With three championship titles in the Australian Touring Car Championship/V8 Supercars Championship and seven victories at Bathurst 1000 race, Craig Lowndes is one of the most successful Australian racing drivers.
Lowndes made a debut in the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1996, immediately winning the championship title. He was a champion two more times in 1998 and 1999. At Bathurst, he scored his first win in 1996, together with Greg Murphy. Later in a career, he won three times at Mount Panorama alongside Jamie Whincup, once with Mark Skaife and two times with Steven Richards.
Craig Andrew Lowndes was born in Melbourne in June 1974. As a nine-year-old kid and a son of former chief scrutineer of Confederation of Australian motorsport, he started to drive go-karts. When he was 17, Lowndes moved up to cars racing in the competition called Motorcraft Formula Ford ’Driver to Europe’ Series which later became Australian Formula Ford Championship.
In 1993, Craig won the title in that Series and qualified for the Formula Ford Festival in England same year where he finished third. That success allowed him to move up to the open-wheel racing. In 1994, driving an old Holden Cheetah Mk9 against much better cars in Formula Brabham Series (now Formula Holden), he got the Australian Silver Star award.
In the meantime, Lowndes was acquired by Holden Racing Team as a test driver but unexpectedly got a chance to show what he can do on the biggest stage. He replaced Rickard Rydell for the Sandown 500 after the Swede was forced to withdraw from the race. Driving alongside Brad Jones and against more experienced drivers, he finished second, which was an excellent achievement for a rookie.
The legend of Craig Lowndes as the V8 Supercars driver was born
In one moment of that race, Lowndes even was on the top after the brilliant maneuver of overtaking Ford’s legend John Bowe. After the race, he instantly became one of the favorite drivers when he said that his overtaking which pushed to the top of the grid was just a matter of missing the brake.
Next year Craig Lowndes qualified on pole position for the most prestigious Australian race, Bathurst 1000, but he failed to finish the race due to an engine problems. For the 1996 campaign, Holden Racing Tema finally offered him a seat for a full season what proved to be the perfect decision. Lowndes, driving alongside Greg Murphy, won the Australian Touring Cars Championship title in his first attempt, also winning both Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000, becoming the youngest driver to win at Bathurst.
A year in Europe and return to Australia
Lowndes decided to go to Europe where he competed in the Formula 3000 championship. Interestingly, his team-mate in RSM Marko team was Juan Pablo Montoya. The results weren’t impressive and Lowndes finished the season in 17th place. Unable to find sponsors for the second year in the series, Lowndes returned to Australia.
At home, Craig again proved that the ATCC is perfectly suited for him. He won two titles in a row driving for Holden Racing Team, but this time with Mark Skaife as a team-mate. In 1998, Lowndes won six of 10 rounds while in 1999, he won two of 13 rounds, but defended his crown, both times finishing ahead of Russell Ingall. In 2000, Craig Lowndes spent his last year with Holden. He again won two rounds, but at the end of the year, he was third leaving his team-mate Skaife to win the title.
Surprising switch to Ford
His decision to switch to arch-rivals Ford in 2001 caused a stir among the fans. Lowndes spent two years with Gibson Motor Sport team driving a Ford AU Falcon and both years were disappointing as he finished 7th in 2001 and 11th in 2002. For the next two seasons of V8 Supercar Championship Series, Lowndes stayed with Ford but moved to factory-backed Ford Performance Racing team, driving a Ford BA Falcon.
At Queensland 500 he scored the first victory as a Ford driver and finished 5th in the Drivers’ championship. Ford Falcon again proved to be unreliable and despite all efforts, it wasn’t competitive enough to jump into the championship battle which was proved a year later. In 2004, Craig Lowndes was 20th overall which was his worst result. Somewhat disappointed, he decided to leave Ford Performance Racing at the end of the year.
Move to Triple Eight Engineering
Lowndes joined ambitious Triple Eight Engineering in 2005. Despite being behind the wheel of Ford again, results were far better. Craig won six races and finished the season as a vice-champion. Lowndes was also awarded the Barry Sheene Medal, and he is still the only driver who got the award despite not winning the championship title.
Next season he was the championship runner-up again, finishing only 37 points behind the champion Rick Kelly, losing the title battle in the last race which was very controversial. Kelly crashed into Lowndes who lost a lot of time to repair his car. Kelly was penalized only with a drive-through penalty and at the end won the title. Lowndes and his team protested after the race, but their protest was dismissed.
Barry Sheene Medal and Peter Brock Trophy for good results in V8 Supercars
The same year, Lowndes won Bathurst 1000 after 10 years and together with his team-mate Jamie Whincup won the inaugural Peter Brock Trophy which was very emotional for Lowndes as Brock was his long-time mentor. Lowndes was awarded the Barry Sheene Medal for the second time.
Despite winning both Sandown and Bathurst in 2007, and also the round at Hidden Valley Raceway, Craig Lowndes at the end of the season was third. With a win at Bathurst in 2008, he and Whincup became only the third pair of drivers who managed to win it three times in a row. In the same time Lowndes was fourth in the Drivers’ championship and the same achievement he repeated in 2009 and 2010.
In the meantime, Triple Eight Engineering switched from Ford to Holden with which Lowndes won the titles. But, he was unlucky to win another championship. Three years in a row Craig Lowndes finished as a runner-up, each time being just behind Jamie Whincup. In 2015, Lowndes again finished second in the V8 Supercars Championship, this time losing a battle against Mark Winterbottom, while in 2016 he was 4th, scoring two race wins, at Barbagallo Raceway and at Queensland Raceway.
First win at Bathurst 12 Hour in 2014
Since the Bathurst 12 Hour race became opened for the FIA GT3 homologated cars in 2011, Lowndes has competed regularly, winning it in 2014 driving a Ferrari 458 GT3 for Maranello Motorsport.
Three years earlier he was second behind the wheel of Audi R8 LMS GT3, driving for the famous Joest Racing team. Craig Lowndes also competed in the off-road events. In 2010, he won the Australian Safari driving a Holden Colorado.
Bathurst 12 Hour winner in 2017, Bathurst 1000 victory in 2018
In February 2017, Lowndes rejoined Maranello Motorsport to drive the #88 Ferrari 488 GT3 at Bathurst 12 Hour. His co-drivers were Jamie Whincup and Toni Vilander. They won the race. In the 2017 Supercars Championship season, his results were disappointing, as he scored only one podium to finish 10th in the final standings.
In the 2018 Supercars season, Lowndes returned to the top podium spot at Symmons Plains Raceway, winning the second race of the Tasmania SuperSprint event. The second win of the season followed in October, together with Steven Richards at Mount Panorama. Lowndes won the Bathurst 1000 for the seventh time in a career.
At the end of the season, he will retire from full-time racing but we can expect that he would race in endurance events and chase Peter Brock's record of nine wins at Bathurst 1000.