Lowndes' goal for final full-time season

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 13/07/2018
  • By Mitchell Adam

Finishing his full-time Supercars career inside the top five of the championship is Craig Lowndes' target across the balance of 2018.

The three-time champion announced in Townsville that this season will be his 22nd and last before stepping back to a co-driver role with Triple Eight.

While Lowndes has not won a title since joining Roland Dane's outfit in 2005, he finished inside the top four each season until last year's winless 10th.

Lowndes has returned to form this year and was actually ahead of team-mate Jamie Whincup in the standings in fourth when his retirement was announced.

Whincup overtook him during the weekend with a victory and a second to Lowndes' pair of fourths, while Shane van Gisbergen is second.

Third-placed David Reynolds is 44 points ahead of Lowndes, who holds a 172-point advantage over sixth-placed Fabian Coulthard.

"Some people will probably say that I can go for another five years," the Autobarn Lowndes Racing driver said.

"But at the end of the day you’re not going to be competitive at the end, it'd be making up the numbers, which I don’t want to do.

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"We’re going to work really hard this year to make sure we go out on a high.

"If we can be in the top five at the end of our last full-time drive I think I will be happy. I'll keep pushing hard and see where we end up.

"It would be nice to get the three of our cars in the top three, but whether that’s possible, I don’t know.

"I’ve had over 20 years at this high level of it so I’m looking forward to the next chapter.

"I think it’s still good timing on that side of it, it’s not all about driving race cars, it’s the whole thing.

"I’m stepping down on one part of it and opening up doors on other parts of this world. It’s the right time."

Lowndes concedes opinion on whether he's retiring too early will be based on results, and might shift over the back end of the season.

He will be joined in the PIRTEK Enduro Cup by Steven Richards for a fifth campaign.

While they won Bathurst together in 2015, they finished an anonymous 11th at both Sandown and Mount Panorama last year before taking eighth and fourth on the Gold Coast.

"You take the high, but of course, if we go to QR and have a couple of DNFs you’ll go, ‘probably made the right choice’," he said.

"I’ve spoken to Richo, I’d love to win another Bathurst as a full-time driver.

"Hopefully next year as a co-driver we can still achieve that [as well]."

With an average grid position of 14.1 beforehand, Lowndes lined up fifth and sixth in Townsville.

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That was just the second time in 2018 he's started more than one race of a weekend inside the top 10, joining Symmons Plains, where Lowndes ended race win and pole droughts.

It rounded out improved one-lap form for Triple Eight, before Whincup and van Gisbergen both led a one-two finish in the races.

"I think what we found at the test day, we said when we headed to Darwin that it served us well," Lowndes said.

"It didn’t quite serve us as well as we’d hoped, but we knew there was still goodness in what we found.

"[Townsville] suited us in the style of the track. We go to Queensland Raceway next, that should be a good home ground for us and for Team Penske.

"Then we move onto Sydney Motorsport Park, which we’ve actually sort of struggled at a bit.

"The next couple of meetings will be a telling factor if we have made a good step forward.

"Definitely race pace, no doubt, both days for us [in Townsville], we’ve improved the car made our tyre life better.

"We need to life our game a little bit more if we can in qualifying [to match van Gisbergen and Whincup].

"The next couple of rounds will be a telling factor."

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