DOUBLE Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour winner Craig Lowndes will retire from full-time competition in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship following the conclusion of the 2018 season.
The Autobarn Lowndes Racing driver will continue to drive in the Supercars’ endurance races for the foreseeable future and, in an emotional press conference held at the Watpac Townsville 400 this morning, said that he would continue to contest races outside of Supercars in the future.
Lowndes contested his first 12-Hour in 2011, finishing second driving for the factory Audi squad.
He first won the race in 2014 driving for Maranello Motorsport with fellow Bathurst legend John Bowe, Mika Salo and car owner Peter Edwards.
He then paired with Triple Eight Racing team mate Jamie Whincup and Finnish ace Toni Vilander to win the race a second time in 2017.
A campaign with YNA Autosport this year saw Lowndes partner with Shane van Gisbergen and Côme Ledogar in a McLaren 650S GT3, the car ultimately failing to finish after completing 119 laps.
His 12-hour success showcased his enduring versatility, alongside his six Bathurst 1000 victories and three championship victories.
“I’ve always said there are two key factors keeping me racing and those are my motivation to keep getting up and doing what I love and my competitiveness, and for me, nothing has changed,” Lowndes said.
“But at the same time I want to make sure I finish my last full-time season with some strong results in the bag and after this year’s results so far Roland (Dane) and I came to the decision between us that this will be my last full season behind the wheel.
“I feel extremely lucky to have been able to keep doing what I love at a competitive level for such a long time.
“I have to thank my family and friends, the whole team at Triple Eight and KRE, Supercars, my personal and team sponsors and of course the fans for supporting me throughout.
“Ultimately, the fans are the backbone of our great sport and the reason I’ve pulled my helmet on every race weekend, so to them, thank you.
“I definitely won’t be pursuing a drive with any other teams in Supercars.
“I’ll be staying with Triple Eight and I’m looking forward to an exciting new chapter as an ambassador for the team and of course co‑driving with Triple Eight in the enduros.
“I’m also pleased to announce that I’ll be joining the broadcast team, which is something I’m really looking forward to. It’s not the last time you’ll see this grin in pit lane.”
Lowndes touched on the potential to expand his overseas racing ambitions next year.
“Beyond the Supercars side of it, yes, I’ll be looking to keep race fit,” he said.
“There’s no doubt that when you talk to any Supercars driver in Pit Lane they have that ambition (to race overseas).
“We look at the calendar as soon as it appears to see what we can do overseas.
“We’re race drivers and we want to race cars. Roland (Dane, Triple Eight team owner) has been very open to allow Shane and I and Jamie to do it.
“It will be nice to look into that world that at times has crossed over our rounds.”