Craig Lowndes flying under radar in V8 race
He's a three-time champion and five-time Bathurst 1000 winner but it seems Holden veteran Craig Lowndes is the forgotten man in this year's V8 Supercars title race.
All the focus going into this weekend's event in Darwin is on defending champion Jamie Whincup's battle with Ford Performance Racing pair Will Davison and Mark Winterbottom in the championship hunt.
Given just 29 points separate the three leading drivers on the standings, that position is understandable but Lowndes is just 239 points off the lead - with the double-point endurance races still to come.
The TeamVodafone ace sounded a warning on Friday at Darwin's Hidden Valley Raceway, topping the timesheets in the third of four half-hour practice sessions.
None of the other big guns fired a shot on Friday, as young New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen clocked the fastest lap of the day in the final practice session to finish ahead of Holden pair Jonathon Webb and Jason Bright.
Lowndes and his three title rivals all finished mid-pack in the session as they kept their powder dry for the weekend ahead and the 37-year-old is happy all the focus - and pressure - is on the three drivers ahead of him in the standings.
"The more people focus on the front three is probably good for all of us," Lowndes told AAP.
"We'll just go out there and do our best but the three of them are very competitive so there's no doubt they're going to continue to perform.
"I just need to be finishing races - scoring maximum points when I can't win races and see where we end up.
"It's proven year after year that consistency counts a lot more than just having race wins here and there."
Davison and Winterbottom's displays so far this year mean the perennially-underachieving factory-backed FPR team are finally delivering a challenge worthy of their budget.
But rather than fret over a sleeping giant awakening, Lowndes is relishing the fight of seeing off the challenge and trying to keep his TeamVodafone outfit's status as V8's top dog.
"Whenever you've got multiple teams going at it and having the opportunity to win races week after week, it's only a good thing for the category," he said.
The championship battle resumes on Saturday with the first of two races this weekend, a 120km sprint.
A second 200km race will be held on Sunday.