Retiring Lowndes eyes more Supercars glory

Ed Jackson
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Rivals of Supercars star Craig Lowndes have expressed surprise at the veteran's decision to retire

Supercars great Craig Lowndes is out to bring the chequered flag down on his glittering career with the fourth championship that has eluded him for almost two decades.

The 44-year-old announced on Friday ahead of the Townsville 400 that 2018 will be his 21st and final full-time season behind the wheel in Australia's premier championship.

Lowndes heads into this weekend's event in north Queensland fourth on the championship standings, and the Holden veteran believes he still can walk away with his first title since 1999.

"We've still got six months to go, we're going to be fighting hard until the end of this year," Lowndes said.

"We want to finish the season in a positive.

"For me, Bathurst has always been the highlight of the year ... there's no doubt that when we get to Bathurst this year, Richo (co-driver Steven Richards) and I - and I've spoken to Richo - we're going to give it our all to make that, for me, number seven and another one for the team."

Regardless of what happens between now and the final race of the season in Newcastle in November, Lowndes bows out with an impressive record.

Six Bathurst 1000 crowns, three championships and 106 career race wins across a record 652 race starts.

With wife Lana watching on, an emotional Lowndes revealed retirement had been on his mind for months.

"We've still got a contract for another 18 months but this is the year, we're having a stellar year, we've had a pole position for the team, we've had a win, podiums, and we can probably like to think we can do it again next year, but who knows?," he said.

"We know that this is the right time for me."

A hugely popular driver, Lowndes' career began with a bang when he became the youngest champion in Australian touring car history as a 21-year-old in 1996.

After an unsuccessful stint in Europe in 1997, Lowndes returned to Holden Racing Team, winning the 1998 and 1999 championships before a controversial switch to Ford in 2000.

He joined Triple Eight in 2005, claiming five Bathurst titles, including a win in 2006 just weeks after mentor Peter Brock died.

Lowndes will remain with Triple Eight as an endurance driver in 2019 as well as joining Supercars' television broadcast team.

"We don't know yet who Craig's going to be co-driving with for the enduros - that depends on the structure of the team - but he's undoubtedly got a few more Bathurst wins in him," team owner Roland Dane said.

In Friday's practice at Townsville, Lowndes posted the 15th quickest lap of the day.

Triple Eight stablemates Jamie Whincup and Shane Van Gisbergen were the fastest ahead of Saturday's 200km race at the Reid Park street circuit.

Whincup clocked a fastest lap of one minute and 12.2435 seconds to finish ahead of Van Gisbergen (1:12.5872) in a Red Bull Holden Racing Team one-two.

Championship leader Scott McLaughlin (1:12.6438) was third-quickest.