're really going to struggle to steal a win.

There's going to be massive pressure on drivers to get that one lap right in qualifying. Given we have knockout qualifying this weekend, drivers have six opportunities to get it right. And then, do you use your tyres up chasing pole? It's a fine line. In history, it's proven to be worth it, given 67 of 95 races have been won from the front row.

Will Brown, Broc Feeney and Chaz Mostert might be ahead in the championship, but they still have to be aggressive. Once you start being conservative, you generally end up in drama. I have no doubt that Will, Broc and Chaz will have their elbows out, trying to maximise whatever they can.

Full battle: Brown overhauls Feeney in tense fight

Chaz needs keep the faith and stay in the hunt. He's sitting third in the championship, and Walkinshaw Andretti United recently tested. They need to make sure they close the gap to the Triple Eight boys, and trophies in Perth will be a great place to start.

But, in Perth, there's so much to lose. It's one of two circuits, along with Tassie, that you lap under a minute. So, track position and getting a clean lap is very important.

That's something that all drivers are aware of, and they're going to have to manage that, especially throughout the practice sessions and then more so in qualifying.

I like the new SuperSprint format. The one hour practice session on Friday will give teams an opportunity to try various set-up changes. But again, you've got to balance that off with tyre wear. We have short practice sessions on the Saturday and Sunday, which are more of an opportunity to get to know your car and the track. But, at the same time, you still have to qualify well afterwards.

Those short practice sessions may help drivers, but engineers are gonna have to get their head around what that lower pressure is gonna do to the car balance.

Trying to maximise a lap early on in Qualifying is always a good thing, because it puts pressure on the rest of the field. But on the same token, the track will evolve. More often than not, you should try to be the last car across to the line in qualifying.

In the races, at a circuit like this, you can quite easily go a lap down through the pit stops. Teams and drivers are going to have to be very mindful about where they qualify to what strategy they play. Crucially, engineers are going to have to coach their drivers to manage the tyres.

Unforgettable Perth Moments: Lowndes charges through the field

We also know that the minimum tyre pressure has dropped from 17psi to 15psi. We've heard that the lower tyre pressures will help drivers race harder for longer. I think that theory works, but it will be a challenge in Perth because of the high tyre deg.

Playing it safe with strategy works, but we've seen in the past how alternative strategies can work. For myself with Ludo in '16, we went with an alternative strategy, and it worked out to be a race winner. If you want to be a hero on Saturday, you might not have something to fight with on Sunday. However, if you qualify in the mid-pack, it could be worth going on an alternative strategy.

The Triple Eight boys have been fast, and so has Chaz, who needs a bit of luck. That's been a story for many teams and drivers.

After Taupō, I'm keen to see if DJR and BJR can carry on with their form. I'm really looking forward to seeing how Cam Waters attacks the weekend. He has had some poles, but the races haven't gone his way so far. If he's fast, look out.

I was also really impressed by Ryan Wood in Taupō. He was very speedy in Perth in Super2 last year, and from what I gather, he likes the track. I'm keen to see how he adapts to the Gen3 car around this place.

There's also no doubt that Matt Payne and Richie Stanaway are definitely coming on strong, and haven't shown their full hand yet. Matty is a great qualifier, while Richie moves forward in the races. Can they get Ford's first win this year?

There's plenty at stake, with 150 points to be won on Saturday and Sunday. I can't wait to see who can wrestle momentum as we approach the midway point of the season.

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