There's no doubt Craig Lowndes is one of the biggest stars to ever race in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, so plenty of the cars he’s raced in the category are considered special cars in racing history.
Some of them are more significant than others given their victories, pole positions and performances in the big races on the calendar, whereas others didn’t perhaps have careers as successful.
But next weekend at the WD-40 Phillip Island 500 event one of his old cars that many fans will remember will be heading back onto the track as part of the ever-growing Kumho Tyre Australian V8 Touring Car Series.
The V8 Touring Car class was first established in 2008 as a home for cars no longer eligible for the Dunlop Super2 Series and has since become, in essence, the unofficial third-tier of Supercars racing.
Yas V8 400, 2010
The opening round of the 2017 V8 Touring Car Series will be held at Phillip Island next weekend, with former Super2 driver Geoff Emery to make his V8TC debut aboard Lowndes’ last TeamVodafone Commodore VE Series II.
This particular car - 888A-025 - hasn’t raced since the final round of the Super2 Series at Sydney Olympic Park back in late 2014. It’s had a test session blast in Emery’s hands recently to prepare for next weekend’s hit-out at Phillip Island, a return to driving the Commodore for him given he normally now pilots an Audi in the Australian GT Championship.
The car he’ll race next weekend is best remembered for the tribute livery it ran to Peter Brock and the famous Holden Dealer Team at the 2012 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 with Lowndes and Warren Luff at the helm finishing third in the big race.
The HDT replica livery was a winner with the fans that weekend, which hosted the 50th year celebration race and also the last Bathurst 1000 held prior to the introduction of the New Generation cars that came on stream the next season.
Emery’s Commodore actually started its life back in 2010 as one of the original batch of Holdens constructed by Triple Eight Race Engineering. It made its debut as the #888 TeamVodafone car in the opening event at the Yas Marina Circuit with Lowndes at the helm and was driven by the three-time champ through to the end of Townsville given he debuted a new car at the Phillip Island 500.
From there it became a spare chassis and didn’t return to active competition until the start of 2012, again as Lowndes’ Vodafone-backed #888 entry. ‘The Kid’ drove this car for the entire season, highlighted by race wins at Hidden Valley, Queensland Raceway (two), Sydney Motorsport Park and the Sandown 500 where Warren Luff co-drove (and in doing so won his first-ever Supercars ‘main game’ race).
Lowndes and Luff finished third at Bathurst in the one-off HDT retro livery before Lowndes and Richard Lyons paired up for the Gold Coast 600.
But chassis 025 kept on winning as ‘CL’ grabbed another win in the penultimate round at Winton and then took the Saturday win at Sydney Olympic Park before signing off with a second place to Will Davison on the Sunday. A special chrome livery had been applied to the Vodafone cars that weekend, and it was in that very state that Emery collected the car when that event was over.
“We wheeled it straight off the track in Sydney and straight into our truck; it feels like yesterday but it’s scary to think it’s five years ago already!” said Emery this week.
“It was a competitive car and Triple Eight cars were the ones to have in that era, and they still are! It’s a well-built car and pretty self-explanatory as to why I wanted it.
“I bought it pretty much off the podium in Sydney. Lowndesy had won the Saturday race and been second on Sunday and then we wheeled it away and off we went.”
Emery raced the car in the Super2 Series in 2013 and 2014, highlighted by his first race win in the category at Winton in August 2013.
Since the end of the ’14 season the car has lay idle while Emery has competed in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and the Australian GT Championship but he’s excited to wheel it back out at Phillip Island next weekend.
But perhaps the thing to look forward to most is the fact that Emery has had his car returned to the retro HDT livery from Bathurst 2012 for its return to the track, even running under its familiar 888 race number!
It will be among a pack of an estimated 20 Kumho V8 Touring Cars, which will help make the WD-40 Phillip Island SuperSprint the largest gathering of Supercars in one place in many years given the Dunlop Super2 Series and Virgin Australia Supercars Championship will also be in action on the one weekend.
Saturday Sleuthing takes a break next weekend for the WD-40 Phillip Island 500 but returns on April 29 to tell the story of the very first Nissan Supercars race car.