At the Chill Perth 360 on the weekend,Craig Lowndes won his 91st race, breaking Mark Skaife’s previously held recordof most wins by a driver in the category.
It was a day of stats as the win was themost of any driver at Barbagallo Raceway – 14 – and also the 100th win forLowndes’ team Triple Eight.
Later that evening, Lowndes – now beingheralded as the Greatest of All Time – spoke to v8supercars.com.au abouthis first ever career win at Eastern Creek in 1996, back when the category wasthe Australian Touring Car Championship and Lowndesy was ‘The Kid’ in a HoldenRacing Team Commodore.
“Eastern Creek was a twilight race,”Lowndes said.
“We went into the Championship in 1996.There were a lot of comments and speculation that I probably wouldn’t even wina race, let alone a Championship.
“The event was a twilight event and it wasthe short circuit, we didn’t use the full track.
“I can’t remember where we qualified (fourth)– we qualified pretty well, from memory. We won some races.
“John Bowe was on the podium with me and WayneGardner.
“So for me, I’d come out of nowhere – butwhat people didn’t appreciate back then was at the end of 1995 we did 13 daysof testing, in December. We’d gone from Oran Park to Eastern Creek, to PhillipIsland to Winton – we’d been everywhere doing tyre testing – so we’d had 13days almost straight driving a car. And I popped up the start of ‘96 and wonthe opening round.
“John Bowe was very complimentary, he madea point of saying he was very impressed, so for me it was a great beginning.
“I think that was when we started our recordrun of consecutive victories.”
Lowndes won six of the 10 rounds that yearand went on the claim the Championship ahead of John Bowe, Glenn Seton andPeter Brock – as well as winning the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000 with a youngGreg Murphy.
The following year Lowndes contested the1997 International Formula 3000 Championship in Europe, but came back to theATCC in ’98 and once again blitzed the field.
The rest is history – in fact, EasternCreek was also the circuit Lowndes took his first win for Triple Eight in 2005after being signed to the team that year.
Eastern Creek may have been Lowndes’ firstvictory – but his standout victory?
“Bathurst ’06 – that’s the highlight for mewith (Peter) Brock’s passing,” Lowndes said. That year, he and Jamie Whincupbecame the first two drivers to have their names etched on the Peter BrockMemorial Trophy. And it didn’t stop there – the two were on a winningstreak, winning a hat-trick until Garth Tander and Will Davison stopped thepair in 2009.
Since then Lowndes has won another Bathurstin 2010 with Skaife, taking his tally to five Bathurst 1000s and threeChampionships.
“But a race I didn’t win, that set me upthough, was Bathurst ’94,” Lowndes said.
“Bathurst ‘94 we ended up second behindJohn Bowe.
“I wasn’t supposed to be in the car at theend of the race. I was partnered up with Brad Jones, but the way the sequencehappened, I had to be thrown back in the car at the end.
“I was having a great battle with Bowe andleading the race for a lap and half – and with three laps to go, our fuellight did come on.
“Bowe had re-passed me at that stage and Ihad to stop pursuing because we were more focused on finishing the race, nottrying to win the race.
“Finishing second and all that, but for methat was a great highlight – to go to a race track I’d admired for so long. Myfirst attempt I struggled so badly in the lead up and then to be in the car atthe wrong time –but what was probably the right time for me, because thatbasically started my career.”
While Lowndes has achieved so much in hismotor racing career, there are still new steps – take the next event on thecalendar, the Austin 400, staged in Texas in the United States.
“It’s exciting – you don’t often getthe chance to go to (a) a foreign country and (b) a different racetrack,” theRed Bull Racing Australia driver said.
“To have a great opportunity to go there asdrivers and teams with no previous information or data, it’s quite special.
“I’ve experienced it with Abu Dhabi,Bahrain, even Shanghai in China, so I’ve had the opportunity – but for theyoung kids (in the category) it’s a great opportunity.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams we’dend up racing in America because it’s a NASCAR country and for us to nowshowcase V8 Supercars is fantastic. “Because the cars are very similar in asense – they’re V8s, rear wheel drive, they’re noisy, they’re loud, werace around we bash and crash into everyone – I think the Americans willprobably embrace us in a way because they’ll see that we like NASCAR, we liketo fight and have a bit of fun.”