Confirmed: Craig Lowndes to retire from Supercars
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Australian touring car legend Craig Lowndes has announced his retirement from the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, which will come into effect at the end of this season.
"I'm here today to announce that I will be retiring from full-time driving in the Supercars from the end of this season," said Lowndes at a Supercars press conference at the Watpac Townsville 400.
"Although my current contract with Triple 8 ends in 18 months time, both Roland [Dane] and I have come to the decision that this season would be my season.
"I can say with a heavy heart that this is the hardest decision I've ever had to make.
“I’ve always said there are two key factors keeping me racing and those are my motivation to keep getting up and doing what I love and my competitiveness, and for me, nothing has changed.
“But at the same time I want to make sure I finish my last full-time season with some strong results in the bag and after this year’s results so far Roland [Dane] and I came to the decision between us that this will be my last full season behind the wheel."
Lowndes first arrived onto the Supercars scene as a late call-up co-driver with the Holden Racing Team in 1994. He immediately starred at the Bathurst 1000; nearly beating Dick Johnson Racing's John Bowe in the final laps.
In 1996 he was recruited by the iconic team as a full-time driver, going on to win the championship on debut, as well as the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000 with Kiwi Greg Murphy.
Lowndes then travelled to Europe to take on Formula 3000 as teammate to Juan-Pablo Montoya in 1997, in the hopes of cracking Formula 1. But after a mixed season punctuated by financial troubles, he came back to Australia at the end of the year to resume with HRT — winning the Supercars title again in 1998 and 1999.
He left HRT at the end of 2000, 'defecting' to Ford and Gibson Motorsport. Four lean seasons followed, including a swap to Ford Performance Racing in 2003. Eventually he linked with Triple Eight in 2005 as a replacement for Paul Radisich.
The team was new to the series, having debuted just a couple of seasons prior. But they brought international knowledge and personnel with them, and combined with Lowndes and young up-and-comer Jamie Whincup they kicked off a reign that included three consecutive Bathurst victories in 2006, 2007, and 2008, as well as seven championship titles for Whincup.
Lowndes currently sits fourth in the title standings, after a competitive season aboard the team's Autobarn-backed ZB Commodore that saw him break his race-winning drought in Tasmania.
“I feel extremely lucky to have been able to keep doing what I love at a competitive level for such a long time," Lowndes added.
“I have to thank my family and friends, the whole team at Triple Eight and KRE, Supercars, my personal and team sponsors and of course the fans for supporting me throughout.
“Ultimately, the fans are the backbone of our great sport and the reason I’ve pulled my helmet on every race weekend, so to them, thank you.”
Lowndes confirmed that he will stay on with the team as a brand ambassador and co-driver for the team's PIRTEK Enduro Cup campaign. He is also set to join the Fox Sports broadcast team.
Speaking to the media, team owner Dane praised Lowndes for his time with the team — though he spoke with regret about not being able to secure a fourth championship crown with the three-time series winner. Dane was coy when asked about if the Triple Eight team would retain three cars, or move to either two cars or four.