Lowndes is the right man: Skaife
Mark Skaife has fully endorsed his prodigy Craig Lowndes as the rightful holder of the mantle as the best racing car driver Australia has ever produced.
Lowndes passed Skaife on the all-time winners list at the Chill Perth 360 today with victory ahead of team-mate Jamie Whincup to score 91 career victories. Pepsi Max Crew FPRs Mark Winterbottom was third in an enthralling Super Sprint race.
Fittingly Lowndes passed the milestone of his child mentor Peter Brock in the same number of events - 212. Brock forged much of the early part of Lowndes' career while Skaife was instrumental in grooming him through the middle part of his career.
"If I could choose any driver to break my record Craig is my pick every day of the week," Skaife said.
"When I broke Peter Brock's record at Eastern Creek, Craig was the first person there when I get out of the car; that's typical of the guy he is.
"Of all the great drivers I have competed against in three decades at the top, Craig is without doubt the most naturally skilled I have seen. To win a Championship at 21 is a remarkable achievement in itself but to still be in title contention 19 years later is extraordinary. Had it not been for a guy by the name of Whincup I have no doubt Craig might have as many titles as me by now.
"We have been tremendous rivals over many years but also great friends. Winning Bathurst with Craig three years ago was right up there with the greatest achievements of my career. It was an honour to stand with him on the podium at Mount Panorama and hold the Peter Brock Trophy together, in recognition of our greatest mentor.
"Craig is such an amazing driver and ambassador for V8 Supercars. We as a sport have been incredibly lucky to have Craig on and off the track. His record and mass appeal places him alongside the greatest names in sport, and in that I include the great Peter Brock."
Lowndes also clocked the 100th win for Triple Eight Race Engineering, running as Red Bull Racing Australia; as well as setting the record.
"It's obviously quite remarkable," Lowndes said of the 91st win.
"It has been on the wish list since Adelaide but we failed in Tasmania and we failed in New Zealand. It's almost like your first victory because everyone keeps saying 'just go a bit harder, drive a bit deeper, go a bit faster'. Of course when you finally get your first victory you relax as a person and get on with your job."
Now with the monkey off his back Lowndes is looking at a century of wins.
"It's now nice to have finally have done it and Skaifey was very complimentary," he said.
"I remember when Mark won it at Eastern Creek and remembering how successful he was to be able to achieve that figure was quite special. I'd still like a few more Championships; I think he has got five. That just means I am inconsistent.
"You got to remember that Brock was the all-time and then Skaife but the racing has changed a lot and I have taken over that spot. The racing has changed a lot and we have a lot more opportunities. Not taking anything away from it but the demographic of racing has changed. Having said that, there is a lot more competition these days."
With Whincup coming home in front in the first of the two Super Sprint legs Lowndes took the lead in the opening laps of the second with an inside move at turn one having trailed the current Champion for the first half of the opening race. The clean pass seemed effortless with Lowndes in clear air and headed for the record.
He held on comfortably from there, adding to his record of the most wins in Perth.
Whincup, who started on pole, jumped to the top of the championship standings ahead of Ford's Will Davison, who finished 14th after enduring tyre troubles in the first half.
Yet again Pepsi Max Crew FPR had a left rear tyre drama. After Mark Winterbottom's left rear exploded in New Zealand two weeks ago at high speed this time it was former Championship leader Davison who had the same drama.
The race was run to the 60/60 Super Sprint format, which included a 15-minute "halftime break" and a rolling double-file start for the second part. The last lap before the interval was a heart-stopper for South Australian Scott Pye.
Heading over the hill towards the final turn, Pye's Holden Commodore VF was nudged by Rick Kelly's Nissan Altima. Pye got sideways at 260km/h and was airborne for about 20 metres before luckily not flipping but skidding across the grass.
Two more 100km races with a morning qualifying session are scheduled for the final day of the Perth Chill 360.