Emphatic triumph proves Lowndes remains a force
CRAIG Lowndes turned back the clock to upstage generation next on Sunday and claim his first Supercars race win since 2016.
In a performance that rubbished suggestions the V8 legend was a fading force, Lowndes, 44, led from start to finish in an emphatic victory in the second instalment of the Tasmanian SuperSprint at Symmons Plains.
The Triple Eight Race Engineering star held off Ford's Scott McLaughlin and Holden's Jamie Whincup to record his 106th career win.
"I am more relieved because we have been working so hard as a team towards this,'' Lowndes said.
"We have been improving and we have been strong all weekend. It is the first one for a while and it is quite exciting. It shows we can bounce back. It has been a long time coming and I can't thank the team enough.''
It was another day of domination for Triple Eight with Red Bull's Jamie Whincup continuing his charge into the championship lead.
Following his first-round fail, Whincup needed only six races to claw his way back from a 198-point deficit to go from 18th to first in the title fight.
"Hey, today is all about Lowndesy,'' Whincup said.
"What an effort and it is great to see him win. For us we tripped over a little in the pits. The championship position is nice because I was miles back after Adelaide and I am not miles back any more. There is still a lot of water to go under the bridge but we will fight on.''
Lowndes surprised the field earlier to score his first qualifying win since 2015 when he upstaged his Triple Eight teammates to score a popular pole.
Having struggled for single-lap speed for the last three years, the veteran edged out van Gisbergen and Whincup in qualifying.
"The car has been working really good over the weekend," Lowndes said.
"When you roll a car out that's 85 or 90 per cent right it always makes it easier.
"It's great to have a one-two-three and we've got to now translate that into race results."
And Lowndes made the most of the qualifying win when he blasted out of the blocks to win the race start, again ahead of van Gisbergen and Whincup.
On a cool, overcast day in Launceston, Lowndes powered his way to the front and stayed there until he pitted on lap 23.
Opting to take on more fuel than his earlier-stopping rivals, Lowndes lost the effective race lead to McLaughlin when he emerged behind the Ford flyer.
But Lowndes quickly bridged the gap and reclaimed the top spot with a flawless turn-four pass on lap 29.
Whincup emerged as Lowndes' biggest threat when van Gisbergen was swamped after suffering a mechanical fault.
But McLaughlin split the Triple Eight pair following the final round of stops to become a contender.
The Ford flyer failed in his bid to catch Lowndes but held off Whincup to finish second.
"Congrats to Craig,'' McLaughlin said.
"It is great to see him win. But I am flying the flag for Ford and coming second right now is like a win after where we have been.''
Van Gisbergen finished the race in 25th place, slipping from the championship lead to fifth
and ruin what would have been a perfect weekend for Triple Eight.