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How Lowndes and Ludo stole a win at Barbagallo

‘FORTUNE favours the brave’ goes the old saying, and on May 7, 2016 there were few braver than Ludo Lacroix, whose bold strategy call delivered Craig Lowndes an incredible victory that is the focus of this edition of Ryco Rewind.

The ageing Wanneroo Raceway tarmac, prior to its repaving in 2019, meant tyres wore out much quicker than at any other Supercars circuit.

A downpour prior to the 120km Saturday sprint in 2016 meant every driver started the race on wet-weather rubber, including Lowndes, who was the best-qualified of Triple Eight’s trio in third on the grid behind an all-Prodrive Racing Australia front row.

Then-rookie Cam Waters took the first pole of his Supercars career in a wild qualifying session; looming rain meant the first flying lap was likely going to be everyone’s only dry lap, something guaranteed by Michael Caruso spinning into the Turn 1 sand and drawing a red flag.

Waters banged doors with Will Davison at the end of their flyers but did enough to secure pole by just over two tenths from Chaz Mostert.

Waters leads into the first corner from pole. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

However, Waters led just the opening lap with Shane van Gisbergen soon taking over the point.

The track was dry enough for the field to switch to slicks by the 15th lap but, with teams compelled to make just one compulsory stop in that era’s Saturday races, it left everyone with a 35-lap stint to the chequered flag.

Everyone but Lowndes, anyway.

The #888 Holden sat fourth behind van Gisbergen, Mostert and Waters following the pitstops, and he remained there until Lacroix called him in for a fresh set of tyres with 22 laps to go.

He wasn’t the only Triple Eight driver that was offered the chance to make an extra pitstop: van Gisbergen was asked if he wanted to follow suit and elected to stay out.

In the end, everyone in the train of cars behind him opted for the same strategy, leaving Lowndes as the outlier among the lead group – albeit now down in 22nd place, over 30 seconds adrift.

That margin quickly came down, Lowndes using his 15-lap fresher tyres to scythe his way up to the edge of the top 10 within just five laps.

He’d clawed his way right onto the tail of the front-running group with just seven laps to go, and picked them off one-by-one to pass van Gisbergen for the lead on the run to the final corner with five laps remaining.

Lowndes’ victory headed Triple Eight’s first podium lockout since expanding to three cars for 2016. Pic: an1images.com / Ross Gibb

Another rain shower arrived on the final lap but it was too late to cause any more drama among the leaders, with Lowndes splashing to the chequered flag over five seconds ahead of van Gisbergen, with Jamie Whincup less than a second behind to round out an all-Triple Eight podium.

Lowndes wasn’t the only driver to switch to a two-stop strategy, with Todd Kelly using his fresh set to charge to seventh place at the chequered flag.

Another driver that made two pitstops was Mark Winterbottom, although not intentionally.

Winterbottom escaped this trip into the sand, only to find more trouble at Turn 7 a few laps later. Pic: an1images.com / Ross Gibb

He’d been right behind Lowndes in the opening stint but fell to 10th after the change to slicks, only to suffer a bad lock-up into the final corner that forced him to pit for another tyre change.

Adding insult to injury, Winterbottom was then spun by Dale Wood as he tried to enter the lane…

In a twist of fate, the reigning series champion went on to win Sunday’s dry 200km race, having made one pitstop less than everyone else!

This story is the latest in our series of Ryco Rewind stories as we take a look back through Australian motorsport history and explore the great races, drivers and cars from the past on the relevant anniversary.

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