THE sound of the crowd boomed across the stretch of Pit Straight: “Lowndsey! Lowndsey! Lowndsey!”
Craig Lowndes, one of the most popular figures in Australian motor sport, added to his already legendary legacy on Sunday with his seventh victory in the Bathurst 1000.
Many in the crowd would have journeyed to watch Lowndes take on his last Bathurst 1000 as a full-time Supercars driver and he capped off his finale with the best possible result, leading to thousands of people chanting his name in full voice as he ascended the podium.
Combining with the experienced Steven Richards, who claimed a fifth Bathurst crown of his own, Lowndes didn’t put a foot wrong on his way to the chequered flag in the fastest ever edition of the Great Race.
Defending champions Dave Reynolds and Luke Youlden were in the box seat to win back-to-back trophies heading towards the final pit stop.
Disaster struck for the Erebus Motorsport garage when a combination of leg cramps for Reynolds and a pit lane penalty ended their winning hopes.
Lowndes was able to cruise over the line just over six seconds clear of Scott Pye and Warren Luff, who repeated their runner-up result from last year.
Scott McLaughlin didn’t get the victory he desired but did manage to find his first Bathurst podium when he finished a further three seconds away.
He ended his tough run of luck in the event alongside co-driver Alex Premat.
Lowndes moves into equal second on the all-time Bathurst winners list alongside Jim Richards and sits only two victories behind the great Peter Brock.
Taking out the race in his last full-time Supercars appearance was a dream result for Lowndes.
“Twenty two years at this level is a hell of a journey. I’m very thankful and the fans are fantastic,” he said.
“When I took the lead after passing Reynolds into turn two I could see them standing up across the mountain. I think if the car broke down they would have jumped the fence and pushed it.
“It’s the first time I’ve won a race here that I’ve had such a healthy gap on the last lap and been able to enjoy it.”
Lowndes and Richards started their race in ninth and slowly climbed the standings throughout the day to sit in fifth at the halfway mark.
They got to second but struggled to match it with Reynolds who had taken a four second gap into the penultimate pit stop.
That margin dropped considerably in the next window as cramps struck Reynolds, allowing Lowndes to take the lead on lap 135 of 161.
Lowndes’ team had battled power steering issues since arriving at the track but Lowndes praised his crew in keeping the Triple Eight Racing machine in order.
“It’s been a hell of a weekend for us,” he said.
“We had an issue with the rear roll bar which got stuck but we could balance the car through our front roll bar adjustments.”
Richards was in good humour following his fifth Bathurst success.
“My first two wins happened before I had kids and the last two the kids weren’t here. They thought they were the good luck charm if they didn’t turn up. To get this one with the kids here was a fantastic result,” he said.