Triple Eight yet to decide 2019 team structure
Triple Eight is yet to make a decision on whether it will remain a three car squad next season following confirmation Craig Lowndes will retire from full-time driving at the end of the year.
An announcement confirming Lowndes’ future was made ahead of opening practice for this weekend’s Watpac Townsville 400.
The team confirmed Lowndes will stay at the operation as a co-driver next year although his partner is yet to be identified.
He will also take up an ambassador role for the team, which he joined in 2005, alongside a media role with the Supercars broadcast team.
Triple Eight expanded to three cars for the 2016 season following the arrival of Shane van Gisbergen in a move that saw Lowndes take up the third entry effectively created to keep the fan favourite at the operation.
Team owner Roland Dane revealed during today’s announcement that a call hasn’t been made regarding his squad’s structure for next year.
If the squad continues to run three cars then a lucrative seat will potentially open up with a number of drivers currently out of contract.
“We haven’t made a call,” said Dane when asked whether Triple Eight will field three cars next year.
“We’ll certainly run two and we’re not allowed to run more than four.
“At the moment we’re concentrating our efforts on giving Craig the best possible end to his full-time career.
“We’ll think about what comes after that, whether it’s two, three, four cars, in the the weeks to come.
“Right now we’re focused on Craig and the rest of his season.
“We don’t know yet who Craig’s going to be co-driving with for the enduros – that depends on the structure of the team – but he’s undoubtedly got a few more Bathurst wins in him.”
Lowndes’ decision to take up a co-driving role at Triple Eight could see him rekindle an old partnership with Whincup or join van Gisbergen, who is currently partnered with Earl Bamber for this year’s Pirtek Enduro Cup.
The pair combined to win three consecutive Bathurst 1000 races from 2006-2008.
“I think (Roland) will make the decision on where Lowndesy is,” said Whincup.
“We’ve both got great partnerships with Earl (Bamber) and PD (Paul Dumbrell) as well, so who knows?
“But he’s certainly a very, very good option and I’d love the opportunity to drive with him.”
Van Gisbergen added: “I think we’ll be having an arm wrestle for who gets him as a co-driver next year.”
Dane paid tribute to his driver stating that Lowndes has played a huge role in forging Triple Eight into a dominant Supercars force.
“It will be an extremely emotional day on Sunday of Newcastle when Craig heads out for his final race as a full-time driver, but we’re delighted that he’s chosen to stay with Triple Eight next year and hopefully into the future,” he added.
“He’s a massive part of the team here and has played a huge role in making Triple Eight what it is today.”