Craig Lowndes believes he is stepping away from full-time Supercars racing at the right time following an emotional retirement announcement at the Watpac Townsville 400.
The six-time Bathurst 1000 winner made the decision while holding a full-time contract at Triple Eight for next season.
Calling time on his illustrious Supercars career had been mooted throughout a difficult campaign last year that saw the 44-year-old end the season without a race win.
However today’s decision was met with surprise by members of the Supercars paddock given Lowndes is currently fourth in the title hunt after scoring a drought breaking win in Symmons Plains in April.
Lowndes told media this morning that he felt that now is the right time to scale back to co-driving from next year.
The three-time series champion revealed that the announcement arrived after more than six months of discussions with Triple Eight team owner Roland Dane.
“(I’m) relieved, to be honest,” said Lowndes.
“We’ve been sitting on this for a couple of weeks and everywhere I’ve travelled, everywhere I’ve been, the fans have been fantastic as normal.
“Obviously for us it’s timely to be able to get this out, to be able to spend the next six months enjoying what Supercars is and where we go and what we do.
“I think that for us, once both Roland (Dane) and I made that decision about stepping down and retiring from full-time driving, that we wanted to get it out earlier rather than later so we can all get organised for next year and have an opportunity to do that.
“To be honest, Roland and I have had pretty frank chats over the last sort of six to eight months.
“Roland and I have spoken pretty candidly and frankly about finishing my time in the car on a high and, as I said, we’ve still got a contract for another 18 months, but this is the year.
“We’re having a stellar year, we’ve had a pole position for the team, we’ve had a win, podiums, and we can probably like to think we can do it again next year, but who knows?
“We know that this is the right time for me.
“It was something that, a couple of weeks ago we sat down for our final meeting and basically came to the conclusion that we both think this is the right time for me to step down and to move on.”
While the majority of the paddock agree that Lowndes still has plenty to offer as a full-time Supercars driver, former colleague Adrian Burgess says he understands the decision.
Burgess worked closely alongside Lowndes when he held the team principal role at Triple Eight from 2011-2013.
“He’s still doing a great job now, he’s fourth in the championship for god’s sake,” Burgess told Speedcafe.com.
“It’s hard in this category, but I think Craig knows, and only Craig and Roland knew, there’s a time when you’ve got to say, ‘okay, this is enough,’ and bow out at the top with everyone’s respect, which he’s clearly got.
“If it’s the right time for Craig then good on him; he’s a sensible bloke, he knows when it’s the time.”