Lowndes ‘devastated’ by Holden’s demise

Craig Lowndes pic: an1images.com

Craig Lowndes has admitted he was ‘devastated’ to hear news that Holden will be no more by 2021.

Parent company General Motors has decided to axe Holden as part of a broader retreat from right-hand drive markets, amid dire sales figures for the former Australian showroom leader.

A 20-year-old Lowndes made his name as a Holden Racing Team driver when he almost won the Bathurst 1000 in his first attempt in 1994, before pulling off the Bathurst-Sandown-championship triple in his first full Australian Touring Cars season in 1996.

He made headlines by joining the arch enemy to drive a Ford Falcon for Gibson Motorsport in 2001, but returned to Holden when Triple Eight Race Engineering switched manufacturers in 2010.

Lowndes’ list of honours for the lion includes four Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 wins (out of a total of seven) and three championships.

He is also regarded by many as the heir to the Brock legend, having been mentored by ‘Peter Perfect’ particularly in his formative years as a race car driver.

Now a veteran himself, Lowndes could not hide his disappointment when asked about his thoughts as an integral part of the Holden motorsport story on the Nine Network’s Today show.

“I was devastated, because Holden have been such a strong, iconic brand here in Australia growing up,” said Lowndes.

“There’s always been that rivalry between the two majors with Holden and Ford, and for me it was devastating to hear the news.

“We’ve all now got to accept it and see what the future holds.

“I spent probably 90 percent of my racing career piloting a Holden Commodore and to hear the news now that it’s going to cease to exist is a shame for me.

“I’m very humbled that I’ve been able to drive a car like this and have the results that we’ve had over the years that I’ve been driving, but also you’ve got to remember the families and employees that are still involved in Holden at the moment, as well as dealers, and all of those people that are unfortunately going to lose their job.”

Lowndes also had reason for lament given his family’s history with Holden, recalling, “I grew up in a Holden family and supporting Holden and basically it’s been a Holden-Ford rivalry for as long as I’ve been around, since 1974.

“It will be a shame (when) that day ceases to exist, but unfortunately the future is in front of us and we need to obviously adapt to it and that’s something that we’ll have to see what happens.”

Triple Eight Race Engineering, with which Lowndes remains as a Pirtek Enduro Cup co-driver, competes as the Red Bull Holden Racing Team under a contract which runs through 2021.

At yesterday’s Holden press conference, however, the marque’s interim Chairman and Managing Director, Kristian Aquilina, could not commit to any motorsport activities past 2020, when sales will cease.

On the future of Supercars, Lowndes said, “I think over the next couple of months there’s going to be a lot of talks going on behind the scenes, up and down pit lane.

“(More than) half the field is Holden Commodores, so Holden are committed for this year and hopefully one of these guys (Triple Eight’s Jamie Whincup or Shane van Gisbergen) can actually secure another championship for the final time, which would be great.

“The ongoing obviously aftermarket service and support that Holden are going to be providing for the next 10 years on current cars is definitely there, but there’s definitely all those discussions are going to happen in the next couple of months.”

Aquilina had advised, “We’ve made a commitment and certainly we need to sit down with our partners, Supercars Australia and certainly the Red Bull Holden Racing Team, Triple Eight, which we will do hopefully in the coming days, and talk about the appropriate transition.

“But our intention is to still go racing in 2020 while we’ve still got Holden vehicles out there in dealers’ showrooms.

“To the extent, about GM and its involvement in racing beyond that, that will be part of the same conversation.”

Lowndes was speaking from The Bend Motorsport Park, where the BP Ultimate SuperTest is underway.

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