Craig Lowndes remains doubtful he – or any driver – can catch Peter Brock’s longstanding benchmark of nine Bathurst 1000 victories as he prepares to bring up his own record-extending milestone at Mount Panorama this weekend.
In a moment of Supercars synergy for two of Mount Panorama’s kings, Lowndes will line up on the grid for his 300th Supercars round start at the same event marking the 50th anniversary of his late mentor Brock’s first victory in the Great Race.
A seven-time Bathurst 1000 champion, 48-year-old Lowndes (seven wins) is the only driver still attacking the Great Race within arm’s reach of Brock’s record of nine wins in the endurance classic.
Lowndes sits equal-second for the most Bathurst 1000 crowns alongside Jim Richards, while Mark Skaife and Larry Perkins each have six.
In what will be his 29th start in the Great Race, Lowndes will join forces with young gun Declan Fraser in a Triple Eight wildcard this weekend to keep his hopes of adding to his Bathurst tally alive.
But the long-time fan favourite admitted his chances of still being able to chase down Brock’s record were slim.
“I’ve got a contract for this year and next year with the race team, so I would have to make sure we win this year and next year to be able to at least get on par with it,” Lowndes said.
“I’ve always said that it is going to be difficult (to chase down) nine victories. They are so difficult to get one, let alone nine.
“I think that the depth of competition that we see today is more than what we have had throughout my career.
“I’m not saying that we can’t be on the podium or somewhere near there towards the end of Sunday afternoon, but there are a lot of great teams with good equipment.
“It’s more difficult now, it’s harder to win and easier to lose now than what it was back then.”
Lowndes will extend his own record for Supercars round starts to 300 this weekend – 26 years after his first Bathurst 1000 win in 1996 with Greg Murphy.
Garth Tander, series leader Shane van Gisbergen’s co-driver, is the only driver close to Lowndes and will make his 288th round start this week.
Lowndes said it was meaningful to bring up the milestone at Mount Panorama and to share the occasion with a significant Brock anniversary.
“It’s nice to join the 300 club at an event and a track that I have always looked up to and admired and that was always my focus was winning Bathurst,” Lowndes said.
“So, it’s a pretty special moment.
“It’s great to reflect on those moments after we get through the weekend and know that we’ve had such longevity in the sport, which is always really difficult.
“I was thankful in ‘06 to drive the ’72 Torana (Brock winning car) around the parade lap so to be able to do it (300 rounds) on the same weekend as what Peter achieved 50 years ago is hopefully a good omen.”
After three years as a co-driver alongside seven-time Supercars champion-turned Triple Eight team boss Jamie Whincup, Lowndes will return to lead-driver duties for this week’s race.
“My last (race as a) lead driver was in 2018 and now I’m back leading the wildcard car, which is quite exciting because now I have got to think about that side of it which is qualifying and getting car speed and everything else which I have left up to Jamie for the last couple of years,” Lowndes said.
“I’m just getting my head around all that side of it, making sure that when we get to Bathurst we have a nice flowing car across the top of the mountain and strong down Conrod Straight.
“It is a different feeling being in the garage watching the car run around because you are more nervous because you don’t know what Jamie was thinking or knowing about where the car was at and all that side of it.
“I keep saying to Declan if we keep our nose clean, we do all the little things right, we are definitely going to be on a good show. Hopefully do the same program I have always done of running under the radar for most of the day, keeping it clean and then come lap 120-ish or somewhere around there, start showing our signs of hopefully being right at the front.
“I will be disappointed if we don’t finish somewhere in the top 10.
“Providing that everything goes smoothly and we don’t have any mechanical issues and we don’t have any driver issues. I think we have got the ingredients to be well within the top 10.”
Originally published as Bathurst 1000 2022: Craig Lowndes on Peter Brock’s record, wildcard entry to Mount Panorama