OK, so Lowndesy talked us through 2006 and that incident last week but the three-time champion has plenty of good memories from Phillip Island, too. And given that he loves a chat, we cracked open a cold one – of Red Bull that is – sat back and rejoiced in some of his best moments from the Island. A quick read and it’s easy to see why he loves one of Australia’s most iconic circuits. He’s thrown in a few classic crashes, too…
RBRA: Craig, some of the biggest moments of your V8 Supercars career have taken place at Phillip Island. Not counting 2006 (see “The Moral Champion”) what are your most memorable moments?
CL: There are a few… A good one would be winning with Skaife at the Phillip Island 500 a couple of years ago in 2010. In 2003 there was another good one. There was a massive downpour and it was like monsoon rain and we managed to score a victory, but there was that much carnage that was happening through the main straight that it was cars and chaos everywhere. I was lucky to survive, let alone win!
So aside from 2006, overall I think we’ve had a lot more positive results than bad.
RBRA: In 2009 you and J-Dub were paired together in a “dream team” of sorts when Phillip Island was a 500. But disaster struck in the dying moments…
CL: We had ourselves in a great position. We actually started to delaminate a front right-hand tyre and Garth Tander passed us going into Siberia, which is the back of the track, and we limped it home. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have the speed to finish it off. It had a huge impact on championship standings and it was a huge shame for us that day because we definitely could have had another great victory there.
RBRA: You’ve been involved in some fairly spectacular incidents over the years and few more chaotic than when you came together with Max Wilson in 2002. Talk us through what you remember about that…
CL: Exiting Honda, there was a ball of smoke and I didn’t realise that in amongst that smoke there was a car. By the time I realised that, the car was looking at me and we had a nose-to-tail and damaged both cars, of course putting us both out of the race. I had sore legs and a sore groin from the seatbelts from the sudden stop!
RBRA: What’s your best memory from Phillip Island as a fan?
CL: Going down and watching MotoGP was probably the highlight as a fan – knowing the track and watching the bikes running round, knowing that they’re over 300km/h down the front straight. It’s quite impressive.
RBRA: Meanwhile, let’s talk this weekend and the championship implications. As a result of the re-surfacing this year it’s almost a given lap records will fall at Phillip Island – but at what price do you think that will come at?
CL: The resurfacing will be an issue and something that we’ll be very mindful of. There have been other categories in the past couple of months that have struggled with tyre-wear and also blistering, as well as MotoGP, so we’re obviously very keen to make sure we get down there and hopefully the tyre, if there is a tyre issue, that it doesn’t decide the outcome of the race.
RBRA: The circuit has been pretty kind to you in the past. How do you rate it?
CL: It’s definitely in the top three race tracks in Australia. I think there’s no doubt that the fast-flowing nature of the track gives it very much a driver’s satisfaction when you get it right.
RBRA: Most importantly, can you see yourself winning there? You’re a lap-record holder, five-time pole-winner and multiple race winner…
CL: If we can’t be on the podium I think that we’ve got other dramas. Like I said last week, in this situation we need to be focused on race wins and podium finishes to have any chance of having victory in the championship.