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Lowndes’ special connection to VAILO Adelaide 500

Supercars
08 Nov
Craig Lowndes to carry out official 'Fanbassador' duties at 2023 VAILO Adelaide 500
3 mins by Brent Montgomery
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  • Craig Lowndes named VAILO Adelaide 500's official ‘Fanbassador’ for 2023

  • Lowndes won the inaugural Adelaide 500 in 1999

  • Supercars Hall of Famer will be even more prominent on screens and around the track

2023 VAILO Adelaide 500 ‘Fanbassador’ Craig Lowndes has a unique tie to the event having won the first running in 1999, and how that weekend played out is not as simple as the records may suggest.

It was controversial and gladiatorial, with Lowndes himself playing the role of villain on Saturday.

After qualifying third in the Top Ten Shootout, Craig Lowndes’ Holden Racing Team VT Commodore was involved in multiple incidents through the first leg of the 500, including an accident with privateer Danny Osborne on his way to Race 1 victory.

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It was that shunt with Osborne that resulted in a penalty, and later that night, an exclusion from the Saturday results.

"1999… there’s very fond memories in both ways," Lowndes recounts.

"We had a very bad Saturday race, made contact with a competitor. We got penalised.

"We were excluded on Saturday night, which put to the back to the field on Sunday morning."

Come Sunday morning Lowndes was officially disqualified from Race 1 and forced to start Race 2 from the rear of the grid.

"We were starting last and I remember we had an opportunity to get back into the top 10," he said.

"I remember talking to my engineer at the time Robbie Starr and saying, 'I’ll drive the wheels off this, you call the strategy, let’s see where we end up'."

The Sunday race was a true test of physicality. Adelaide is famous for its brutal kerbs and unforgiving concrete walls, let alone backing up for a further 250 kilometres in an era where shorter sprint races were the standard.

Drivers were forced to find ways to alleviate the physical stress, and some such as Mark Skaife did so by alternating between right and left foot braking. Skaife eventually retired, along with John Faulkner and Paul Radisich after being overcome by the testing conditions.

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Meanwhile, it was a young Craig Lowndes, fuelled by the Saturday’s exclusion, that was firing up the order.

After starting last, it took until just Lap 87 to climb through the field and towards the top ten.

The spectacular Lowndes charge saw him re-enter in the lead following the last round of pit stops over Greg Murphy in second.

From there, the plan was simple – head down and drive as fast as possible.

Flashback: Lowndes' miracle Adelaide win from last

"We had a good run through the field," he said.

"It was unexpected to be standing on the top step at the end of the day, but I remember being exhausted on the podium.

"My feet were burning, my body was exhausted, but we got the result.

"It went on to be one of the best victories of my career."

The exclusion from Saturday’s race was revoked and race win reinstated, meaning the eventual three-time Supercars champion swept the weekend, scoring a perfect 300 points at the inaugural Adelaide 500.

Having raced every Adelaide 500 from 1999 to 2018, Lowndes will share his fondest memories from over the years both across the broadcast and at the event.

The Supercars Hall of Famer will offer his expert analysis on the day-to-day track action as well as make multiple event appearances across the week, including the official Transporter Parade and driver signing session.

The 2023 VAILO Adelaide 500 will round out the Repco Supercars Championship season on November 23-26.

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