Home' V8X Supercar Magazine : Oct Nov 2018 Issue 107 Contents 24 SUPERCAR XTRA
CELEBRATING A LEGEND
After more than 20 years in the spotlight there are
still recognisable traits of the ‘The Kid’ in there. He still
comes across as relatively straightforward. Sure, pitlane,
a place that can be vituperative, spiteful and corrosive,
has had an effect, has worn down that exuberance and
erased that naiveté. But those who know him well insist
he remains an uncomplicated and genuinely nice fella,
who has driven at an elite level for more than two dec-
ades at a time when the category has never been tougher.
And now, as Lowndes himself says, in 2019 he enters
a new chapter. Predictably, Lowndes’ decision has gen-
erated masses of comment and controversy. In a world
where 15 seconds worth of fame is now an achieve-
ment, it says much about Lowndes that his retirement
is the biggest local motorsport story of 2018. It’s been
energised – as Neil Crompton would say – because not
everyone is convinced Lowndes actually wants to retire.
Lowndes admitted publicly as far back as mid-2017
that 2018 might be his last year, but that was when
he was struggling for front-running pace on the new
Dunlop tyre and learning to work with engineer John
‘Irish’ McGregor. Back on song in 2018 and with a
contract to drive full-time into 2019, his retirement
announcement was a shock.
Lowndes’ performance at the press conference in
Townsville where he and Triple Eight team boss Roland
Dane announced his retirement was unconvincing . “We
know that this is the right time for me,” he said more
than once in Townsville, without really sounding like
he believed it.
Since then both men have appeared in multiple tel-
evision and print interviews together and separately to
insist he wasn’t forced out. Lowndes has sounded more
at peace with his decision, while Dane has defended as
he always does, by attacking.
“I couldn’t care less what everyone else thinks about
it,” he said. “Craig and I know what the decision that
he made that I completely agree with and that I think
was the right decision to make. He knows the facts and
I know the facts.”
Lowndes was born on June 21 in 1974 and grew up in
Melbourne’s north-eastern suburbs. His father Frank
worked for the old Holden Dealer Team in the era when
Peter Brock was Australia’s superstar touring-car driver.
Lowndes was originally meant to test a Dick Johnson
Racing Falcon as a reward for winning the 1993 Formula
Ford Series, but that never happened and Holden Racing
Team stepped in, at team manager Jeff ‘Hog’ Grech’s
urging, to give the 19-year-old a go.
His touring-car career began in September 1994 when
he debuted in a HRT Commodore as Brad Jones’ co-
driver in the Sandown 500, where they finished fifth.
A few weeks later Lowndes imprinted himself on the
national psyche with a daring round-the-outside-pass
of John Bowe at Griffin’s Bend with just laps to go in
the Bathurst 1000. Bowe fought back to win the race in
the Shell-FAI Falcon he was sharing with Dick Johnson,
but less than two laps in the lead literally launched a
“If I hadn’t made that passing manoeuvre, who
knows?” pondered Lowndes. “Hopefully I had done
enough already to have interest from other teams, but
I think that pass sparked my future with HRT.”
Lowndes’ performance cracked the dyke. After a
decade where the veterans had locked out young talent,
Lowndes led the likes of Greg Murphy, Steven
Richards, Jason Bright, Marcos Ambrose
and Garth Tander onto the grid. Only
Tander has outlasted him.
And yet there were so many
nuances to Bathurst 1994
and so many ways it could
have gone wrong. He might
not have been there at all
if Swede Rickard Rydell
hadn’t pulled out of his
HRT co-drive at Sandown
for family reasons.
Did Lowndes actually
mean to pass Bowe or did
his foot slip off the brake?
How lucky was he to stay off
the wall when he spun earlier in
race... even luckier the car’s Chev
ABOVE & BELOW: Lowndes
had significant spells
with both Holden and
Ford in Supercars.
z_SX107 p22-26 Lowndes copy.indd 24
7/9/18 1:02 pm
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