Was Craig Lowndes pushed or genuinely retire?

WAS HE PUSHED?: One of Australia's greatest race drivers announced his plans to retire from full-time racing last week. But Barry Oliver asks the question, did have a choice?. Picture: AAP
WAS HE PUSHED?: One of Australia's greatest race drivers announced his plans to retire from full-time racing last week. But Barry Oliver asks the question, did have a choice?. Picture: AAP

The bombshell announcement made by Craig Lowndes last week that he would retire from full-time driving at the end of this season not only stunned the sport, but raised two major questions.

Was this his decision? Or was he pushed?

Lowndes still had a contract for next year and so far this season has performed well enough to be fifth in the championship standings – scoring 13 top 10 finishes from 18 starts.

As a fan favourite and the most popular race driver in Australia, with a massive merchandising turnover for the Triple-8 team, why would team principle Roland Dane convince him it’s time to go?

Yes Lowndes will be a co-driver for the team in the three endurance races in 2019 and does have an ambassadorial role with the team, but there are many people who have voiced their opinion that he was pushed.

If that is true the next question is who will replace him in next year and has there been some skulduggery going on in the background to facilitate a change of direction for the team?

In a situation like this there will always be the conspiracy theorists and with news on Thursday that Simona de Silvestro is widely touted to move from Kelly Racing Nissan team to replace Lowndes – the plot thickens.

To support that theory, Dane is on record as stating he is aiming ultimately to have a 30 per cent female team employment model, and in addition, team backers Holden have expressed that they would like to see a female driver in Supercars from a marketing standpoint.

At the press conference, Lowndes was obviously emotional and clearly he was very uncomfortable with the media suggesting he really didn’t want to be there to make the announcement.

Equally Dane was very coy when asked who would replace Lowndes, simply saying: “there are a number of drivers to choose from” and he also avoided the question as to whether there would be three cars next year or two.

De Silvestro has substantial backing from Harvey Norman, which would be attractive to Triple-8 if it was still available next year.

But against that she still has a contract at Kelly Racing for next year.

It’s understood the contract requires De Silvestro to be part of a manufacturer-supported team, which is the arrangement at Kelly Racing with Nissan.

However, with Nissan pulling out at the end of the year that may give her the opportunity to move to Triple-8. There are also suggestions that Tickford Racing Ford driver Chas Mostert is a possibility but is contracted to the end of 2019.

And team boss Tim Edwards has made it clear that the 2014 Bathurst 1000 winner will be staying.

I wonder if there is a performance clause in that contract?

BACK TO THE FUTURE

CALLING ONE AND ALL: The Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania will hold a motorsport reunion at Symmons Plains next Saturday.

CALLING ONE AND ALL: The Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania will hold a motorsport reunion at Symmons Plains next Saturday.

The Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania will hold a motorsport reunion at Symmons Plains to celebrate Tasmania’s rich history of the sport next Saturday.

In June 2013, a group of passionate motorsport people held the first such gathering at Baskerville and were surprised when more than 300 former and existing drivers, entrants, crew members and motorsport friends turned up at the circuit.

As a result the club was formed and has organised a number of reunions at parts of the old Longford, Quon Hall and Valleyfield circuits.

Those attending are invited to bring along old race cars and memorabilia and Motor Sports Tasmania has kindly given the club permission to use the facilities.

There will not be any track activity, but the day will provide an opportunity to catch up with old friends and reminisce about the past as well as look at the displays.

The club will be providing a gold coin sausage sizzle and tea, coffee and light refreshments will be available.

The reunion will be held between 10.30am and 3.30pm and anyone who wishes to attend should contact Dennis Burgess on dennisburgess@ozemail.com.au or text 0478 607 313.