BATHURST, Australia — Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards’ hopes of defending their victory in the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 at Mount Panorama have been dashed.
The No. 888 TeamVortex Holden Commodore was left jammed in gear thanks to a broken selector rod on lap 34, shortly after Lowndes had ceded the driver’s seat to Richards.
The tandem started in 21st after a dismal qualifying performance, but had worked their way up 10 positions before a slow pit stop dropped them from 11th back to their original qualifying position in 21st.
The connection from the gear lever to the gearbox was the culprit at issue, and an in-car view showed the car’s gear lever flopping as Richards went through Skyline and The Dipper.
He limped back to pit road and the car was immediately hustled into the garage area, with crew members from all three Triple Eight teams working to make repairs on the ailing machine.
The car returned to the battle in 26th place, seven laps down on race leader Paul Dumbrell, but out of contention for what would have been Lowndes’ seventh Bathurst win and Richards’ fifth.
Lowndes alluded to the difficulty of fixing the gearbox after climbing from the car, thanks to the fact that the lever and box have to line up correctly before going under a cover to protect it from the driver’s elbows.
“When I was talking to (Supercars pit reporter Greg Murphy just after getting out from the opening stint) the car felt fine,” Lowndes said. “We had no issue or feeling like there was a problem, before obviously, it broke there. It (the gear lever bar) just sheared off. The problem was, with getting in and out of the car, we put a shield over (the gearbox) … and then we couldn’t get it out (to make the repairs easier).”
“The guys worked pretty good to get this three-quarter rod out. Crew chief Ludo (Lacroix) … we’re all disappointed. Now we just want to finish the race and get some points for the championship.”
Lowndes entered the Great Race third in the championship, 157 points adrift of the lead behind teammates Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup.
Whincup and Paul Dumbrell, who is currently behind the wheel of the No. 88 Red Bull Holden Commodore, lead the race at lap 50 of 161, only given up the top spot during pit stops so far.
About the Writer
Jack Cobourn is the international motorsports correspondent at Race Chaser Online, and covers the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, Rally Cars and the FIA World Rally Championship.
Cobourn has been an avid follower of motorsports for years, having not missed a Formula One race in 16 seasons. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware, with a degree in history and a minor in journalism.
Email Jack at: Jack.Cobourn@yahoo.com
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