Home' V8X Supercar Magazine : Oct Nov 2018 Issue 107 Contents SUPERCAR XTRA
engine wasn’t too damaged to start when he crashed in
the warm-up session. And then there was Jones’ role,
performing a heroic double stint to get the car back into
contention from nearly a lap down. Jones’ reward was
to never drive for HRT again.
“‘Hog’ was in love with Craig and it turned out he
was right,” Jones said years later. “He went on to do
THE STATS TELL A STORY
Lowndes’ record since he started in touring-car competi-
tion in 1994 now stands at: 600-plus races contested,
100-plus races won, 40-plus pole positions, three drivers’
championships won, six Bathurst wins.
Dig into those statistics and there are bare patches
that tell their own story of times not always successful.
In fact, Lowndes’ Supercar career can be split into three
distinct patches, each of them with their challenges.
From 1994 to 2000 he was ensconced within the
Holden Racing Team and the Walkinshaw empire. It
was then he won his three drivers’ championships.
His first full year in 1996 was simply incredible. Armed
with HRT chassis #033, a VR Commodore designed by
emerging young engineering superstars Chris Dyer and
Richard Hollway and rolling on Bridgestone tyres supe-
rior to the rival Dunlops and Yokohama, he dominated
the 1996 championship and then was joined by Murphy
to win the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000. It’s a tri-
fecta no-one has yet emulated.
In that year Lowndes demonstrated an ability to con-
jure tyre life that remains one of his most valuable racing
assets. He could make a softer compound live just as
long as the harder compounds teammate Brock used.
Lowndes learned much about the merciless reality
of motor racing in this period from two of its toughest
operators, HSV/HRT owner Tom Walkinshaw and his
chief lieutenant John Crennan.
They controlled the early days of his career, signed
him to a 10-year management deal and found the fund-
ing for a 1997 Formula 3000 campaign in Europe. Their
unwillingness to spend another $1.2 million in 1998 to
go again rendered the first cracks in the foundations of
When Lowndes came home disillusioned in 1998, he
faced a new and hungry teammate at HRT in Mark Skaife.
Complex, aggressive, ruthless, utterly committed and
focused, Skaife worked constantly to garner the team’s
loyalty. He also had a father-son relationship with Cren-
nan, both of them fascinated by the business and politics
of racing. That’s not Lowndes in the slightest.
Even though he won two more championships for
the team in 1998 and 1999, Lowndes, by now living in
Queensland, increasingly found himself on the outer
at HRT. One day he rang the workshop only to discover
the team had gone testing at Phillip Island without him.
“It was one of the hardest decisions in my life to cut
ties with someone I started my career with,” Lowndes
said in 2004. “The decision was heart-wrenching.”
From 2001 to 2004, having been wooed by Ford Aus-
tralia chief Geoff Polites across the great divide, Lowndes
raced unsuccessfully for two Ford teams in four years. In
this period, driving uncompetitive and unreliable cars,
he was overshadowed by Skaife and Ambrose, who had
returned from overseas to lead Stone Brothers Racing.
“We’ve smiled at times when we were angry inside,”
Lowndes said at his retirement press conference. There
was a lot of that going on in the early 2000s.
RESURRECTION AT TRIPLE EIGHT
The third (and final) chapter of his Supercars career
began in 2005 when he made what then seemed to
be the risky decision to move from Ford Performance
Racing (FPR) to Triple Eight Race Engineering, the Ford
team built up by Irish émigré Roland Dane and his volu-
ble engineering sidekick Frenchman Ludo Lacroix.
In those days FPR was the factory team and Triple Eight
the support act – and not a particularly convincing one
in a 2004 season blighted by unreliability. But it proved
an inspired decision. Lowndes won Triple Eight’s first
Supercar race at Eastern Creek in 2005 and has followed
up with five of his six Bathurst 1000s, including the emo-
tional 2006 victory just weeks after Brock’s death, and
50-plus Supercars race wins for the team. He has only
once finished outside the drivers’ championship top four
BELOW: Lowndes won the
championship on his first
attempt with the Holden
Racing Team in 1996.
“WE’LL BE FIGHTING HARD TIL THE
END OF THE YEAR. WE WANT TO
FINISH THE SEASON ON A POSITIVE.”
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