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HomeNewsDANE OPENS UP ON LOWNDES RETIREMENT PLAN

DANE OPENS UP ON LOWNDES RETIREMENT PLAN

ROLAND Dane believes hindsight has proven the timing of Craig Lowndes’ retirement as a Supercars full-timer was spot on.

Talking candidly on the latest V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Repco episode, Dane admits Lowndes may have wanted to drive on in 2019 but is comfortable with how things played out.

The fan favourite instead hung up his helmet as a primary driver at the end of 2018, after which Triple Eight Race Engineering reverted to two cars.

The all-conquering operation had run three Commodores for three seasons to accommodate the recruitment of Shane van Gisbergen, as well as the retention of Lowndes, alongside Jamie Whincup.

“This isn’t something that happened quickly,” Dane explained.

“In 2016 if you remember, we ran three cars and ended up running three cars for three years.

“I had always said to Jamie and Craig and the sponsors, when other teams were running more cars, we would only ever run three cars for Craig Lowndes. And I had given that undertaking to Craig’s manager, David Segal, a long time before.

“I knew that we had to protect the long-term interests of Triple Eight by making sure that we didn’t hang on with Craig too long.

“All sorts of sportsmen have overstayed their competitive welcome as it were, so we had to get that right.

“At the back end of 2014 we had the opportunity to do a deal with Shane to start in 2016, and Red Bull were very keen on this as well, and Holden.

“So I made sure I had all those tied up but I was always going to try my level best to honour the commitment to Craig to give him the opportunity to continue with us and hence buying a Racing Entitlements Contract, as it was then, in 2015 to come on stream in 2016 for Craig to drive for a minimum of three years and we’d see how he went.

“If you remember, we had Caltex sponsorship for two years and Autobarn in the final year.

“Honestly, I think we got the timing perfect. In hindsight – you don’t always know at the time – but it was perfect in that Craig in 2018 won Bathurst with Steven Richards and then he stepped down at the end of that year.

“He didn’t become a seat blocker, he deserved his place all the time he was there.

“Maybe Craig left completely to his own devices would have gone on for another year, I don’t know, but to me the timing was absolutely perfect.

“I would have hated to see Craig rattling around in 20-something-th place, it would have devalued his legacy completely.

Lowndes at Queensland Raceway today. Pic: Mark Horsburgh

“And anyway given the undertaking that if he wanted to be a co-driver it was there, and then of course for the next three years he was Jamie’s co-driver.

“So, Craig wasn’t forced out, he was very aware of the long-term plan, and it was just a question of whether it was this year or that year by let’s call it a 12-month swing.

“In hindsight, I can look back and say I think we absolutely nailed it.”

Lowndes has this year shifted to Triple Eight’s Bathurst 1000 wildcard entry, joining rookie Declan Fraser.

He is expected to tackle The Mountain again in 2023, being under contract for one more year at the Banyo squad now led by Whincup.

Dane covers plenty more ground in what is Part 2 of his chat with V8 Sleuth’s Aaron Noonan, including the team’s ups and downs at Mount Panorama and why he and Paul Morris make for a perfect odd couple.

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