Lowndes points finger at McLaughlin over clash
Craig Lowndes says that not being left enough racing room by Scott McLaughlin was the cause of the incident which ended his race and cost the latter a championship.
McLaughlin had just made the crucial move into 11th position when he slid through Turn 1, compromising his run up Watt Street on Lap 94 of Race 26.
Lowndes attempted to pass on driver’s left but was moved over and into the concrete, breaking the left-front suspension of his Triple Eight Commodore at a join in the wall.
Without brakes on that corner of the car, he spun at the Turn 2 braking zone and backed into the tyre wall, before driving off the race track to record a DNF.
McLaughlin was soon issued the equivalent of a drive-through penalty which relegated him to 18th, with no provision to appeal the punishment.
“Scotty had good drive out of (Turn 1) when we were following him but he slid wide going on the exit, and we had overlap,” recounted Lowndes.
“He squeezed me right where there was a gap (in the wall), he’s ripped the front wheel off, and then I had no brake pedal, no brakes.
“Thankfully the tyre bundle did its job and stopped the car. We obviously went in backwards which didn’t hurt me but it’s made a mess of the car.”
McLaughlin, who disagreed with his penalty, had not spoken to Lowndes when questioned by media about the incident post-race.
However, he said that he would attempt to do so to put forward his version of events.
“I guess he probably wants to talk to me but I think I will (seek him out),” explained McLaughlin.
“I need to explain my point and I need to go see the whole team and congratulate them (on Jamie Whincup’s championship victory).”
Lowndes was left to lament the costly nature of the crash, having set a goal for himself to consolidate sixth in the championship coming into the Coates Hire Newcastle 500 weekend.
Instead, twin DNFs after slugging the wall while in for a top five the day prior saw the 43-year-old plummet to 10th on the ladder at season’s end.
“I was racing for sixth in the championship,” said Lowndes.
“We were fighting against Frosty (Mark Winterbottom), he was way up the road, (and) obviously our poor qualifying meant that we had to fight all day.
“We’ve ended up 10th now with all these incidents, so we’ve definitely lost out as well (as McLaughlin) but we were having a great run, we were staying out of trouble, we were benefitting (by) following Scotty through the crowd (traffic).
“It was a really hard track to pass on; if you got an opportunity into (Turn) 2, you’ve got to take it.”
The three-time champion is confident, however, that he and engineer John ‘Irish’ McGregor have identified a set-up direction which will pay dividends in the new year, particularly in curing his major qualifying weakness.
“We’ve had a tough year; qualifying’s been our Achilles heel,” Lowndes admitted.
“We didn’t get today’s qualifying right at all (but) the car was actually really good; I just made a mess of it.
“We’ve got some good directions of where we want to go for next year; obviously we’ve all got a new tyre that we’ve got to get our head around again, but I think that where we’ve gone this weekend.
“What we’ve learned, I think, will put us in good stead for next year.”
VIDEO: The coming-together between Lowndes and McLaughlin
You can’t script this.
— Supercars (@supercars) November 26, 2017