An arm wrestle for Lowndesy

If you do the calculations correctly you will come to realise that when Craig “Lowndesy” Lowndes won his first Bathurst 1000 in 1996, Shane “SVG” van Gisbergen was just seven years old.

Seven is around about the time when a young fella is trying to make it in the world of tying shoelaces and multiplication, but for SVG it was the year he got his first quad bike.

SVG grew up on a farm in Manukau, south of Auckland, a place so far from Bathurst, one would be excused if they didn’t know who “Lowndesy” was – that is, except if you were in the van Gisbergen household.

Just follow SVG at a race meeting and you will see why – the tall, smiling figure often present in the #97 side of the garage is SVG’s biggest supporter, Robert “Cheese” van Gisbergen, an amateur racer and an avid Lowndesy supporter.

Robert and Shane van Gisbergen during the Father’s Day challenge in Queensland, Australia on July 23, 2017

When the V8s hit the shores of New Zealand in the early 2000s, SVG recalled how he and his father would make their way over to Pukekohe to “to watch (Greg) Murph taking it to the Aussies”.

“Growing up, Dad was a big fan of Craig and the 2001 car Craig drove was dubbed the ‘green-eyed monster’,” SVG said with a smile.

“Dad painted his motorbike the same as Craig’s car, complete with the green headlights. It was pretty cool.”

Now, sitting in a workshop surrounded by an unimaginable number of trophies, most of which have been won by Lowndesy himself, SVG can speak of ‘Lowndesy’ as one of his mates.

“I never actually met Craig until I started racing in the V8 series in 2007,” continued SVG.

“He was always friendly and when I got to the top level and was racing against him, he was always one of the hardest but most fair racers to go up against,” recalls SVG.

“I got to know him through racing and then more so working alongside him. It’s pretty special how he interacts with the fans and is friendly to everyone.

“He’s an awesome character. And it’s been rewarding to see first-hand as a teammate how he drives and works with his engineers and crew.

“We are very different people, but I have learnt a fair bit from him, he can be having a terrible day on the track but still always smiling and working through it around the paddock. Even after so long and after all of the frustrations, he still smiles and pushes on like it’s not happening. That’s amazing really.

“Just an awesome guy, a great teammate and an even better asset to the team. We’re going to miss that.”

WATCH: Cappy and J-Dub introduce SVG to the team

When Shane joined the Triple Eight crew in 2016, teamed with two seasoned racers in Lowndesy and J-Dub, there was set to be nothing but trouble.

“Craig and Jamie are awesome, we’ve had some pretty fun times together, whether we’ve been filming videos for Team Partners, going to media gigs or filming the Red Bull character clips.  Our sides have been hurting from laughing so much, it’s pretty cool to be able to do that, with Jamie too, all three of us get along and we’ve had some good fun.”

Hearing the news that the undisputed modern-day hero of Supercars was hanging up the (full-time) helmet was understandably a sad moment.

Talking to SVG post-announcement you could tell it hit home for him, and what it might mean for the “great man”.

“We found out as a team, moments before the public, and it was a pretty sad moment for everyone in the team,” said SVG.

“I think you’re always surprised when someone retires but even more so after they’ve had a long and very successful career like Craig.

“I was surprised by it but also happy for him as well. He’s going to be able to go out and finish the year as a good driver that is still very competitive, then continue his career as an endurance driver.”

What will life in the sheds be like post-Lowndesy?

“It definitely won’t be the same, but I’m glad to see he’ll still be around as a Triple Eight ambassador and co-driver,” said SVG.

Look out for SVG pumping the weights in the next few months – we hear there’s going to be a J-Dub-SVG arm wrestle to secure Lowndesy’s co-driving skills.