Craig Lowndes has described the disappointment of his international GT racing debut ending in a qualifying crash at the weekend.
Driving an Audi Race Experience-prepared Audi R8 LMS alongside fellow V8 Supercars driver Warren Luff, Lowndes tangled with a slower competitor in qualifying – damaging the car such that it could not start the afternoon’s four hour race.
It is understood that Lowndes was competing at the event in order to gain necessary experience for an assault on the 2012 Nuburgring 24 Hour.
“It’s very, very disappointing,” said Lowndes of the crash.
“Warren had done a fantastic job in his qualifying run, putting us tenth, and I was out there on my second qualifying lap looking to consolidate that.
“The closing speeds are incredible and unfortunately the guy in the (Volkswagen) Golf obviously didn’t see me, and turned down into the corner as I swept by. He just tagged me at the rear, and that turned me into the fence.
“I feel really bad for the Audi guys, they’d shown a lot of faith in us to do the event, and although they’re okay about it and are still talking about doing the Nurburgring 24 Hours next year, everyone’s obviously very disappointed.”
Lowndes, who was not hurt in the accident, said that there was simply not enough time for the Audi team to fix the car before the race.
“With the VLN format you qualifying in the morning and race in the afternoon, and there just wasn’t enough time … the front of the chassis was damaged, the radiator and the front bodywork. It would all be fixable overnight but not in the time available.”
Until then Lowndes had been thoroughly enjoying his Nordschleife debut.
“It’s an incredible track, just amazing, like three Bathursts strung together. It’s like Bathurst too because you ‘flow’ the car around it, that’s the way to get a time, keep the rhythm up,” he said.
“I was surprised how quickly I picked up the track and after a couple of days’ practice in a road car, I felt I had a handle on it.
“But the big challenge is the closing speeds on the slower cars … the difference can be 150 km/h! We’re in full-on GT3 cars and there’s guys out there in near standard Focus and Golfs, you’ve got to be so careful. Unfortunately that’s what brought me undone in the end.
“I loved the track and of course the Audi was fantastic to drive again, I’d love to go back if Audi will have me.”
While Lowndes and Luff were non-starters, the more fancied Abt Sportsline and Phoenix Audi teams filled third to sixth in the final result, with 2011 Bathurst 12 Hour winner Marc Basseng scoring the podium finish alongside Marcel Fassler and Mike Rockenfeller.