The quirks and controversy of Adelaide's debut

09 Nov 2022
Penalties, fines and crashes couldn’t stop Lowndes
3 mins by James Pavey
Flashback: Lowndes' miracle Adelaide win from last

The very first championship Adelaide 500 in 1999 proved a defining moment for Supercars and Craig Lowndes.

The Adelaide streets will come alive for the 2022 season-ending VALO Adelaide 500 on December 1-4.

For the first time, Adelaide will close out a campaign, having opened new seasons between 1999 and 2020.

It was in 1999 when Lowndes and the Holden Racing Team proved their might in the face of sharp adversity.

At the peak of his powers, having won the 1998 title, a 24-year-old Lowndes won from last on the grid — but there was a catch.

Lowndes turned hero on Sunday, having been Saturday’s villain due to his involvement in multiple incidents.

Notably, Lowndes sent Danny Osborne’s privateer Ford into the back straight wall en route to victory.

Come Sunday morning, and Lowndes had been disqualified from the opening leg, lost 100 points and fined $40,000 in prize money.

The 1999 Saturday start Pic: AN1 Images

The #1 HRT Commodore started the second leg from the rear of the grid — however, overall Adelaide honours were still up for grabs.

In 1999, the Adelaide 500 was promoted as one race, split into two legs, and nearly 160,000 packed into the Parklands.

Lowndes’ official winning race time stands at 25 hours, 35 minutes and 23 seconds.

From the back, Lowndes was up to 14th after eight laps, and peeled off move after move.

He would take victory over 1996 Bathurst-winning co-driver Greg Murphy by 1.1s, with Jason Bright third.

Such was Lowndes’ dominance that only Murphy, Bright, Russell Ingall, Steven Richards and Mark Noske finished on the lead lap.

Lowndes’ charge was fuelled by HRT’s anger at Saturday’s penalties, the team even threatening to pull the #1 out of Sunday’s action.

Rules were changed last-minute; 100 points were awarded, and cars that didn’t finish on Saturday were able to rejoin.


'I remember standing on the podium exhausted'

Lowndes’ performance left all in awe, and his Saturday points and money were later reinstated at a CAMS tribunal following the event.

There was no denying Lowndes was the class of the field, both performance- and fitness-wise.

HRT teammate Mark Skaife first spun at Turn 5 before crashing on his own at Turn 11.

Paul Radisich was overcome by fumes and carried from his Dick Johnson Racing Falcon.

Glenn Seton also picked up brake dramas, and dropped out of contention.

The legacy of the 1999 event lives on through the Sunday winner being awarded overall event honours.

Remarkably, the 1999 win was Lowndes’ only overall Adelaide victory; he took Saturday wins in 2000, 2001, 2006, 2013 and 2014.

It was in 1999, however, when Lowndes helped shape the first of many Adelaide miracles, even if he raced to the point of exhaustion.

Shortly after Lowndes crossed the line, HRT boss Jeff Grech labelled the comeback as “bloody good shit”.

It also helped the Commodore become the first ever Adelaide championship race winner.

"It was unexpected to be on the top step at the end of the day,” he reflected to Supercars.com in the years after the event.

"I remember standing on the podium exhausted.

"I remember taking my shoes off, my feet were burning, my body was exhausted but we got the result we needed.

"It went on to be one of the best victories I’ve had in my whole career.

"That year was my last championship win, so there are some very fond memories.”

Supercars drivers will compete for Adelaide honours in dual 78-lap, 250km races next month.

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