On this day: Lowndes scores Triple Eight's first win
Repco Supercars Championship
By James Pavey
May 29 will remain a special day for Triple Eight Race Engineering, with Craig Lowndes scoring the team’s first championship race win.
The team’s first of a record 210 race wins came a day after Lowndes failed to convert from pole, with Marcos Ambrose clinching victory.
It marked the first win for Lowndes in two years, and the 53rd of his decorated career.
Lowndes joined Triple Eight for the 2005 season in a relationship which remains to this day, with the three-time series champion retiring from full-time driving in 2018.
WATCH: LOWNDES GRABS TRIPLE EIGHT'S FIRST WIN
After a torrid time with Ford Performance Racing, having gone winless and finishing 20th overall in 2004, Lowndes needed just 10 races in 2005 with his new team to return to the winners’ circle.
He won a season-high six races in 2005 en route to second in the standings, splitting the Stone Brothers Racing duo of eventual champion Russell Ingall and Ambrose, who departed Stateside at season’s end.
It was Ambrose who commenced the 2005 season with an Adelaide double, before Greg Murphy swept the Pukekohe round.
Mark Skaife, Steven Richards and Ingall shared the Barbagallo wins, leaving Lowndes winless through eight races heading to Eastern Creek, now operated under the Sydney Motorsport Park banner.
After poles in New Zealand and Perth went begging, Lowndes was determined to convert in Sydney.
He won the start, and led once Ambrose stopped at the end of lap 11. Lowndes stopped five laps later; it was tight on the rejoin, but Ambrose completed the undercut, despite losing time following a collision with Mark Skaife.
The end margin of nearly seven seconds was proof Ambrose had the faster car, but Lowndes again demonstrated the hallmark of his consistent campaign in finishing second.
Later in the day, Ambrose monstered Lowndes off the start, but the #888 Betta Electrical Ford remained in Ambrose’s mirrors until they both pitted on the same lap.
At one end of the lane, Lowndes took on rear tyres, while Ambrose took on right-side tyres at the head of the lane.
The quicker Triple Eight stop enabled Lowndes to leapfrog the #1 Pirtek Falcon, and he set about creating a gap.
A lap 15 Safety Car following a high-speed accident for Paul Morris brought the pack close together, and Ambrose shadowed Lowndes on the restart.
However, Ambrose was later forced to defend from a racy Murphy, with Lowndes breaking away to claim victory by over two seconds.
Lowndes claimed round honours over Ambrose on a countback due to his Race 2 win, his first race and overall round victory since Phillip Island in 2003.
"It is only five months into a two-year deal and it is already looking pretty good," Lowndes said after the race.
"This does get the monkey off the back a bit, although it was more of an elephant.
"It is great for the team, we went into this year without a pole or a race win, and now we have them both."
The two-year deal has now become a 17-year partnership which has reaped 58 wins, including six Bathurst 1000 victories.
On a number of occasions did Lowndes come close to winning a fourth title with Triple Eight, notably in 2006 when he took the title fight to the final race with Rick Kelly.
However, the journey truly began in western Sydney in 2005, with Triple Eight finally hitting the top, nearly two years after the team bought our Briggs Motor Sport.
"The plan was to jump him off the start, but that didn't work," said Lowndes, whose daughter Chilli was born five days earlier.
"This race was won in pit lane, we decided to follow Marcos in and we got the jump.
"I'll celebrate with the guys a bit, but it will be pretty quick and easy because I really want to get home to be with the family."
The Repco Supercars Championship will return to Sydney Motorsport Park in August for the Beaurepaires Sydney SuperNight.
The 2021 season will continue at next month’s Merlin Darwin Triple Crown.