Craig’s Corner: The art of mastering Perth

28 Apr 2023
Craig Lowndes' exclusive Supercars.com Perth column

This is the third exclusive Supercars.com column by Supercars Hall of Famer Craig Lowndes. Seven-time Bathurst winner Lowndes will preview each round of the 2023 Repco Supercars Championship from his own perspective, continuing with this weekend’s Bosch Power Tools Perth SuperSprint.

Just when you thought we had something of a form guide, along comes Perth — one of the toughest circuits, and one of my favourite circuits, on the calendar.

Perth is one of two circuits we race at — along with Symmons Plains in Tasmania — where the lap time is under a minute, so it disappears very quickly.

It’s only seven corners, but it’s very tricky. It’s the most abrasive track surface of the season, and it's incredibly hard on tyres — it’s like a cheese grater.

The circuit is only 2.4km long, but it can still catch you out. It’s very easy to pinch your front right tyre, and if you go off into the sand, there’s no coming out — it’s like the Sahara Desert!

The challenges for drivers and teams start right from the get-go with 90 minutes of practice on Friday. It’s an interesting format, and one that’s different to what we’ve seen this year.

It’s only seven corners, but it’s very tricky

Friday’s session will allow teams to stagger when they go out on track. Getting clear laps is a must, given drivers will have to deal with traffic in qualifying.

You’ll also have to be mindful of tyre wear — the tyres will be degrading quickly, so the focus for drivers and engineers will be to improve the car and maintain consistent lap times.

Given the tyre wear and the length of the lap time, you have to maximise every lap, especially when it comes to qualifying. You need to nail that one lap — very rarely is your second or third lap faster, so there’s no room for error.

The qualifying format is also cutthroat — it’s a three-part session on Saturday, so there’s every chance you could be caught out by either your own mistake or someone else’s, and start from the back for the race.

When it comes to set-up, you need a very balanced car to be strong in Perth. You don’t want too much oversteer or too much understeer — but elements of both will help you find that sweet spot.

Perth is a momentum circuit. You have to be smooth and finessed. The keys are to be gentle on the throttle coming out of Turn 1, flow the car through Turns 4 and 5, and not overwork the tyres.

I love this track — it’s like driving on an ice skating rink


Turn 6 — we drivers call it the ‘bowl’ — is crucial. I used a different line to many others; that was, apex early and use the inside kerb to grab the car and rotate it mid-corner. There is an element of risk with that line, because if you get it wrong you can get hurt on the exit as you don’t maximise your mid corner speed. As we know, the run down to Turn 7 opens up the main overtaking opportunity of the whole lap.

You have to be on your game at Turn 7, because your rivals can get the switchback on you heading to Turn 1. If you do manage to pull off a move, you have to be clever about where you position your car. Otherwise, you’ll undo your own hard work.

Personally, I love this track — it’s like driving on an ice skating rink, and you get that feeling after five laps! You have to look after the tyres, and you have to be patient. That’s something drivers will have to be mindful of, especially when you’re doing 42-lap races.

Strategy-wise, the longer you can go in your first stint in the race, the better — you’ll need a good quality tyre for the run home. There’s a likelihood of Safety Cars too, so if you pull a smart strategy move, you’re right in the game.

Track position is vital, as it is everywhere. However, an alternative strategy can pay off from time to time — it did for me in 2016! We chose to do an extra stop, which sent me to the back of the field in the second half of the race. It was risky but with fresh tyres I was able to hunt the pack down. With the rest of the field struggling with old rubber I was able to take the win. Although, such a strategy, where you burn through a bank of tyres, can hurt you come Sunday.

Then, there’s the weather factor — given the course nature of the bitumen, the surface can become very greasy, so the margin for error gets even smaller.

The results we saw in Newcastle and Melbourne proved that Erebus and Triple Eight are right on their game, and I expect Brodie Kostecki and Shane van Gisbergen will again be hard to beat.

Brodie and Shane have adapted to their new cars faster than most

When it comes to having the throttle control skills you need to be strong in Perth, Shane and Brodie are right up there. They have adapted to their new cars faster than most, but Perth is another new challenge they, and everyone else, has to face.

Last year, Will Davison and Anton De Pasquale were very strong, and the Shell V-Power Racing Team will be in the mood to bounce back strongly after finding some speed at Albert Park.

Also don't discount the likes of Cam Waters and Tickford Racing — Cam was a whisker away from winning last year, as was teammate James Courtney.

I was also very impressed with Bryce Fullwood at Albert Park — he really caught my eye. Brad Jones Racing has also been quick in Perth, and they also took their very first win there in 2011.

There are so many teams in with a shot at pulling off something special this weekend. It’s a unique circuit and it’s great to be back in the West — and I can’t wait for the action to begin!

Tickets for this weekend’s Bosch Power Tools Perth SuperSprint are on sale on Supercars.com and Ticketek.com.

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