We’re only five days away from unleashing the Red Bull Racing Australia VF Commodores on Winton Raceway. It’s a track that Lowndesy is as familiar with as his much sought-after signature and shapes as the last opportunity to fine-tune set-up before the first of the three enduro races at Sandown in less than a month’s time.
And that means there’s only one more race weekend where co-driver Warren Luff has to stand idly by as Lowndes has all the fun in the No.888 Commodore.
He’s like a little kid counting down the days to his own birthday as those around him get their cake and eat it too every few weeks or so.
So we thought we’d catch up with the man sporting the biggest and brightest chops in pit lane, and battling his own personal Groundhog Day, to see how he’s holding out.
“Give me a drive already,” he says with a trademark grin and chuckle.
“I can’t wait to get back into the car and actually not just test, but race. There’s been a lot of talk and preparation and we’re almost there – only one more round to go!”
Some say open-face helmets were removed from V8 Supercars to prevent the likes of Lowndes and Luff getting an unfair advantage – the afternoon Bathurst sun reflecting from their gleaming pearly whites directly into the rear view mirror of their counterparts. But the pairing of Lowndes and the man we’ve dubbed Chops is more about compatibility than dental hygiene.
“What makes Triple Eight such a good team is that there’s continuity there and you’re made to feel part of the team year round,” Chops says.
“We get to be part of the team all year – which can be a good and bad thing. Good because it’s welcoming and bad because you just want to get behind the wheel.
“The good thing with doing Carrera Cup this year is that I’m at a lot of the V8 Supercar rounds already. So I still get to hang out with the boys, stay familiar and stay up to date on the evolution of the Car of the Future.”
And his relationship with Lowndesy?
“Craig and I talk over text a couple of times a week and every few weeks I’ll get up to Brisbane and go to the workshop to say high to the guys, too,” Chops says.
“I think PD has said it before that the relationship with your co-driver is very important. To get the best out of any team environment it’s important to have a cohesive relationship. And PD and I are here to play a supporting role in Jamie and Craig’s championship fight, so you need a good working relationship to get the best out of it.
“As a co-driver you have to put your own interests aside and remember you’re there as part of a much bigger picture. It’s not about me. It’s about me helping Craig. And Bathurst for one is obviously an incredibly special event. Craig has always said a Bathurst win means more to him than the championship. And if I could help him deliver on both, it would be a dream come true for him and me.
“You’ve got to push to your limit but at the same time keep in mind there is more at stake than just the battle you’re in at that moment.”
And with that responsibility comes a lot of pressure – especially when you’re co-driver is in a tense championship contest. And with his team-mate nonetheless.
“There is definitely more pressure on you when your co-driver is in a championship battle,” Chops continues.
“But like I’ve said in the past, when you go to those events with a team like Triple Eight, they’ve got the equipment, the people and the expertise to make your job a lot easier than some of the other co-drivers. We’re very lucky in that respect. But in saying that, the consequences are a lot higher if there is an error.
“But I’ll just do my job and do what Craig and the team require of me. I just wish they’d hurry up and let me in the car already!”
Stay tuned this week for a full Winton preview with J-Dub and Lowndesy ahead of what is shaping up to be an intense round as the Red Bull cars look for redemption after the rookies stole the spotlight at Queensland Raceway.