SATURDAY SLEUTHING: LOWNDES’ FIRST FALCON

IS CRAIG Lowndes a Holden hero or a Ford hero in V8 Supercar championship history?

It’s an interesting question and how you answer probably depends more on which side of the manufacturer fence you sit, but recently we were asked what ever happened to Lowndes’ first Falcon V8 Supercar.

The answer is – it’s still around!

Amid great publicity the three-time V8 champ signed with Gibson Motorsport for 2001 and made the call to jump from Holden to Ford.

The Gibson team – publicly fronted by founder and former owner Fred Gibson though funded and actually owned by Bob Forbes – had run Commodores since 1994, so needed to arm itself with a Falcon for its new big-name signing.

Jason Bright, Sandown, 1999 aboard SBR AU2. Photo: an1images.com / Graeme Neander.

There was no time to build a car, so a deal was done to acquire an existing Stone Brothers Racing-built car, in fact the Pirtek-backed car driven by Jason Bright in 1999 and Craig Baird in 2000.

Having provided Marcos Ambrose with his first taste of an SBR Falcon at an end-of-season 2000 test in Queensland, chassis SBR AU2 became Lowndes’ #00 Falcon when the season started.

Craig Lowndes sweeps home to victory in Race 1 of the 2001 Clipsal 500 in Adelaide. Photo: an1images.com / Graeme Neander.

He tested it at Winton in late February in plain blue colours before the unique #00 black and silver livery was applied in time for Lowndes to make his Ford racing debut at the non-championship Albert Park event.

It didn’t take Lowndes long to win his first race in the ex-SBR Ford, ‘The Kid’ clinching victory in the Saturday race at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide.

Speaking of Fords, don’t miss out on a copy of our limited-edition book, ‘Ford at Bathurst, 1963 to 2018’ featuring a photo of every Ford to compete in ‘The Great Race’ in that time, including all of Lowndes’ Bathurst Falcons from 2001 to 2009.

Order it here now, it’s limited to just 2000 copies and we have only 50 left!

Lowndes drove this car through to the 2001 Queensland 500 where Neil Crompton joined him as co-driver. They were an early retirement and stepped into a new chassis for Bathurst.

Lowndes gave it another run at the non-championship Gold Coast event before it reverted to Rodney Forbes’ hands for the start of 2002. 

Rodney Forbes, Albert Park, 2002. Photo: an1images.com / Graeme Neander.

However, ‘CL’ did end up back in this ex-SBR chassis for Eastern Creek after his regular ‘Green Eyed Monster’ was damaged in an accident with Max Wilson at Phillip Island.

Forbes drove it for the majority of that season, including the endurance races where rally ace Neal Bates co-drove.

00 Motorsport moved to BA Falcons in 2003 and was closed down mid-season, though this AU didn’t race again.

It was retained by Bob Forbes and not sold as part of the assets acquired by WPS Racing. 

Returned to Lowndes 2001 livery, it’s since been run at Muscle Car Masters (in 2013 with Crompton at the wheel), spent time on display at the National Motor Racing Museum at Mount Panorama and is retained as part of Forbes’ private car collection.

It currently sits on display at the National Motor Racing Museum at Mount Panorama as of time of publication of this story.

Read here about Lowndes recently testing a Group A Jaguar XJ-S at Queensland Raceway.

With over 20 years in the Australian motorsport industry, Noonan is the head of V8 Sleuth. He’s held a range of roles including working in television with Seven and Ten, print media and public relations. With a specialty in Australian motorsport history, he’s known around racing paddocks as ’the Sleuth’ and started his motorsport media career in 1997.