The two sides of Craig Lowndes
When he’s not pushing a V8’s limits he’s an impressive dishwasher-stacking homebody, his wife says
LARA Lowndes was not trackside when her husband Craig, a V8 Supercars legend, crashed on Phillip Island in April. But even watching from afar, Lara was looking out for signs of consciousness.
“The first thing I look for, particularly when the car comes to a halt, is that he’s moving, he’s relaxed,” she said.
Despite smashing into a tyre barrier at about 140kmh, Craig walked away from the crash during a practice round at the Phillip Island 500.
His Holden did not fare so well and TeamVortex scrambled to fix the car before the race.
Lara said after assessing the safety and well-being of her husband after a crash, her thoughts often turned to the rest of the team.
“There is a single person sitting between the steering wheel and the seat, and that’s the driver, but there’s an entire group that sits behind the scenes that gets that car on the track,” she said.
“Craig’s just the pilot and you know what’s coming for (the team). You know they won’t be going to bed that night.”
Lara is pragmatic when it comes to the life-threatening nature of the crashes.
“From my perspective, they’re professional athletes and it’s in their job description,” Lara said.
“If you can see their in-car footage, they know what they are doing.
“They go through their processes. They relax their hand on the wheel, they relax their body, he opened his visor, just things like that – they know what they’re doing.”
And Lara knew what she was signing up for after her own experience as a driver’s co-ordinator for the Peugeot world rally team in Europe.
She grew up in Perth in a family who followed motorsports, and this love of racing continued into her adult life.
Lara returned to Australia and what she called a “grown-up” job when the Peugeot team dissolved in 2005.
Craig and Lara met through motorsport, romance blossomed and they married at the end of 2015.
‘‘ When he’s at home, he’s my husband. We’re still cooking dinner, we’re still unloading the dishwasher, I’m still in the office 8.30 to five on a good day. You’ve got to be your own person, it’s not just about being Craig Lowndes’ wife.
She said her own rally car experience helped her understand the processes Craig and his team went through during a race.
“Craig’s very congruent in the way that he operates. He doesn’t get particularly moody or anything like that, but I know when to leave him alone or when he might need a cuddle,” Lara said.
She now juggles her own management consulting work with her involvement in the business and sponsorship side of Craig’s racing career and is often trackside to support her husband.
She also works with the Prince Charles Hospital Foundation in Brisbane.
“It’s really important, although yes you do understand motorsport, to be your own person,” Lara said.
And in their downtime, the couple enjoy spending time at home, where Lara said Craig remained the fastest dishwasher stacker in Queensland.
“When he’s at home, he’s my husband,” she said. “We’re still cooking dinner, we’re still unloading the dishwasher, I’m still in the office 8.30 to five on a good day.
“You’ve got to be your own person, it’s not just about being Craig Lowndes’ wife.”
Craig, who turned 43 last month, is in north Queensland this weekend for the Townsville 400.
The six-time Bathurst winner announced the split with his first wife, Natalie, in 2011 after 14 years together.
They have two children and the teenagers are cultivating interests in ‘horsepower’ of a different kind to their dad.
His son Levi has found an interest in dirtbikes, which Craig is also passionate about, while his daughter Chilli has started horse riding.
And like all children who grow up with dads who work away, Craig said the kids were used to him travelling for race meets.
“If you can’t be there physically, you can be there in other ways,” he said.
“For me, it’s great with the technology these days. You can Skype them and see them and talk to them and keep up with what’s going on.”
Craig and Lara now live in Brisbane, about an hour from Craig’s former wife.
After more than two decades in motorsport, the Triple Eight driver’s most memorable moment on the track remains winning the inaugural Peter Brock Trophy at Bathurst in 2006. Brock died in a rally car crash in Perth in 2006.
“We all went there wanting to win the first ever Peter Brock trophy,” Craig said.
“We were lucky enough to do that and have our name engraved on it.”
Brock, who won the Bathurst 1000 nine times, went to the same Melbourne high school as Craig.
He was a teammate and mentor for the younger driver. “He always had a positive way of looking at life,” Craig said. “Over the course of my time with him, we had incidents on track and I was constantly talking about the issue or problem.
“He turned around and said to me, ‘The only thing you are going to do by always looking back on the issue is get a sore neck.’ ”
Craig said it was important to him to have Lara nearby during his race preparation.
“I’m not superstitious so I don’t need lucky underwear or different gloves, but she definitely understands my routine and what I need to do before driving a car,” he said.
“That’s something for me that is great, because then I don’t have to think too much about that side of it.
“The other thing is when you have a bad weekend or a bad day, you have someone to talk to and I suppose vent and get it all out so that it doesn’t stay within you.
“I’m lucky that she does understand the motor racing world.”
◗ Craig Lowndes with wife Lara Lowndes during the Bathurst 1000, at the Mount Panorama Circuit, last year. BORN TO RACE: Lowndes was nine when he began driving go-karts at a track in the Victorian town of Whittlesea.