Thursday, 11 October 2018

2018 Bathurst 1000 - The Craig Lowndes fairy tale sinks Falcons last hurrah

The 2018 running of the Bathurst 1000 was probably not the closest or tightest contest we have seen at the Mountain over the years. Yet it will probably go down as one of the most memorable for a long time to come.

For the outgoing full time racer Craig Lowndes there was only marginal consideration given to him finishing on the Podium. Over the past few years, even with the might of 888 engineering, his third car was not a real player in the Top 10 shootout and from the outside it appeared as though the younger Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup got what was perceived as the "good parts". That said this year he would qualify the car well, finish in the Top 10 on Friday and finish 9th for the Top 10 shootout.

Those that win Bathurst always preach the "to finish first, you must first finish" and when you look at previous winners of the Great Race their cars, for the main, represent the straightest and most undamaged cars left in the field. The 888 Commodore of Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards definitely reflected this and even though they were lucky to catch the ailing David Reynolds their march to the lead was bourne from clean driving and consistent pace.

My favourite scenes from the race were not shots from over the Mountain, not the helicopter shots into the Chase, but the in-car camera of the 888 Commodore. The closing stint with Lowndes at the wheel was very Peter Brock-esque. Craig had one hand on the wheel, the other plucking the gears and resting it on his lap and soaking up the closing laps atmosphere. If the modern day Supercar did not have the mandate on re-positioning driver closer to the centre of the car (and window net) he could have rested his right arm on the door and given the crowd a wave. It was classic Craig Lowndes, mentored by the greatest Touring Car driver of all time.

Speaking of "all time" the 2018 race would be the last time we would see a Falcon at the Mountain. While the road going version of the FG-X ceased production in October of 2016 the PRA and DJRPenkse Teams would keep the Falcon dream alive for another 2 years....sadly they were not able to bring home the Peter Brock Trophy.

It brings me to my last point. With the absence of the Falcon in 2019 (to be replaced with the Mustang), are we trending towards a new breed of racing rivalries? The ZB Commodore sales are falling well below Holdens expectations and it is safe to say even true Holden fans did not take much solace from the ZB win. Given it is not available in our favourite combination (rear wheel drive with a 6.2Lt V8 up front) there isn't a cult following to be had. Some of the Holden teams are looking into the homologation of the Camaro, but the costing so soon after the ZB is problematic.

For years we followed the manufacturer or race team, but Craig Lowndes broke new ground in 2001 and bought a whole lot of GM fans over to the Blue Oval. That said he no doubt bought Ford fans over to Holden many years later when 888 changed marques. While Craig Lowndes maybe winding down his career his legacy opens the door for a new culture of fans in the Supercars series.

Nick Dicembre