Craig Lowndes admits his right-hand man Ludo Lacroix is a bit rusty as a race engineer, but believes he is focused and dedicated to making the TeamVortex car challenge up the front.
Lowndes works with his third engineer in three years in 2016, ending a long relationship with Jeromy Moore at the end of 2014, and with last year’s engineer Grant McPherson remaining in the Red Bull camp to run Shane van Gisbergen.
Lacroix doubles as Triple Eight’s technical director, and runs the TeamVortex #888 after the team’s expansion to three cars this season. Those three cars all sit in the top six in the Championship points, with Jamie Whincup leading, Lowndes fourth and van Gisbergen sixth, in what should be a heated inter-team battle this year.
On Inside Supercars last night, the panel spoke to Lowndes about the Frenchman, who is known for his ‘Frenglish’ as well as being the team’s technical mastermind. He engineered Jamie Whincup during his first two years with Triple Eight, was instrumental in turning Whincup’s 2014 season around, and ran the successful XBOX wildcard entry at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 in 2013.
“He is very clever, very smart – I think he’s a bit rusty in the sense of engineering prowess in the sense of just thinking on your feet,” Lowndes said last night.
“But as an engineer that wants the best out of the car he’s very, very committed to making that car very fast.”
The six-time Bathurst winner insists he can understand Ludo over the radio despite his thick accent and explained how passionate the Frenchman gets about the racing.
“It becomes more French when he becomes more animated – obviously I’m in the car, but all the guys in the garage say through the race you’re in battles and actually pass someone he’s punching the air and he’s all animated. Of course with that he gets excited and then he starts talking a little more French than English, but I understand him.”
Speaking to v8supercars.com earlier this year, Lowndes explained how Lacroix juggled both Triple Eight roles, as other teams have shifted away from having the head engineer also run a car during race meetings. Lowndes’ data engineer John ‘Irish’ McGregor continues to work on the #888 car, as he has for the last three years, so there has been some consistency there for Lowndes.
“At a race weekend he is my engineer,” Lowndes said of Lacroix.
“When we go back to base he becomes the technical director again and I work closer probably with Irish at the team. So Ludo continues to direct the development of the whole program.
“Everyone, if you look up and down, has different roles at home base and at a race weekend – so it really hasn’t changed too much, to be honest.
“I think that Ludo, at race weekends, gets directed by Mark Dutton, who looks after the whole operation and the three cars and when we get to home base, the power changes slightly and Ludo goes back to his technical directorship.”
Next event on the calendar, Perth, has been an exceptionally strong one for Lowndes, who has won 15 races at the Wanner circuit. The current driver closest in wins is Mark Winterbottom with six.