Craig Lowndes joined me on the podcast as we look ahead to the Adelaide 500 while Craig also gives us some insights into life on and off the track. Listen to the full podcast below or follow on for the transcript.
TK – After signing a new two year deal going into a season where your future is settled is it a lot easier than a contract year?
CL – Yeah thank you it is nice to have the two more years and also a brand new race name and colours which is great for us. I’m looking forward to the start of the season and capitalising on what the ZV Commodore feels like as it feels like a much nicer car to drive.
TK – What has been the biggest change for the team and car? You still had a pretty good year and finished 10th. I know by your own lofty standards it might not be that great for you but what are the major changes?
CL – We’ve got a whole new body and shell and it’s a brand new race car. All three of us drivers are quite excited with Holden revealing the new Commodore which will debut on the streets of Adelaide. IT does handle differently to the previous car. It’s hard to give you a reason why. Mechanically everything under the car is the same but the body shape aero dynamically is completely different and gives it a different characteristic when we drive it. Our test at Sydney motor park really highlighted that it will take a while to unlock the full potential but it’s got huge potential to be able to be fast but we will work that out over the course of the weekend and season. To have Auto Barn step up this year and next year for me it shows they are very committed to the category and I’m looking forward to representing them.
TK – Craig when you plan for a season you have a couple of months for offseason. For a V8 supercar driver what do you generally get up to?
CL – Over Christmas we had three weeks off and had another quick turnaround this year with the new car build getting sorted so everyone was on deck early. This year given it has been a short turnaround what you do is try to get away and recharge the battery. To be able to shut down is great. Now we can hit the streets of Adelaide its game on.
TK – As we get older I know myself at 35 I’ve decreased my training and focused on quality over quantity. Now that your 43 what approach do you take towards your training?
CL – With me you can’t be complacent with the fitness side of things. It’s a huge part of racing cars. The temperature is something drivers struggle with. The cars do generate a lot of heat something like 25 degrees higher that ambiance. Living in Queensland is good with that. Definitely the cardio is a big part of it. The drivers are becoming a lot younger not older.
TK – Craig take me back to the start. After reading some research Peter Brock was one of your absolute idols you even played at the same footy club and went to the same school. Can you give us some insights into where you grew up and how you found motor sport?
CL – I found motor sport through my Father who was part of the Holden racing team in the late 60’s. I grew up playing AFL and cricket in the summer. For me I chose the right sport for the longevity. For me really I grew up in the Northern part of Melbourne and funnily enough Jamie Whincup grew up in the next suburb as did Peter Brock who was a huge mentor of mine and huge part of me being part of the sport for 20 years now.
TK – At what age did you know that this could be something you could do as a career?
CL – I think it’s one of those things where I was Go Karting for 6 to 7 years first. Once you get out of that you go into the next phase of your racing career. That’s the biggest thing you don’t know if it’s going to be a career or just become a hobby or interest. I got into Formula Fords and I was lucky enough we set a three year progression and then at the end of the three years it was going to make us or break us. Thankfully we won the Australian Championship in 1993 which catapulted us into the next stage where we left off and joined HRT in 1994 and went on from there. For us as a family it wasn’t forgone conclusion that I’d become a race car driver it was just a passion. We gave it our all at a young age and lucky enough doors opened when we needed it to.
TK- 94 was a huge year for you with your first Bathurst you came second and surprised everyone with that big pass on John Bowe. How much do you remember of that?
CL – It was one of those things I wasn’t meant to be in the car. I was partnered with Brad Jones who was the lead driver at the time and Brad had to come out of the car because he had done too many hours so I had to finish the race which definitely wasn’t planned. There was a safety car and I had a great battle with John Bowe. At the time John probably wasn’t concerned with who I was and what I could do. In a sense I was just a rookie so he didn’t think I’d be game enough to go around the outside on turn two which to be honest I had a good exit on turn 1 and a good up run over the hill into turn two and I still believe he was on the dirty side and broke early and broke a little later than what we had done the lap prior. But we managed to get around the outside and lead for a lap and a half and put us on the map.
TK - You win with Murph in 1996 but that year in 1995 when you didn’t finish. As a young bloke were you majorly disappointed after achieving so much in 94?
CL - It was one of those things you go to Bathurst with high hopes and I suppose you do when you have great success early you think it’s going to continue on. For me 95 was obviously disappointing we had two engine failures and head gasket issues we didn’t really know. I remember being in the car and chasing Jimmy Richards down Conrode Straight and it was like a diesel truck I was going down gear to keep up with him instead of up gears. The engine seized and that was the end of our race. It was disappointing to go from 94 and a great race to then the lows of what Bathurst is all about. To go through two years of ups and downs and then we win in 96.
TK – In 96 you also win the championship and Bathurst with Murph. In terms of gaining the respect of the older fellers when did you notice you started to gain their respect?
CL – It took a little while to be honest. The first race in 96 was a short race at Eastern Creek which Wayne Gardner at the time said I wouldn’t win a race let alone a championship. I had an altercation with Dick at Sandown in a sprint race at the time and he blamed me for an accident which was with him and my right hand side and I was the piggy in the middle and my fault. It took me a little while to get respect from the older established drivers. But that’s no different from today we have five rookies this year and they have to show what they are capable of and we are not going to give them a free pass that’s for sure.
Thanks for checking out the first half of the interview. The full interview can be heard on the player below or through the iTunes link.
Other topics we explore include:
Helping the next generation
Handling fame and expectation
Who keeps him accountable
Influence of Peter Brock
Winning Bathurst in 2006 & the emotions of the race
His ritual of driving to Bathurst prior to the big race
Being unsuccessful overseas and advice on dealing with adversity
Racing with Jamie Whincup and why they can’t drive together any more
Leaders he has come across that he admires