Craig Lowndes of Autobarn Lowndes Racing testing at Queensland Raceway

Positive mid-season test proves valuable

The team at Autobarn Lowndes Racing has a love-hate relationship with the mid-season test day. The downsides? It’s really rather chilly in the morning and Chef Mario’s coffee urn takes too long to heat up. The upsides? The sweet smell of E85 and a chance to learn what makes this ZB Commodore tick.

The three Triple Eight cars took to the Queensland Raceway tarmac yesterday for the second test of the year, all with very different plans for the day. Why chase one lead when you can chase three?

“We decided that we’d all run our own program and collectively we’ll sit down and we’ll analyse all the stuff that we’ve all done,” said Craig Lowndes after the day’s running was complete.

“The collective team decided to go through that process instead of all of us trying the same thing and just tried to fast-track knowledge and understanding.

“We didn’t run a good tyre here today, it was all about learning and understanding, it wasn’t about trying to set the lap record or set the world on fire, it was about understanding and knowledge.”

Not only that, but the ALR crew had a special guest in the form of co-driver Steve Richards. Sure, he ventured out to Winton a couple of weeks ago, but when the heavens opened he decided he didn’t want to get his race boots dirty and opted to stay put in the garage. Wise man!

It was Richo’s first time behind the wheel of the Autobarn Lowndes Racing ZB Commodore and the feedback he provided was valuable in ratifying Lowndesy’s findings over the last three months. On a day that was all about making lots of small gains, we’ve hopefully given the team a leg-up before the enduro season.

“I think [the test day] was something we needed,” continued Craig. “Most of us are all encouraged with what we’ve learnt. Whether we can use that at other tracks, that’s another thing, but we’ve learnt a lot about the car and different setups.

With a mixed bag of results so far this year and plenty of speed still to find in qualifying, it was clear the team needed to try some different approaches. Sometimes different isn’t always new though.

“We went over all our old stuff as well and basically found a lot of gains in old stuff that we probably hadn’t been trying because we’d basically put it in the basket of ‘been there, done that’ and of course it’s a brand new car. Different setups, different geometry, things that we’ve tried in the past that haven’t worked.”

If only it were as simple as plugging in the gains and rocketing through the rest of the season. One of the beauties (or frustrations if you’re an engineer) of motorsport, though, is that what works on one day at one track quite possibly won’t work on the next. It looks like we’ll see where we really stand in Darwin…