Lowndes looks long-term

  • 27/01/2017
  • By Kassie Gadeke
  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship

Supercars superstar Craig Lowndes has revealed he would like to race on for several more years, with his Triple Eight Race Engineering contract expiring at the end of 2017.

The six-time Bathurst 1000 winner, three-time Champion and number one on the all-time starts list with 610 to his name, has maintained he would like to race on as long as he’s happy and competitive. Winning two races last year, earning seven podiums and finishing a close fourth in the championship, he certainly has the runs on the board.

At Sydney Motorsport Park in August, after Lowndes’s 600th race, team boss Roland Dane expressed his interest in locking Lowndes in longer, and the veteran confirmed they would be speaking contracts very soon.

“In the near future we’ll work out what we want to do contract-wise and driving-wise, because our contract ends at the end of this year,” Lowndes told supercars.com.

“So we’ll be obviously talking to Roland and seeing where everything sits and if he’s happy to have us still continue and work out what that all looks like.”

He doesn’t give the impression he’s ready to retire from Supercars full-time just yet.  

“No!” he said.

“I think there’s a point we’ve got to think about that side of it, but I think where I am at the moment: we still performed well last year, we’re winning races, we finished fourth – we should’ve probably finished third – so we’re still in the hunt for the championship.

“I’ve always said, (I’ll drive on) while I’m still enjoying being part of the Supercar fraternity and competitive – which is probably the bigger picture. I’m always going to enjoy driving the car but there’s a point where you’ve got to think about if you’re not performing well or to the standard you’d like to be, you’ve got to think about what you do and open the door for another person – hopefully a young person – to get involved in the sport.

“At the moment I would love to have another two, maybe three-year extension – that’s my side, I just need to sit down with Roland in the near future and see what his thoughts are.”

Lowndes felt as if he had a head start on 2017 with John ‘Irish’ McGregor elevated to race engineer at New Zealand last year, in the wake of news Ludo Lacroix would shift from Triple Eight to DJR Team Penske.

McGregor’s step up was always planned, but it happened quicker and sooner than expected, which Lowndes believes did have an impact on last year’s championship result.

“Last year we focused on finishing the year off on a high and as strong as we could – everyone saw a little bit of the troubles we had at the end of last year with engineering and that side of it.

“So for me the focus was all about trying to get ready for this year, which we did towards the end of last year,” Lowndes said.

There are new challenges to overcome this time around with new tyre constructions. Lowndes’s Red Bull teammates have said the change could really mix up the pecking order as teams raced to be the first to master the new rubber.

“Jamie was part of that side of it,” he said, referring to the initial tyre test Supercars completed with the six-time champ for feedback.

“There’s definitely a change in tyre and the way, I believe, we’re going to run the weekends with pitstops, so there’s all that we have to get our heads around. But that’s no different to anyone else, all the teams will do the same work,” Lowndes said.

“(I’ll be) working really hard with Irish and our guys to try and make sure we maximise the tyre speed and also the tyre life, knowing we’re going to a softer style tyre.”

He believes it will be the usual suspects in title contention this year, with his Red Bull teammates leading the way after finishing 1-2 in 2016, with Shane van Gisbergen taking his maiden title.

“Obviously Jamie and Shane are going to be quite competitive,” Lowndes said.

“For me it’d be interesting to see how Scotty (McLaughlin) fits into DJR; they’ve obviously got very good resources and backing. We know Scotty can be very quick – it’s not necessarily putting a driver into a team and expecting success, it’s all about putting the right people around him and that’s something time will tell.

“How Garth (Tander) goes back in with GRM – I’m sure Garry (Rogers) will be wanting to hit the ground running.

“But you can’t go away from Prodrive – we’ve probably had the biggest shakeup in driver line-up this year that we’ve had for a long time, so it’ll be interesting to see how Clipsal pans out.”

Lowndes’s TeamVortex Commodore livery was revealed this week, which is sure to be eye-catching on track.

“When I first saw the design on paper I thought it was quite good, but when you see it live on the car it looks great – I think it’ll stand out in the crowd and on the track.”

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