Craig Lowndes made one of the highest profile team switches in Supercars history when he went from Holden to Ford for 2001 – and now he has some advice for Scott McLaughlin as the young gun moves to DJR Team Penske for 2017.
Often referred to as the next Lowndes, 23-year old McLaughlin established himself as a future star early on and got the call up from Roger Penske for next year, as the team builds toward becoming a force in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
DJR Team Penske started 2016 strong taking pole positions at the Clipsal 500 Adelaide and finishing on the podium at Phillip Island, but results have tapered off with managing director Ryan Story admitting last season he felt the team was underperforming.
Again the team has procured strong personnel for 2017, with the shock recruitment of Ludo Lacroix – Triple Eight’s technical mastermind and Lowndes’s 2016 race engineer – much to Roland Dane’s annoyance.
After McLaughlin’s strong finish with Garry Rogers Motorsport – claiming two wins and two poles, while DJRTP is yet to clock a win – Lowndes says there may be more to the story. The pair battled for third in the championship, with McLaughlin getting the better of the veteran in the year’s final race.
“I think he can see things that we can’t at the moment, like where they’re going and direction, structure and development,” Lowndes told supercars.com.
“I think when I moved to Triple Eight I could see where they were going in the future as a team – a lot of people thought I was nuts at the time but they actually couldn’t see what was actually going on internally.
“Good on him, there’s no doubt it’s a big move – Garry has given a lot of young guys a lot of opportunities and a lot of chances in the sport, which has been fantastic for Garry.
“To finish the year off the way he did and as Scotty has before with the team, I think is commendable to him to push hard until the finish.”
The main focus McLaughlin should have this year?
“I think he’s got some work to do to get that foundation going again and making sure he gets his engineer and driver rapport right, because he needs that working really quickly to get results from the start of the season.”
DJR Team Penske has Ludo Lacroix on-board this year, who was engineering Lowndes until news broke he was shifting to the Ford squad in November. Triple Eight switched John ‘Irish’ McGregor onto the car, which Lowndes admitted was costly in his bid for third.
DJR Team Penske is yet to formally confirm its personnel line-up or officially announce Lacroix.
“I think they’ll obviously pair up the best combination for what they need and I think there’s no doubt Team Penske will be a strong team, they’ve shown good form,” Lowndes said.
“There’s no doubt they’ve been probably putting foundations down now for next year and you’ll probably see them a lot stronger than we have.”
McLaughlin edged the veteran by just 36 points in the 2016 championship and was excited just to be racing the six-time Bathurst 1000 winner.
“Scotty came down and said hello after the race and we had a laugh about it,” Lowndes said.
“It was great for him, he’s worked really hard with the team and he is going to a different team next year so he finishes the year off on a high and it’s great for him. He’s a good, young up-and-coming racer so credit to him.”