Report card: Craig Lowndes

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 03/06/2016
  • By Kassie Gadeke

With a break between Winton and Darwin, supercars.com is analysing the drivers’ results and performances in this first part of the season. The racing is the closest in history, with nine different winners in 11 races.

Craig Lowndes of Caltex Racing during the Clipsal 500,  at the Adelaide Street Circuit, Adelaide, South Australia, March 05, 2016.

Craig Lowndes, TeamVortex
Engineer:
Ludo Lacroix  

Average qualifying position: 8.0
Average finishing position: 6.8
Championship position: Fourth
Points to leader: 39
Wins:
Pole positions: 0

Best result: Saturday win in Perth 
A strategy masterstroke saw Lowndes overtake each car one by one on fresh soft tyres, after Lacroix made a brave call and Lowndes trusted it.  

 

Low point: 15th, Winton Saturday 
Qualified mid-pack in 14th, but used up tyres in a spritely battle with Shane van Gisbergen.

 

For: Lowndes has a positive attitude to match that smile. He doesn’t give up and he doesn’t take setbacks badly – sometimes he talks about taking ‘the result’ out of the weekend and will measure progress in another way.

Winton didn’t end well by his usual standards, but the veteran Supercars racer was still happy with where things were at, with a test day on the way and points leader Mark Winterbottom far from disappearing into the distance.

Lowndes believes consistency is his biggest strength, and he also seems to come on strong in the back half of the year, particularly in the big-points enduros, where 300 can be won or lost in one outing.

In Tasmania he spoke out about the challenges of being the ‘third car’ and small teething problems – that will only get better as the year goes on. He and Lacroix seem to be improving as a pairing each outing.

The fact that Lowndes is over 40 and regularly beating the young guns is a constant reminder of why he is one of the greats of Supercars racing. He is still one of the best racers in the field – he proved it by passing every car on track in Perth!  

Against: Lowndes does make mistakes under pressure. Look at the last two grand finales, when he’s been in contention for the title – last year he qualified last while Winterbottom nabbed pole position. The previous year he hit the concrete and cracked his ribs.

Qualifying, in general, is something Lowndes always talks about improving. He’s another driver yet to lock in a pole position this year.

Each year, we seem to ask, ‘Is this his last shot at the championship?’.

Ludo Lacroix Craig Lowndes Phillip Island 2016 TeamVortex

The team: On Sunday night at Winton, Lowndes said he thought the three-car setup was working much better with a “great process” in place. He shares the garage with TEKNO – with Will Davison, the customer team is just as hungry to succeed and has executed strong pit stops. They are always focusing on moving forward and finding that extra tenth, with both the Vortex and Red Bull garages adopting the ‘pitboard’ for pit stops to speed up stops.

Boss Roland Dane has explicitly said this is not the traditional ‘third car’ in the sense it would lag behind the others in the stable. Giving Lowndes the team’s technical mastermind to run the show certainly backs that up. 

Rating: B+
Lowndes adapting brilliantly to change – he’s right up there, as he is every year.

Craig Lowndes of Caltex Racing during the Clipsal 500,  at the Adelaide Street Circuit, Adelaide, South Australia, March 04, 2016.

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