Supercars legend Craig Lowndes admits an engineer change mid-season is inconvenient, but revealed a plan had already been in place for the switch from Ludo Lacroix to John ‘Irish’ McGregor for this weekend’s Pukekohe event.
A personnel swap mid-year – as Lowndes looks to clinch third in the Championship and take his first career win at Pukekohe – is unusual, but in this case, still gives Lowndes some continuity after working with McGregor since 2013.
The Supercars veteran is pleased to help bring through the next generation of engineers and, he joked, McGregor’s much clearer over the radio.
“I think it’s probably not ideal,” Lowndes said of a mid-season switch.
“There was always going to be a transition period regardless – heading into next year Irish was always earmarked to be the new engineer.
“At the Gold Coast he had a bit of a work experience; he did the majority of the weekend throughout practice and qualifying, he didn’t do the radio comms through the races but did everything else. He had a bit of a taste of what’s going on.”
Triple Eight has always adjusted well to change – Lowndes referred to the Ford to Holden switch (though it was spearheaded by Lacroix) – and now the 42-year old racer is looking forward to playing a role in 29-year old McGregor’s development.
“It’s not difference to Mark Dutton – when we were looking for a team manager, Roland always wanted to look within, not look outside … I think Roland has always groomed people to come up,” Lowndes said.
“We have seen over the years, we have moved manufacturers from one manufacturer to another and we have been able to continue our winning ways.
“We have also changed major sponsors but it hasn’t really affected us in results – so we have been able to deal with a lot of issues along the way that really haven’t interrupted the end result.”
The weekend’s four 100km sprints makes it a simpler format for McGregor to take on the new role.
“He was always going to look after me here this weekend because of the way that the format is – not being a fuel calculation race or a pit stop race strategy race, it was a very clean cut sort of weekend. Irish was always going to be put under pressure and put in that position.
“Nothing’s really changed for us – obviously, as I said, it’s not ideal but he did a great job today.
"There’s no doubt we are working really well together, the car pace is coming slowly … because of this track and the way we’re looking at it.”
Lowndes has had a number of engineer switches in recent years. After Jeromy Moore left for Europe at the end of 2013, he paired with Grant McPherson, and this year Lacroix. Similarly to Moore, McGregor started in the data engineer role and worked up to running the car.
“He has always been at the team, almost since I have been here,” Lowndes said.
“Obviously he has to talk to me on the radio – I can hear him clearer and understand him better [than Lacroix], he is very calm on the radio which, again, is a bit different to what I am used to.
“We will improve over the course of the weekend… although we ended up 12th in that run I was happy with the car. We’re making headways everything is making sense and together, we’re making choices together, so it’s great.”