THE HANDSHAKE DEAL THAT FREED LOWNDES FROM HRT

Craig Lowndes made his debut aboard a Ford in the Hot Wheels V8 Supercar Showdown at Albert Park in 2001. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

CRAIG Lowndes’ shift from Holden to Ford sent shockwaves through V8 Supercars fans at the start of 2001.

However, on the eve of his first race in a Falcon, Lowndes still wasn’t quite free to drive his new car.

Long contract talks with the Holden Racing Team – his home since 1994 – had come to naught the previous year, and on January 4, 2001, Lowndes revealed he would drive for Gibson Motorsport – itself making the switch to the ‘blue oval’ – with Ford support.

ORDER NOW: Official 2021 Repco Supercars Championship Season Guide

RECORD BREAKER: Van Gisbergen wins Australia’s fastest-ever Supercars race

Further complicating matters was the 10-year management contract with Tom Walkinshaw Racing that Lowndes had signed just four years prior.

As Fred Gibson recalled to the V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Repco, the legal wrangling around his team’s star recruit still wasn’t finalised as the season-opening non-championship races at Albert Park loomed.

“Tom Walkinshaw had him under contract,” Gibson told the V8 Sleuth Podcast.

“Craig’s legal people were talking to Tom about (ending) it, and in my crude way I said: ‘Well stop stuffing about: do you want to get Lowndes out of his contract with Walkinshaw? It’ll cost you money, Simple as that.’

Listen to Part 1 of Fred Gibson on the V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Repco in the player below!

“It was the Grand Prix and we were supposed to race that weekend; Craig still wasn’t free to drive the car because Tom still had him under contract (and) all the gurus are doing their job trying to do this deal.

“I just bumped into Tom at the Grand Prix on the Thursday. I didn’t know him that well (but) I said ‘Tom, this is bullshit. We’ve got to do something. What do you want to do?’

“He said, ‘Well how much money will you give me?’

“I forget the number but it was a good lump of money to pay out the contract. He said, ‘deal’s done’ and shook hands.

Lowndes ended the Albert Park weekend on the podium with a pair of top-three finishes across the three races. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

“I went back out and said to Craig’s legal people ‘give Tom so much money and Craig can drive this weekend.’

“It was pretty simple. They didn’t understand Tom: he was a hard-nosed bugger but he was a fair guy.”

It’s just one story from Part 1 of a wide-ranging chat with Gibson about his Hall of Fame career as both a driver and team owner in Australian touring car racing.

Will Dale is V8 Sleuth's Head of Content - Digital. He began his media career as a breakfast radio newsreader before joining SPEED TV Australia and FOX SPORTS Australia in 2012 as its Digital Editorial Lead - Motorsport, covering all forms of motorsport both in Australia and internationally. He became part of the V8 Sleuth team in 2018.