Craig Lowndes is confident a return to one of his favourite tracks on the Supercars circuit can return him to the podium.
It’s been 12 races since the well-loved driver tasted champagne after a race win – his driest spell in 13 years on tour.
Only Jamie Whincup (11) has more wins at Symmons Plains than the 42-year-old and Lowndes is hoping he can put his experience to good use in Tasmania.
“We’ve had a great record down here over the last decade,” he said.
“Our expectation is pretty high. We want to be on the podium.
“We learned a lot at the Grand Prix and we come here with a lot of confidence.”
On a windy Friday, Lowndes took his No.888 Commodore to ninth in practice after a late run-off into the gravel.
Reigning champion and early series leader Shane van Gisbergen topped the timing charts with a new lap record of 50.8 seconds.
The Red Bull Holden driver was followed by DJR Team Penske rivals Fabian Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin, with teammate Whincup fourth.
The danger for Lowndes – and the rest of the field – is that the emergence of the new Ford challengers makes it tougher to compete at the pointy end.
But he’s welcomed the emergence of a team to challenge Roland Dane’s well-oiled championship-winning machine.
“It’s healthy competition. In any sport if you have one team dominating for too long it becomes boring,” Lowndes said.
“There was no doubt DJR Team Penske would step up this year and they have.
“Their speed is very credible.
“It is a track where they haven’t had good results and so they’ll be motivated.
“The rivalry and the competition is definitely there.”
Lowndes said the key to a successful weekend in Tasmania is qualifying.
“It’s a track that’s very short, only seven corners, but it’s a very technical track.
“There’s a couple of tracks through the year where qualifying is absolutely important and this is one of them.
“Being in the top two rows is important and there’s no doubt it’s attainable.”