Lowndesy's Ipswich farewell a massive drawcard for fans
IT'S the last time Craig Lowndes will race Supercars in Ipswich. An exciting new category is being offered for the fans. It's a pivotal point in the hotly-contested championship.
The ninth round of this year's Supercars series will have added emotion, offer widespread appeal and carry valuable points at Queensland Raceway starting next Friday.
At the halfway point of the hotly-contested Supercars Championship, Ipswich will take centre stage hosting the two-race supersprint format.
Long-time motorsport buff Cole Hitchcock knows the loyal Queensland Raceway fans will want to cheer on one of Australia's most popular sporting identities.
"In Ipswich, this will be the very last time that people will see Craig Lowndes in a Supercar,'' said the Supercars General Manager Corporate Affairs.
"He's got the most wins - 12 - more wins than anyone at QR.
"He's known all around the country and certainly all around the world but Ipswich is a special place for him.
"It's virtually a home race. It's been his test track pretty much all of his career and the Triple 8 guys are based in Brisbane.
"It will be pretty special for Craig.''
Hitchcock said Lowndes would soak up the support.
"What you see is what you get with Craig,'' Hitchcock said. "He's just a really approachable nice guy.
"He loves the fans.
"He learnt a lot from Peter Brock when he grew up with Brocky back in the day and that (Bathurst) win in 2006, after Brocky tragically passed away, was Craig's most memorable moment for all the right reasons.''
Lowndes is retiring from full-time Supercars racing with 106 victories, six Bathurst crowns, three championship triumphs and five Sandown 500 wins.
Fittingly, Lowndes is still handily placed in the 2018 championship, sitting in fifth.
Hitchcock said that augured well for the two QR races with the top group of competitors still in contention after the previous round in Townsville.
"We've got Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen up there at the top,'' he said.
"Whincup (defending champion Jamie Whincup) certainly seems to be on a trail back towards challenging Scottie.
"Going back to last year, Townsville was a real turning point for Jamie. He ended up winning the championship in that cracker finish in Newcastle so it's going to be intriguing (at Queensland Raceway).
"We're right on the halfway mark of the season so there's still probably five or six guys who can still get there.
"A couple of failures from the top guys and it will bunch right up again.
That is especially the case with plenty of double points to come in the endurance races at Sandown, Gold Coast and Bathurst coming up.
"What the guys are doing right at the moment is setting themselves up to be in the best possible position by the time we get to there,'' Hitchcock said.
Last year, McLaughlin won Saturday's race at QR ahead of Chaz Mostert and Shane van Gisbergen.
The Sunday race was clinched by Mostert, who was joined on the podium by McLaughlin and van Gisbergen.
While QR's so-called paperclip is often a hot topic, Hitchcock said the 3.12km track offered excellent viewing.
"It's quite a technical track. It probably doesn't look it,'' the Supercars official said.
"It's certainly challenging. It's hard on brakes. It's got some bumpy sections in it.
"It's important there to qualify as high as you can, particularly in the supersprint race.
"Those who have got their car working the best will go well at Queensland Raceway . . . and that's something Lowndes and Triple 8 in particular have done for many, many years.
"Scott McLaughlin has also won there. The Ford guys have gone well there, on and off in the past.
"It always throws up a few different results. That's what people want to see.''
Hitchcock was confident safety improvements would be completed at the Ipswich motorsport venue by race time.
Next week's round 9 of the Supercars Championship features races 19 and 20, the halfway stage of the annual battle for Australia's premier driving title.
Top 10 in championship standings: 1. Scott McLaughlin (Falcon) 2033 points, 2. Shane van Gisbergen (Commodore) 1902, 3. David Reynolds (Commodore) 1646, 4. Jamie Whincup (Commodore) 1630, 5. Craig Lowndes (Commodore) 1602, 6. Fabian Coulthard (Falcon) 1430, 7. Scott Pye (Commodore) 1384, 8. Rick Kelly (Nissan Altima) 1372, 9. Chaz Mostert (Falcon) 1286, 10. James Courtney (Commodore) 1236.
Gate opening times: Friday (8.30am-5.30pm), Saturday (8am-5.30pm) and Sunday (8am-4.30pm).
Tickets: Available at ticketek.com.au
Public transport information: Visit www.translink.com.au