Expanding the empire

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 20/10/2015
  • By Kassie Gadeke

Craig Lowndes is thrilled to be part of a Triple Eight expansion in V8 Supercars and has dispelled some of the negativity around being a 'third car'.

The 2015 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 winner and three-time series champion sat down with v8supercars.com.au recently to discuss his future in the category, with it revealed today he would pilot a TeamVortex Holden Commodore for 2016 and beyond.

While the silly season talk continues for many teams and drivers, Triple Eight boss Roland Dane locked away three of the category's most valuable early in the year.

Dane shocked the Supercars world by doing something he'd 'never do' expanding to three cars, accommodating all-time champ Jamie Whincup, quick 26-year old Shane van Gisbergen and fan favourite Lowndes.

"I'm excited about it because it's expanding what we have as an empire," Lowndes told v8supercars.com.au.

"Roland said he'd never do three cars, so I think he's obviously trying to secure his future as a team. Having Shane come on board just bolsters that side of it.

"I'm not getting any younger, but at the same time it's great to see that Roland's still got my back and still believes in what I can do in and out of a race car, so it's a great opportunity."

For Lowndes, being a 'third car' doesn't mean being any lesser part of the group.

"There were a lot of theories about being the third car in a sense - but that's not the case, we are part of three cars," he said.

"The cars we house and operate are worked on within the workshop.

"Obviously race weekend is a little bit different, but again, the personnel and everything else - the infrastructure, the data, the interaction - will all be as one team. Just we've got three cars now not two."

Lowndes has driven with Triple Eight since 2005 and earned the team's first race win the year at Sydney Motorsport Park (formerly known as Eastern Creek) so the opportunity to continue moving the team forward is an important one.

"Roland and the team - over the decade I've been with them - have been fantastic," Lowndes said.

"We've had some great results, we've been able to develop the team, been able to progress the team from when I first joined it, to where it is today ... we've got an agreement for the next two years, so for me it's a fantastic opportunity to again help expand the team - going from two cars to three cars.

"I think it's timely for us as a team because I've been in with other teams where we've tried to run three cars from the beginning and it's always - two cars is bad enough, trying to run three is like running four. You can't just add another layer, it's adding two more layers of complexity - team members, transporters and everything else.

"So I think the timing is right for us as a team and I'm really looking forward to being part of a three car team again ... and run under the umbrella of Triple Eight Race Engineering."

While Lowndes knows it will be a tough fight for this year's Championship with Mark Winterbottom leading by 399 points, he will push until the end. But even if he can't get the illustrious #1 on the window, he will be proud to run the #888 next season.

"It's great to carry the 888 for such a long time - we tried many years ago to try and carry the 00 number, but of course that has ceased to exist.

"To have one number that carries through most of your career is really special, Brock was able to do it with 05.

"Hopefully 888 we're able to exchange for a #1 one day - this year we've put ourselves in a good opportunity to be able to do that - but to carry the 888 and to know the team is named Triple Eight Race Engineering ... to be able to carry the number of the name of the team has been really special."

Later this week Lowndes and co-driver, four-time Bathurst winner Steven Richards, tackle the Castrol Gold Coast 600, the final leg of the Pirtek Enduro Cup.

Lowndes has had three wins on the Surfers Paradise streets and is looking to bridge the points gap to Winterbottom and have a strong run.

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