Subject: Craig and Nat Lowndes...
We apoligise for the lateness in our reply. Nat and I are in Brisbane this week-end to enjoy easter with our family.
Last week's Clipsal 500 was tougher to get through than any Bathurst campaign we've been on - it's just as well it's always fun, or it would feel too much like hard work!
For us as a team, the event was a perfect showcase of the highs and lows of motorsport. It's hard to describe the feeling of winning such an important race as the Clipsal 500 on Saturday. Victory is always sweet, but this, our first for Ford and in the presence of Ford Australia boss Geoff Polities, was really special. I speak for everyone at Gibson Motorsport when I say that we feel as though a weight of expectation has been lifted off our shoulders. We didn't expect to be this competitive this early, but now we're more motivated than ever to keep the momentum going.
This Sunday race started well, and then it seemed like the pace car was in front of the field more than our 00 Falcon. Being the lead car means that is it difficult to capitalise on incidents when they happen; we missed on a couple of crucial pit stop opportunities simply because we were on the other side of the track. We were in seventh spot when a rear tyre that had been damaged avoiding an incident deflated, so we had to pit to change it. We re-entered in eleventh position, behind my old team-mate Mark Skaife.
The race on Sunday was worth double the championship points of the day before, so it was important to finish as high as we could. The car was perfect, the day was sunny and I decided to do a flyer of a lap to prove the competitiveness of the Ford. We were wrapped when we beat the lap record by seven tenths of a second! With a tap, I prompted Skaife to veer left and make some room for the pass, but he wasn't up for it. Next thing I knew I was neatly parallel-parked near the wall with a race-ending hole in the radiator. That's racing for you. Congratulations to Jason Bright for winning the race!
After the race I learned that some bad language went to air straight after the incident, picked up from team communication channels. Unfortunately for us, the comments were broadcast while there was an image of me wearing my helmet on screen, so a lot of people made the logical connection that I'd said them. Neither myself or any of the crew at Gibson Motorsport were responsible for the remarks, and I'm concerned if any supporters, especially young ones, got the wrong idea. I work hard to set a good example to kids and up and coming sports people, and this includes keeping a cool head in tough situations.
Speaking of up and coming sports legends, the first part of last week was devoted to driving around Malalla coaching Nat for her racing debut in the All-Female Celebrity Challenge support event, driving a Ford Laser painted in the scheme of the 00 Falcon. On the first day during training I teased her for being all arms and elbows behind the wheel. I offered a demonstration, so I steered a lap explaining the sequences I use and the secret to driving quick while looking slow and smooth in the cabin. What I didn't know was the someone had set a stopwatch and marked my lap time. As the day went on, Nat got quicker and quicker, and smashed my lap time!! All the girls has a good laugh!! Bruised ego aside, the Gibson Motorsport team and I were ecstatic when Nat won the Celebrity Challenge on Sunday; and congratulations to all the girls, especially second and third place getters Tatiana Grigorieva and Jillie Johnson!
Apart from not finishing the race on Sunday, the Clipsal 500 was a fantastic event for Gibson Motorsport, and proved once again to be a highlight of the calendar for drivers and spectators alike. It's been said that Nat and I set a new record by being the first husband and wife to start on pole at a national race meeting! Geeze I am proud of her! To do this and both claim wins at such a demanding circuit is a feat we will remember proudly!!!
We wish you a fantastic Easter with your families and hope you enjoy the next race at Eastern Creek in Sydney on the 28-29th April!!
All the best,
Craig and Nat.