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

Central and North Burnett Times - - READ - BY Letea Cavander

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.”

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

◗ 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.

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