Lowndes shines through Ipswich drizzle at Friday Supercars
IPSWICH'S largest sporting event has hit the region with thousands of people attending the first day of the Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint.
It was an action-packed schedule with several Supercar sessions held and support categories on track.
Fans at turn one were treated to an early spectacle when Aaron Cameron rolled his Mazda during the sole ECB SuperUtes Series practice session.
While the support categories provided a show, there could be no doubt who most of the fans were there to see.
Two weeks after announcing his retirement from full-time driving, Craig Lowndes was mobbed by fans at Queensland Raceway - his home track.
The popular driver was third in the first practice session and feels positive for the weekend.
"Knowing that it is my last race as a full-time driver at our home track will no doubt be an emotional weekend come Sunday evening," he said.
"We just need to ensure we can go out on a high with a podium and celebrate it for what it is."
Lowndes said people often underestimated the technical challenge of the circuit.
"Being our test track, we appreciate and understand the technicalities and the huge challenge it puts up on a race weekend," he said.
After two decades behind the wheel, Lowndes has developed a cult following.
Thousands of fans have travelled from across the state to watch and farewell their hero at Queensland Raceway.
Tony Ledger has been a supporter of Lowndes since Peter Brock took him on with the Holden Racing Team in 1994.
Mr Ledger, who has travelled from Gympie for this weekend's race, felt proud of Lowndes' retirement.
"I'm glad he's going out on a high and he'll still be around doing the endurance events," he said.
"I admire him for going so long."
Lowndes' superstar status comes thanks to a mix of great skill and a fan-friendly personality.
"He would be the most open driver out of the whole paddock," Mr Ledger said.
"He's always got time for the fans."
Mr Ledger had a message for the retiring racer.
"Thank you, thanks for the memories," he said.
Wayne Birmingham was able to snap a photo with Lowndes at his garage.
Mr Birmingham shared a similar positivity about Lowndes' retirement.
"I think it's great," he said.
"It's time for him to go away and do a couple of big races.
"Good on him."
Gates will open from 8am today at Queensland Raceway for the second day of the Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint.
Supercars will hit the track at 11.20am for the first practice session before qualifying at 1.25pm.
Race 19 of the championship will begin at 4.15pm. Tomorrow is the 200km race 20.