‘I’m going to kill you and Craig’
AUSTRALIAN racing great Craig Lowndes has opened up on his career ahead of his Bathurst 1000 swan song this weekend.
The Supercars legend is out to claim his seventh win at Mount Panorama as his glittering career behind the wheel comes to a close. The 44-year-old will go down as one of the greatest Supercars drivers to grace the sport in a career spanning three decades. But it hasn't all been clear sailing for the smiling Victorian.
Lowndes found himself in the middle of Australia's vicious Holden vs Ford rivalry when he controversially jumped ship.
An explosive start to his career saw Lowndes claim all three of his Supercars titles with Holden before 2000, years before his 30th birthday. But by the turn of the millennium, Lowndes' patience with the Holden Racing Team had run out, citing "bad blood" emerging within the team.
Speaking to sportscaster Mark Howard, Lowndes detailed his topsy turvy career in a tell-all interview this week.
"I went in there and sat with Peter (Brock) and asked what to expect. He said I wouldn't lose anything (swapping teams)," he said.
Brock told Lowndes half of Holden fans would stay loyal, while half of Ford wouldn't accept him.
"I would just smile and wave. I'm a person who really doesn't like confrontation, I've never been a biter."
Lowndes said sledges from the sidelines never bothered him, admitting he'd just "smile and wave" at angry fans over the fence. That was until one specatator took the abuse to disgraceful heights.
The three-time champion revealed why he kept his security guard, Darryl Reid (who has also worked for golfing superstar Greg Norman), so close to his side.
"There was a big tall gentleman who would travel with us, about six foot six, his name is Darryl Reid. He was employed to look after me if any psychos wanted to put a knife in me," he said.
"Because we are so close to the fans, it could happen. If someone had a gripe or a vendetta on anyone (they had easy access)."
Lowndes said it got to a point where fellow motor racing legend Mark Skaife called him with saying he had received a message saying: "Mark Skaife, I'm going to kill you and Craig."
"I was in Ford-land at that time. The police eventually tracked his phone calls and arrested him, he served time in jail for it. But it was oblivious to me until Skaife told me the full story," Lowndes said.
"Then Skaife was walking back to his car at Queensland Raceway, having a chat with a guy until he said 'I'm the guy you put away in jail'. So he actually came and confronted Skaife, and he wasn't happy. Nothing (came) of it after that, but there was definitely that opportunity."
Lowndes enjoyed years of success with Ford before his team at the time, Team Vodafone, switched back to Holden in 2010. He currently races for Triple Eight Race Engineering.
LOWNDES ON FORMULA 1 DREAM
Lowndes admitted his goal was to become a Formula 1 driver, but a failed crack at Formula 3000 after a stunning 1996 season in Australia put paid to his open wheel dream.
"For me the 1994, '95 and '96 seasons were a stepping stone back to single seaters, but in those three years I had adapted to that style of driving (of touring cars)," he said.
"I went over and did some testing with David Sears at Supernova, I did half a dozen laps and he pulled me aside.
"He already knew at that point I had some bad habits for a single seater but not for a touring car."
Lowndes was eventually offered a chance with racing team RSM Marko to race alongside Juan Pablo Montoya, who would eventually become a Formula 1 driver.
"There was only one engineer so they set the cars up the same. Montoya wanted the car a certain way and because I was at a different level, I struggled," he said.
Lowndes hedged his bets and flew home to join the Holden Racing Team to kick off a historic back-to-back title charge in the Australian Touring Car Championship.