Supercars icon Craig Lowndes to end 21-year career at end of 2018 championship

Six-time Bathurst 1000 champion Craig Lowndes will call time on his 21-year Supercars career at the end of the 2018 championship.

An emotional Lowndes announced in Townsville on Friday that this year will be his final full-time season in the category.

The 44-year-old said he'd been discussing retirement with Triple Eight Race Engineering team boss Roland Dane for months but only came to a decision two weeks ago.

"Although my current contract with Triple Eight finishes in another 18 months time, both Roland and I have come to the decision that this will be my last full-time drive in a Supercar," Lowndes said.

"I've always said that Bathurst 2006 was the most emotional and toughest race I've ever done in my career but I can say with a heavy heart that this has been the hardest decision that myself and my team have had to make."

Lowndes claimed his 106th career race win earlier this year in Tasmania and heads into this weekend's Townsville 400 fourth on the championship standings.

He said he hadn't given up hope of going out on top, with a fourth career championship.

"I want to make sure I finish my last full-time season with some strong results in the bag," he said.

Lowndes retires from full-time driving as one of the most popular and successful drivers in the championship history.

He debuted for the Holden Racing Team as an endurance driver in 1994 before making his full-time debut in 1996, winning the first of his three championships that year.

After an unsuccessful stint in Europe in 1997, Lowndes returned to HRT winning the 1998 and 1999 championships before a controversial switch to Ford in 2000.

He joined Triple Eight in 2005, claiming five Bathurst titles while with the team including a win in 2006 just weeks after mentor Peter Brock died.

Teammate Jamie Whincup attended Friday's press conference along with Lowndes' wife Lara and former teammate Greg Murphy.

Lowndes will remain with Triple Eight as an endurance driver from 2019 onwards as well as joining Supercars' television broadcast team.

"We don't know yet who Craig's going to be co-driving with for the enduros - that depends on the structure of the team - but he's undoubtedly got a few more Bathurst wins in him," Dane said.

Craig Lowndes


Meet New Zealand’s next motorsport star: Humble 16-year-old Liam Lawson

Sixteen-year-old race driver Liam Lawson is currently plying his trade in the German Formula Four championship.

The Kiwi from Pukekohe sits in second place overall, calling it an eye-opening experience - from the fantatical fans to the high level of competition.

Even on holiday, Lawson is keeping his foot down thanks to a simulator he likes to call 'homework'.

"I used to do a lot of sim stuff just for fun but now it's really become something that we use as preparation for a race."

When it comes to racing on the track, the teenager is making a name for himself in the German competition.

He's finished on the podium in eight of the 12 races so far, winning two of them.

He’s says it’s a sensation like no other.

"It's like Formula One. We go up on the podium and we have the national anthem played, our flag gets held above us so it's a proud moment."

The competition is a training ground for the best; F1 legend Michael Schumacher's nephew competes and two current F1 drivers came through Lawson's team, Van Amersfoort racing.

Lawson said the fan support is huge.

"I had a German lady come up to me and she called me over and got out this book like this folder and pulled out like 30 photos that she'd printed out from when I was in go karts and NZ and Australian racing - basically everything I've done!"

But the Kiwi driver's life is a constant juggle.

Competing not only requires talent but hundreds of thousands of dollars and while some drivers show up to races in private jets, Lawson relies on generous sponsors.

"There are many more Kiwi drivers just like me that need the opportunity that I've been given to do something like this so I've just really got to make the most of it."

Lawson is plying his trade in the German Formula 4 where he currently sits second overall. Source: 1 NEWS



Brendon Hartley shaking off rumours of possible F1 axing - 'I just stay focused on the job I get paid to do'

Kiwi driver Brendon Hartley isn't worried about the rumours circulating about his future in Formula 1, saying he's eager to make his mark at the upcoming French Grand Prix.

Hartley took time in his regular F1 video blog to address the issue.

"There was a bit of noise in the background over the last couple of weeks," he said.

"I was asked a few awkward questions about my future in Formula 1. It was a bit annoying but that's part of the business and I actually felt really good about how I handled the whole situation. I didn't let it affect me and I just stayed focused on doing the job that I get paid to do."

Hartley has struggled in his first full F1 season, earning just one championship point in seven starts in 2018.

As a result, pressure has been building on the 28-year-old with Red Bull Racing consultant Dr Helmut Marko confirming earlier this week Toro Rosso had had thoughts about dropping the Kiwi.

"If the trajectory had not improved, then we would have had to look somewhere for an alternative," he said.

"But that's not the case and Brendon is now competitive."

Hartley said he's gaining confidence from that newfound competitiveness.

"Every weekend I feel like I'm getting stronger and stronger," he said.

"You know, I'm an old fella in some ways but I'm a rookie in Formula 1 and as the weekends go by I feel I'm understanding more and more the business of Formula 1."

Hartley is set to compete in the French Grand Prix this weekend, with qualifying starting at 2am NZT on Sunday.