Craig Lowndes Motorsport Career

His Mum calls him Craig. His mates call him whatever they want. Fans call him CL, or Lowndesy. We know him as Craig Lowndes. During his racing career he would become known for not just his talent, but his ever present smile, a great sense of humour, and a deep appreciation for his followers.

In a (V8) Supercars career that started in 1996, the year of his 22nd birthday, Lowndes became a winner at Bathurst seven times, including the memorable win in 2006 where he and Jamie Whincup became the first to have their names etched on the Peter Brock Trophy. He’s a triple V8 Supercars champion, and, as of the end of 2018, no longer a full time competitor in the Supercars championship.

Born in Melbourne on June 21, 1974, Lowndes trod a path many others have followed when following a motorsport dream. Karting was the weapon of choice, and at the age of nine he was likely to be found at the Whittlesea karting circuit, some forty or so kilometres north of the Melbourne CBD.

It took less than a decade before racing success came his way. In Formula Ford Lowndes found a kindred automotive spirit, gaining valuable exposure in the Motorcraft Formula Ford “Drive To Europe” series in 1991. Other drivers that found fame in this series were Russell Ingall, Tomas Mezera, and Cameron McConville.

1993 and Lowndes wins the Formula Ford championship, propelling him into the vision of Formula Ford in Europe. The championship title eluded him, but not by much, with third being notched up.

Come 1994 and he’s in Formula Brabham, winning the Australian Silver Star. Also known as Formula Holden, the series itself was short-lived. The Brabham nomenclature was part of the series for just five years, from 1991 to 1995. V8 Supercars were coming and the bright lights beckoned.

Lowndes was added to the test team crew of the Holden Racing Team and competed, in what was meant to be a one off appearance, alongside Brad Jones for the 1994 Sandown 500. The drive was successful enough to impress team principal Jeff Grech enough to offer a seat that had become vacant to Lowndes.

The 1994 Bathurst 1000 race cemented Lowndes as part of the Australian racing landscape. Ballsy driving, a rookie error or two, and a second place in 1994 set him on the path to become a full time member of HRT, winning the championship with them in 1996. On his first full season with them, mind. It had Lowndes drive next to Greg Murphy, with the win making Lowndes the youngest driver to win “The Great Race” at the time.

Although Australian success was his, the call from his heart to return to Europe was strong. 1997 and the International Formula 3000 Championship saw Lowndes sharing team driving duties with Juan Pablo Montoya. The candle was alight but the success proved elusive for the Victorian, with just one season completed and Lowndes returning to Australia.

By this time the V8 Supercars category was established and in full flight, with Lowndes quickly returning to form on Australian circuits. The 1997 Sandown 500 was added to the trophy cabinet, with “Murf” his co-driver. The next year Lowndes and Mark Skaife co-starred throughout the year, and Lowndes took out the 1998 championship. 1999 promised a lot inside the new VT Commodore and consistent performance had Lowndes on track to win that year’s championship by the time round eight arrived.

The location? Calder Park. The result? A car written off, one of the most spectacular rollovers seen in Aussie motorsport, and one very lucky CL. Although the crash gave him just minor injuries and being forced to miss the Sandown race that year, his lead was such that the championship was yet again his.

Australia’s automotive brand rivalry was brought to the fore at the beginning of the 21st century as Lowndes went from a red lion to a blue oval on his car. Further colour changes came in the form of his AU Falcon being a combination of black, silver, and green, the latter on the headlight covers and giving the car the affectionate nickname of “the green eyed monster”.

As much a talking point the car was, it didn’t deliver for Lowndes. It wasn’t until 2003 when a move to FPR, Ford Performance Racing, that his first win with Ford and the first since 2000 came along. The tenure with FPR proved short in time, with Lowndes signing with Team Betta Electrical, or Triple Eight Racing, for 2005. This was partly spurred by a 20th place finish for the 2004 season.

Again his tilt at the championship was looking good; he’d taken the most victories, and the most pole positions, but incidents such as a wheel smashing his windscreen at the 2005 Bathurst race had him place second behind Russell Ingall. However, there was a highlight for Lowndes in the form of the Barry Sheen Medal. Voted upon by motorsport writers, former drivers, and commentators, it was a recognition of Lowndes in that he’d won without being the year’s championship winner.

Perhaps the most memorable of wins for Lowndes was at Bathurst in 2006. Just weeks after the tragic passing of his friend and mentor, one Peter Brock, Lowndes and Whincup muscled their way through for the win to finish just a half second ahead of second placed Rick Kelly. Lowndes capped off that year by winning the Barry Sheene medal for the second year running. 2006 would also see he and Whincup take the first of three Bathurst victories in a row, making them just the third pairing to do so, with Brock and Larry Perkins, and Brock with Jim Richards the others.

In a flagging of what was to come, Ford Australia cut their motorsport sponsorship. Lowndes made the move back to Holden, with whom he would become the first driver to reach 100 wins, win his fifth Barry Sheene medal, and his third most popular driver award. 2015 saw him win his sixth Bathurst 1000.

2017 would be perhaps his career lowlight, with no wins to his name. Although this spurred talk of retirement which was denied, in mid 2018 Lowndes, CL, and Craig to his mum, along with his ever present smile, announced he would retire from full time competition.

What was your favourite Lowndesy career highlight? Head on over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comment section below this blog! 

History of the Ford Falcon in Supercars

Born in the early 1990s, the category originally known as V8 Supercars (and now Supercars) came from a decision by CAMS to revamp the Australian Touring Car Championship. 

One of three classes originally put together was Class A, which comprised 5.0L V8 powered Ford and Holden cars. The first Falcon to take part in what would become V8 Supercars, was the recently released EB Falcon. This model in road going trim, was the first to feature what were called “cannon barrel” headlights for the sporty XR6 and XR8 variants. Officially known as Group 3 A, Glenn Seton would take out the 1993 championship. The updated version, the EF Falcon, would take John Bowe to the championship in 1995. 

1996 saw the Australian Vee Eight Super Car Company, AVESCO, come to life. This was a joint venture organization and effectively formalized the category as being the V8 Supercars. 1996 had Ford producing the EL Falcon, the last version of the fifth generation Falcon.

Ford Australia moved into the short lived AU Falcon. Perhaps best described as a failed design study, the AU would quickly be redesigned into the BA Falcon. Wins for the Falcon in the V8 Supercars championship would be sparse between 1997, with Seton again taking the championship in an EL Falcon, to 2003. Tasmanian born Marcus Ambrose piloted his BA Falcon, under the Stone Brothers umbrella, to the flag in that year.

It would also see a “threepeat” for the team with Ambrose repeating his win in 2004, followed by Russell Ingall in 2005. Ford revamped the BA into the BF in October of 2005. However it would not be until 2008 that Jamie Whincup would bring one to the forefront of the championship with the Triple Eight Race Engineering team.

A substantial facelift for the Falcon would bring the FG series into the championship. The road going versions had a streamlined model range and a raft of under the skin improvements. The road going FG range also saw the deletion of the 5.4L V8 that was part of the engine range and was replaced by the 5.0L “Coyote” engine. In a twist that brings in the future, that engine is the one to be found in the Ford Mustang, the body shape that will take over from the now discontinued Ford Falcon in the Supercars series.

Whincup would take a FG Falcon with Triple Eight to the championship in 2009, with the Ford “Blue Oval” also winning the championship in 2010 in the hands of James Courtney and Dick Johnson Racing.

The next generation of Supercars brought in a chassis specific design from 2013, meaning Holden and Ford would build to a base design, not off a production car. Since that era started, and finished in 2018, a Ford Falcon has won the Supercars championship just twice, with Mark Winterbottom and Prodrive Racing partnering in 2015 whilst Scott McLaughlin wrapped up the championship in Newcastle in the final FG X Falcon with Dick Johnson Racing Team Penske just a few weeks ago.

The Falcon is now replaced by the incoming Mustang and will be missed on the grid by the blue-oval enthusiasts. What was your favourite Falcon Supercar racer? The Green Eyed Monster or maybe one of the many iconic Shell Racing DJR liveries? Head on over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comment section below this blog!  

The New Mustang Supercar

In motorsport’s evolution in Australia, the category known as Supercars, formerly known as V8 Supercars Australia, has opened the door to cars not of a four door body shape. With the success of the Ford Mustang in a retail sense, it makes sense to have the “tudor” as the first to be built under the new guidelines.

But first, some history. The Gen 2 design regs mandates a common chassis for any team entering the category. Builders are open but have to build a chassis and cage to the pre-determined specifications. It’s this bit that has caused some consternation and raised eyebrows, as the end result may have a car not of the same physical dimensions as the one it’s based on.

The V8 engine is located 100mm further back and down to the preceding chassis style, for weight balance and safety. Wheels must be 18 inches in diameter and thanks to the upward change it means bigger brakes can be fitted. The drivetrain is a transaxle, meaning the drive axles and gearbox are in one case.

For extra safety the fuel cell has been moved forward and the windscreen is now of a polycarbonate build, which is 250 times as strong as glass. Specific to Gen 2 also is being rear drive, right hand side drivers’ seat, four seats, and based on a car available to the public, meaning it must reflect the look of the car accurately.

What this means for the Ford Mustang Supercar is proven strength and reliability. It also means that thanks to the common chassis and cage, only a slight rejig of the Mustang’s familiar profile has been required.

There will be a little piece of history when the car makes its debut in 2019. Chassis DJRTP 02 or Dick Johnson Racing Team Penske 02, which was used for Supercars’ tyre and aerodynamic testing last year, will become one of the first Mustang Supercars. It will be used for testing and is set to be the team’s spare race car. DJRTP will build one brand new car and convert another.

It is currently the team’s second spare, last raced as a Falcon FG X in Fabian Coulthard’s hands during 2016. Work began on converting the chassis in mid 2018. Tickford Racing will also build a pair of new cars and convert two cars to the new body style.

Anticipation from teams was seen in 2017, with Cameron Waters driving a car whose chassis was earmarked to be a Mustang. After a point in time had been reached where the signoff was past to have a Mustang run in 2018, the car was built as a Falcon. The chassis’ build commenced in March of 2017, such was the timeline teams were hoping for in order to see the Mustang body run on Australian circuits this year.

Specialist graphic design outlet ssMedia, headed by Scott Yorston, has produced 3D visuals of many V8 Supercars and the current Supercar designs. Working from concept drawings and with a livery idea from the US, Scott has also produced his view of the Mustang Supercar which has been greeted with acclaim in the Australian motorsport fraternity. It shows, as much as Scott is able to produce due to legalities, a car very close to the road going version. With panels placed around the control chassis it appears a little taller in height and perhaps a little shorter than the road goer as a result.

Testing of the 2019 Mustang Supercar is underway, and we can’t wait to see it hit the track in anger! Are you looking forward to having the Mustang back on the grid of Australian race tracks? Let us know in the comments section below this article on our Facebook page!

 

Mystery Box Rally

It’s been wryly said that the first rally came after the first twenty owners of “horseless carriages” met at a pub. Disclaimer: there may be little, if any, truth, to that but it is true that car rallying sprang into life very early in the history of the car. It is generally accepted that the first rally was the Monte Carlo Rally of 1911. The format, without the name as such, goes back even further, with the 1894 Paris – Rouen Horseless Carriage Competition.

As cars, or automobiles, developed, and the technology evolved, rallying grew in popularity. Worldwide, various formats grew, with perhaps the best known being the WRC, with intercontinental rallies also proving popular. All of these take money, and sometimes lots of it. So for those with an eye on the economic side?

Australia’s world renowned for the larrikin streak and sense of humour and with a strong aftermarket car culture various forms of rallying have come and gone. One of the newer ones has, at its heart, what Australia holds dear. Mateship. Called the Shitbox Rally, drivers have cars that hover around the $1000 and are driven on a variety of road surfaces. The funds raised go towards cancer research via the Cancer Council of Australia.

The rally has spawned a child, and this is called the Mystery Box Rally. One key component of the regulations is that the cars must be at least 25 years old. It will be a looped drive, starting and finishing at the same location, and in October of 2018 the rally began from Mildura, in Victoria.

Founded in 1887, the town is situated around 100 kilometres east of the South Australia/New South Wales/Victoria border and sits on the banks of the Murray River. It’s a beautiful little town and ideal for the rally start. The cause itself is identical to the Shitbox Rally, with funds raised (teams are asked and expected to raise a minimum of $3500) going towards cancer research. Teams cover incidentals such as registration fees, food and accommodation, and fuel for around 2,500 kilometres.

To add to the enjoyment and the struggle, the regulations stipulate that only two wheel drive cars can enter. All wheel and four wheel drive cars are excluded, as are historic and vintage vehicles. The organisers, with perhaps a wise eye, also stipulate that the car to be entered should be cost effective in the possibility of a breakdown. Smartly, the organisers limited each team to just two drivers, again with an eye on the potential for carrying passengers, they being those that have had a vehicle give the ultimate sacrifice.

Drivers are kept in the dark as to the day’s route overnight – which adds the element of mystery, with information only provided to the teams early in the morning. And organizers are at pains to point out it’s not a race, as such. The winner is judged on how much was raised, the actual condition of the car (or, how hopeless it is), the joie de vivre the team exhibits, and literally anything that organisers decide on as the event progresses.

The 2018 Mystery Box Rally saw something in the order of over one hundred cars entered, ranging from a 1992 Toyota Camry wagon to a 1993 Ford Laser, from a 1990 Toyota Celica to a 1993 Holden Commodore wagon. Most teams reached their minimum $3500 amount, with Jasmine Brill & Felicity Pollock, in Fergus, a 1992 Mazda 626, raising $13,607 under the team name of “All The Gear And No Idea”.

“Two Burkes In A Merc”, Paul Marsh and John Koerner rallied a 1989 Mercedes-Benz 300C and snared $11,700, whilst Lindsay and Nicholas McAulley raked in $5725 in their 1982 Volvo 244GL, an unbreakable car if there is one.

This year’s rally raised over $367K, with a guaranteed minimum 80% going towards cancer research. If this looks like something that appeals, register here: https://www.mysteryboxrally.com.au/contact/

Have you ever entered the Mystery Box Rally and have a story to tell? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know all about it in the comments section below this article! 

The Brabham BT62 – Australia’s Newest Supercar

5. November 2018 09:01 by Rare Spares in General, Rare Spares  //  Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,   //   Comments (0)

Royalty comes in a few forms. There are the royal families of the world. There’s rock royalty like Angus Young, movie royalty like Meryl Streep. Then there are motorsport royalty names like Brabham. Australia’s own Sir Jack created a special place in history with his bespoke Grand Prix cars and the engineering prowess.

Now, in 2018, the Brabham name has been thrust back into prominence with the release of a car and a company bearing the famous name. Brabham Automotive, with David Brabham, son of Sir Jack Brabham, at the helm have released earlier this year the Brabham BT62.

BT continues a small yet very significant part of the Brabham history. Sir Jack Brabham and Ron Tauranac made up the BT part of the names given to the race cars built starting with the BT1 from 1961.

The BT62 is a purpose built track weapon with none of the cars to be built destined, currently, to see road work. There’s some astonishing figures that come with the sleek, aerodynamically tuned design. Weight is just 972 kilograms and the car is powered by a bespoke 5.4-L V8 that produces 522kW. Torque? Plenty, thank you, at a hefty 667Nm. A race spec exhaust is naturally fitted and has been tested to produce a 98 decibel noise limit. The fuel tank holds 125-L and fuel is entered via race spec connectors.

Hi-po cars also need downforce and the exterior design of the BT62 has plenty. In this case there is more downforce than the weight of the car, at 1200 kilograms.

That last figure is more important than the face value suggests. Brabham Automotive are only building seventy, and they’re all intended to be track-based weapons. And with weight being the enemy of racing cars, that 972 kilograms comes courtesy of carbon fibre body panels, including the canards, front aeroblades and splitter, the dual element rear wing and diffuser, and the floor.

Race tech is in the form of a dry sump lubrication system, Motec engine control, and a fly by wire throttle system. An air jack system for quick lift and wheel change is also fitted. More Australian royalty in the form of a Hollinger six speed sequential transmission that has an engine “blip” on downshift can be found underneath the svelte bodywork, plus bespoke paddle shifts.

Being a track day oriented machine also means some basics need to be fitted. A FIA approved safety master-switch is coupled with a race spec 12 inch digital screen complete with GPS tracking and timing. Ride and handling comes courtesy of double wishbones front and rear that hold push-rod Ohlins TTX dampers and coil-over shocks.

The BT62 incorporates Brabham components to add extra Brabham DNA. Centre lock race wheels from Brabham are wrapped in 11J x 18 rubber up front, 13J x 18 at the rear. Brembo supply the stoppers with carbon pads on carbon discs, with 380mm and 355m front and rear.

The suspension has Brabham’s own Combined Bump Limiter, which minimizes front and rear yaw action. Brabham also fit their own steering wheel made from carbon fibre with the driver ensconced in a Brabham seat.

To be made available in a Celebration and Signature series, commemorating Brabham wins or personal design touches, brabhamautomotive.com stands ready to take your order…if any cars are left.

What do you think of Australia’s newest supercar? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook Page, and let us know in the comment section below this article.