June 20th 2015 was the date Craig Lowndes stamped and sealed his position as of one the greatest Touring Car drivers of all time. The 41 year old Triple Eight driver sealed his 100th V8SC race victory in race two of the SkyCity Triple Crown in Darwin in what was coincidentally the 888th championship race in V8SC history! Lowndes had come tantalizingly close to writing V8SC history in the two previous rounds at Winton and Barbagallo after his double at Symmmons Plains took him to number 99 but V8SC's most successful driver in terms of race wins sailed through the first lap drama at Hidden Valley to lead Slade by 1.8s come the checkered flag.
Win 100 ensured Lowndes drove his way into V8SC history
Going into turn one, Rick Kelley tagged polesitter Fabian Coulthard resulting in the two from the front row taking to the grass as the rest of the field filtered through. Lowndes's RBRA stablemate Whincup (who sits on 94 race wins) was caught up in the first lap drama which included Percat, Heimgarnter and Davison and contributed to the deployment of the safety car. During the restart, Lowndes kept his cool and whilst Mostert outbraked himself in an attempt to overtake Slade for second, the V8SC veteran coolly held his lead until the end of lap 21.
Lowndes’ lengthy service to V8SC is testament to what makes him one of the grids most popular drivers, and next season brings the strong possibility that Triple Eight will have two centurions in their ranks. With Whincup just six wins away from 100, and SVG joining the party, T8 will be a formidable force at the front of the grid next year. Lowndes put up a valiant fight in this years championship, with Mostert’s absence and Lowndes’ sixth Bathurst 1000 win coinciding with a dramatic upturn in form the 888 Commodore, who went on to score a further five podiums before the seasons end. Two wins and a third place at Philip Island gave Lowndes the best possible chance to challenge Frosty for the championship come the Coates Hire Sydney 500 but an unfortunate 15th place in race one all but took Lowndes out of the running for the 2015 crown.
With his move to the newly created Team Vortex on the cards, and SVG’s arrival at T8, 2016 may well signal the beginning of Lowndes’ twilight years in V8SC, but as his performances this season showed, after nearly 20 years of top level Touring Car racing, he still has exactly what it takes to challenge at the very front of the field. We’ll sign off today with some on board footage of Lowndes’ historic 100th V8 Supercars victory.
Image thanks to abc.net.au