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Ryco Rewind: The Kid’s Sandown follow up

THROUGHOUT 2024 we’re going to take a look back through Australian motorsport history with a series of Ryco Rewind stories that explore the great races, drivers and cars from the past on the anniversary of them unfolding.

On this day – February 4 – back in 1996, Craig Lowndes sealed his second straight Australian Touring Car Championship round win in round two of that year’s title chase at Sandown in Melbourne.

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It was safe to say that ‘Lowndes mania’ was off and rolling by that stage too.

‘The Kid’ had won the opening round under lights at Eastern Creek the previous weekend and kept things rolling when the championship moved to Melbourne.

That year marked the first year that the ATCC had featured a regular three race format and Lowndes’ #15 Mobil Holden Racing Team VR Commodore claimed the first win over reigning champ John Bowe and Lowndes’ HRT teammate Peter Brock.

Tardy starts in the second two races forced Lowndes to fight back through the field; he slipped to seventh in Race 2 but fought back to claim fourth behind Bowe, Glenn Seton and Mark Skaife.

In Race 3 he was shuffled back to sixth after another slow start and involvement in contact on the opening lap, again forced to work his way through the pack.

Along the way he tangled with Bowe, the Shell-FAI Ford driver spinning across the Commodore’s bows when they touched on the run onto the main straight.

Both continued in the race and Seton won from Skaife and Lowndes with Bowe recovering to come home eighth.

Lowndes, Seton and Skaife celebrate on the Sandown podium. Photo: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith.

In those days the round result was still ‘a thing’, with combined points from the three races giving Lowndes overall victory by two points over Seton with Skaife rounding out the podium.

The latter had been driving Gibson Motorsport’s spare Commodore, still sporting its regular red Winfield livery though minus the sponsor logos in the wake of the banning of tobacco advertising in Australian sport.

His brand-new GMS Commodore had been damaged in a clash with Brock and the concrete wall at the Eastern Creek opening, forcing the former Bathurst winner into the team’s spare chassis – that remained the only time that car raced in that ‘plain’ red Gibson livery.

The Winfield car that wasn’t a Winfield car anymore! Photo: an1images.com / Graeme Neander.

The Sandown round on this day back in 1996 left Lowndes with a 30-point championship lead over Bowe with Seton tied on points with his great Ford foe.

Elsewhere in the field Steve Richards was the top privateer on the day in just his second appearance in Garry Rogers Motorsport’s ex-Gibson Commodore.

While the Dash for Cash had been discontinued for 1996, the Privateers Dash on Sunday morning was still very much on the schedule and was won by Mark Poole’s ex-Perkins Commodore.

The full report on the 1996 ATCC round at Sandown is in Motorsport News Issue 68.

It’s available here to read digitally, along with a range of back issues of MN and Motorsport eNews as well.

More issues are being added in upcoming weeks and months as part of V8 Sleuth’s commitment to preserving Australian motorsport history.

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