Why Lowndes was surprised by Whincup decision
Monday 15th February, 2021 - 12:50pm
Craig Lowndes says he’s surprised long-time Triple Eight team-mate Jamie Whincup will hang up his helmet on the eve of Supercars’ introduction of Gen3.
Whincup will retire at season’s end and take over from Roland Dane in the position of Triple Eight managing director and team principal on January 1, 2022.
It brings an imminent finish date to a spectacular career headlined by seven championships – and one that Lowndes has seen closely throughout, having spent 13 years as team-mates before joining forces for the enduros when the #888 driver stepped back.
“The only thing I was surprised at was the timing,” Lowndes told Speedcafe.com.
“I would have thought that he might want to go [again] next year with the next generation cars and have a crack at that but the transition for him from a race driver into a team owner or manager was always going to be on the cards.
“I think that for him works really well, he’s been setting it up for the last number of years, having ownership in the team, he put some blocks in place.
“I personally thought he would have carried into next year just for the next generation car.”
Team ownership was never a path that interested Lowndes, instead operating now in the television world as well as a mentor to Triple Eight Super2 teens Broc Feeney and Angelo Mouzouris.
Speaking more broadly about Whincup, who he thrice finished runner-up to in the championship, Lowndes added, “We’ve got obviously a very good relationship.
“We respect each other, we know we’re in a different phase although for him it’s now a new learning curve about the business side of not only the team but the industry and how Supercars run.
“I know he’s on the Commission so again he was setting himself up for that realisation of stepping away from the driver’s seat.
“Whether he does a co-driver role, that’s up to him. For me, I could never go cold turkey so my process is what I’ve done.
“I’m looking forward to working closely with him and the team again next year and see where it goes.”
Whincup’s impending retirement means the 2021 Repco Bathurst 1000 will likely be his and Lowndes’ last Great Race together, and they have the chance to grab an enviable piece of history.
If they can add to their 2006-08 triumphs, Whincup/Lowndes would become the first driver pairing in history to win the Bathurst 1000 four times.
Other three-time winning pairs include Peter Brock/Jim Richards, Brock/Larry Perkins, Richards/Mark Skaife and Bob Jane/Harry Firth.
“It would be great to bow out for Jamie on full-time, I was lucky enough to do it with Richo [Steven Richards in 2018],” said Lowndes.