Two-Weel attack on safari
A father-and-son team rallies to Craig Lowndes, writes Mark Hinchliffe
CRAIG Lowndes will redouble his efforts to defend his inaugural Australian Safari win next year. The four-time Bathurst winner has confirmed that he and co-driver Kees Weel, of the Gold Coast, plan to compete again next year, possibly with a two-car team.
‘‘Kees is adamant that he wants to do it,’’ says Lowndes, who won the September race in his first attempt.
‘‘He’s already bought a second Colorado and is going to start ripping it apart over Christmas and getting it up to spec. We just need to secure the funding and get the support to carry it through.’’
Lowndes says Weel’s son and former V8 Supercar driver Paul would drive the second car.
The father-and-son team competed in the 2009 rally, but failed to finish because of mechanical problems. Paul didn’t race this year because his wife was about to give birth.
Lowndes says he expects Kees will continue to be his navigator, even if they enter a two-car team.
‘‘We had this discussion between the three of us and I raised that question who would have him (as codriver) and Paul’s response was, ‘You can have him’. Maybe they fight too much,’’ he says.
The two Colorado rally cars will be identical with the same driveline and suspension.
‘‘It’s a proven car that’s easy to copy,’’ Lowndes says. ‘‘Expanding to a two-car team is easy, but expensive. You need more transportation, more mechanics, more personnel and more spares.
‘‘There is a lot more organisation to be done yet to get to that point.’’
Safari organisers have not officially settled on dates for next year’s event, but it is expected to be held on the same weekend as this year, which would be straight after the Phillip Island endurance round on September 16-18.
‘‘So long as it doesn’t clash with the V8 calendar, I’ll be there,’’ he says.
Lowndes also confirms he wants to compete in the gruelling Dakar Rally in South America as early as 2012.
‘‘Definitely I’d be keen and I’m sure Kees would be keen for it,’’ he says.
‘‘It’s just a matter of doing it properly. We don’t want to go over there with a half-hearted attempt but with good equipment.
‘‘This style of car doesn’t suit the Dakar. You need a diesel-engine vehicle. You can get away with it here but not at Dakar.’’
Next month Australia will field the biggest contingent yet to compete in a Dakar Rally, with two car teams and five motorcycle riders.
Lowndes says the growing interest in Australians competing in the world’s toughest motorsport race will aid their efforts to put together a team to compete in the event.
‘‘There seems to be more interest every year, so that should help us with funding and support,’’ he says.
Winning duo: Craig Lowndes and Kees Weel in this year’s Australian Safari.
Picture: Offroad Images