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Craig's Corner: What's at stake at our Holy Grail

Supercars
04 Oct
Craig Lowndes' exclusive Supercars.com column for the Great Race, the Repco Bathurst 1000
5 mins by Craig Lowndes
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This is the 10th exclusive Supercars.com column by Supercars Hall of Famer Craig Lowndes. Seven-time Bathurst winner Lowndes will preview each round of the 2023 Repco Supercars Championship from his own perspective, continuing with this weekend’s Repco Bathurst 1000, where he will race a Triple Eight wildcard with Zane Goddard.

I’m really excited for Bathurst this year. It was great to have a Sandown 500 before Bathurst, so teams and drivers could get their eyes in before the Great Race.

I’ve really enjoyed working with Zane. Sandown was a strong weekend for us, and he’s feeling more confident every time he gets in the car. He’s past what happened here 12 months ago, and he’s working really well with the team and how it operates. I think we’ll be even stronger for Bathurst, and I can’t wait to share the week with him and the team.

Bathurst is our Holy Grail. It’s such a big week in and out of the car. From my experience, you have to ensure you get to Sunday morning fresh and ready to go, rather than being tired and burnt out. Experience counts for a lot here. Sunday is a very a long day. 

Lowndesy's guide to Bathurst's action corners
Roland Dane always said you can never win it on the first lap, but you can definitely lose it. If you keep your focus and you’re in the top dozen on the lead lap in the final stint, you’re a big chance.

On a personal note, it’s pretty cool to bring up my 30th consecutive Bathurst event. Thinking back to my debut back in 1994, you never know how long it’s going to last. To record 30 straight events is quite remarkable, and it’s something I’m very proud of. I grew up loving the event, and I wanted to be part of it from a young age. 

Over 30 years, the fans haven’t changed — they’re so passionate, they love racing, and they love this place. In that time, I’ve seen multiple fans that have camped at the same spot, and sat at the same corner.

What has changed is the build-up — when I first started, it was all about the race. Now, there are plenty of commercial things to keep tabs on, such as signing sessions and sponsor requirements. What many may not know is the race itself was a standalone event that sat outside of the championship.

Now it’s a championship race, teams need to be smart about their co-driver selection, as missing out on points at a crucial part of the season has a huge impact. So, there’s more at stake.

Best of Bathurst: Most iconic moments
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But the race has never changed. It’s a big 1000km, it’s a big day, and I approach it the same each time I come here. You need to be smart, you need to be patient, and you need to treat the Mountain with respect.

It’s the first Great Race for the Gen3 cars — a lot was made about the cars and how they’d get through the race at Sandown, but they put on a great show and set the tone for Bathurst. Sandown is a brutal track, with big kerbs and different surfaces. Bathurst has a smoother surface and it’s faster, and while the walls are closer, I’m keen to drive one in anger.

I’m looking forward to seeing how these cars go across the top of the Mountain. The previous Gen2 cars had a lot of downforce, and you almost had to drive them like a GT car. Now, with Gen3, it’s similar to when I first started.

I think of the VX and VT Commodores, even the AU Falcon — they were flighty across the top, and we were hitting 300km/h down Conrod Straight. They’re great memories, and I’m excited to get behind the wheel.

The qualifying spectacle will be entertaining as always, but don’t forget — this race is 161 laps. Winners can come from everywhere, and we’ve seen it before. Everyone wants to be on pole, but that’s no guarantee of victory.
Best of Bathurst: Most dramatic starts

That’s why I love these long races — there’s so much teamwork and strategy at play, and you can win in different ways. In each win in the ‘three-peat’ between 2008 and 2008, we saw it all. In 2006, we won with sheer speed. In 2007, we had good fuel economy. And in 2008, we had a bit of luck.

Looking to the championship, Sandown was a clear indication that Erebus and Triple Eight are out to win and keep the pressure on each other. The best way to deal with the pressure of a title fight in Bathurst is to have a fast car, particularly in the race. If you have a fast car and stay out of trouble, you will be at the front. However, regardless of being in a title fight or not, I expect teams to approach the weekend the same as any other weekend — you go out to win.

For Erebus and Triple Eight, the race could be a tricky one should all four cars be at the front. For years, the policy at Triple Eight has seen the lead car have pit priority. Double stacking has always been an issue, and it affected the Kostecki car at Sandown. Don’t be surprised if it happens again this weekend.

In all, we’re all celebrating the 60th anniversary of this fantastic event at this wonderful track. To mark the event, significant winning chassis will be hitting the track for exhibition laps on Saturday and Sunday. I’ll be getting back behind the wheel of ‘Chassis 10’, the 2006 Betta Electrical car. I can’t wait to get started, and see all the fans here!

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