ON this day 20 years ago, Ford’s new golden boy Craig Lowndes delivered big for long-suffering ‘Blue Oval’ fans at the Adelaide 500.
Lowndes scored victory in just the second V8 Supercar Championship round since his high-profile defection from the Holden Racing Team.
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The result broke HRT’s stranglehold on the Adelaide event and continued Lowndes’ strong run at the venue, having won the inaugural Adelaide 500 in 1999 and the Saturday race in 2000.
Lowndes’ famous 2001 Adelaide win features in our new book, ‘Sensational Adelaide: An Illustrated History of the Adelaide 500’.
It was a typically entertaining Adelaide race, featuring seven lead changes among six drivers and a whole host of controversial incidents.
They included Mark Skaife being punted out of the lead by a charging Paul Radisich 15 laps in; it was one of several clashes that went without penalty.
Radisich starred aboard a brand-new Shell Helix Ford but later swiped the wall at the exit of the chicane and ultimately retired with differential failure.
Others to find trouble included another Ford star, Marcos Ambrose, who after shining at the Phillip Island season-opener crashed out in a tangle on the pit straight with Todd Kelly.
Kelly’s teammate in the new Kmart Racing team, Greg Murphy, scored pole but had a shocking race, missing his pit box while concentrating on remaining under the pit speed limit (prior to the electronic pit speed limiters being introduced).
That meant he effectively served himself a drive-through penalty and steering failure shortly afterwards meant his race ended in the Turn 8 tyre barrier.
There was chaos in the pit lane too as the wing of John Faulkner’s Holden dragged down Larkham Motorsport’s pit boom and air bottles; the latter briefly knocking out engine man Ken McNamara!
Through it all came Lowndes, who led home Steven Johnson and Russell Ingall, after his Gibson Motorsport team made the best of the pit strategy.
It was a sensational win for Lowndes but ultimately created false hope for the season ahead.
Lowndes was again fast on Sunday, but a combination of pit strategy and a bent rim put him down the pack, and he crashed out while battling with Skaife at the back of the top 10.
Although showing flashes of speed throughout the season, Lowndes did not win another race until the final round at Sandown, where he shone in wet conditions.
He scored just one more win in the three seasons that followed, at Phillip Island in early 2003 with Ford Performance Racing, before a move to Triple Eight in 2005 rekindled his career.