Just over twenty years after claiming his maiden Australian Touring Car Championship win on debut for Holden, Red Bull Racing Australia hero Craig Lowndes has claimed his 100th championship victory, becoming the first driver in Australian motorsports history to do so.
Heading into the weekend’s V8 Supercars round at Hidden Valley, Lowndes already held the record for most ever V8 Supercars wins, but he now stands as the only man to reach triple figures. And he achieved this feat on no less than the 888th race of the V8 Supercars championship on the weekend of his 41st birthday.
Lowndes has racked up unforgettable wins all over the country in his 19 full-time seasons. And save for two winless seasons in 2002 and 2004, Lowndes has recorded race wins in every other season he’s contested, making him the most consistent race winner of the past two decades – if not ever.
Lowndes made his full-time ATCC/V8 Supercars debut in 1996 during the most tumultuous period for motorsports in Australia, the category split in two and Sandown and Bathurst being stand-alone, non-championship events. So while his debut win at Eastern Creek for HRT goes down as his first, his sensational Bathurst and Sandown do not count towards his 100 championship victories. In fact, he’s won 108 races including non-championship events.
Lowndes went on to win six of 10 rounds of the 1996 championship, claiming his maiden ATCC driver title in the process.
That success won him a seat in Europe’s Formula 3000 series in 1997 and when “The Kid” returned to Australian shores in 1998 he picked up exactly where he left off – soaring to a sensational victory on debut at Sandown to signal a dire warning to his rivals. He went on to win half of the season’s rounds and score his second driver title in the process.
Come 1999 and in the all-new VT Commodore, Lowndes added another memorable win to his ever-expanding list of achievements, claiming victory in the first ever Adelaide 500 street race. And he didn’t take the foot off the pedal, backing it up with victories at Barbagallo and Calder Park before a horrific accident saw his new Commodore written off. But even being sidelined as he underwent a knee reconstruction did his rivals no favours, Lowndes returning to the track months after to secure his third driver title.
It would be five seasons before Lowndes would link with new kids on the block Triple Eight Race Engineering in 2005, his four years post-Holden with Ford Performance Racing and Gibson/00 Motorsport harvesting just three wins between them. The most memorable? His drought-breaking 2003 win at Phillip Island with FPR.
Enter Roland Dane and the Betta Electrical BA Falcon. In Lowndes’ debut season for his new team in 2005, he claimed Triple Eight’s first ever win and his first victory since 2003 with a spectacular drive at Eastern Creek. He went on to claim more race podiums and wins that season than the previous four combined, reaffirming his position as a category powerhouse.
And the very next year he claimed arguably the most memorable and meaningful win of his career, steering his Triple Eight Falcon to a tearful victory at the 2006 Bathurst 1000 and claiming the first ever Peter Brock Trophy – just months after his mentor died in a racing incident.
Since joining Triple Eight, Lowndes has returned to being a constant feature on the podium and the top step, scoring three more Bathurst victories in 2007, 2008 and 2010 and finishing second in the championship no less than five times.
The king of the fans and V8 Supercars royalty, it was only fitting that Lowndes would again make history in 2013 when he won not only Red Bull Racing Australia’s first V8 Supercars race in Adelaide, but scored a debut win for the VF Commodore and the first for the Car of the Future.
And as Saturday’s history-making win proved, Lowndes may be 41 but he is far from slowing down.