FOR seven time Bathurst 1000 Champion Craig Lowndes, the enforced layoff from the racing world has seen a return to the garage to work on his latest pet project.
WORDS: Mark Walker
Lowndes, a fully trained motor mechanic, is in the final stages of reassembling his first race car – a 1985 Van Diemen Formula Ford, which started his climb along the traditional motorsport ladder, from karting to the big time.
A partial national program in 1991 saw Lowndes come to grips with the open wheeler. The series that year was easily won by Troy Dunstan, with the field including names such as John Blanchard, Brett Peters, Paul Morris, Ron Searle, Cam McConville and Stephen White.
Lowndes started to show his ability in the ’92 Motorcraft Driver to Europe Series, placing fifth behind McConville, Blanchard, Michael Dutton and White, with highlights including a third place at the season opener at Oran Park, and fourth in the penultimate event at Oran Park.
The fact that his car was the only pre-1991 machine in the top 16 of the final point score showed that he had the ability to get the job done.
Guiding Craig through these early days was his father Frank Lowndes, himself highly regarded in the motorsport paddock, with experience dating back to the early days of the Holden Dealer Team.
In a recent video for personal sponsor SACHS, Lowndes uncovered the latest progress on his first racer, which is not far from hitting the race track once again.
“For me this a 1985 Van Diemen, originally built in the UK, shipped to Australia, and we bought it here in 1990, raced it in 1991/’92,” said Lowndes.
“This is what we’re working towards, to get it back to its former glory.
“The bodywork has been done, which is fantastic, we’ve got all of the pieces… so that’s the hard part, on the mechanical side we’ve been slowly working through the wheel bearings, the calipers, the rose joints, basically restoring it again from top to bottom inside and out.
“Now it runs a 1600 Kent engine, so it’s good for about 220km/h, it only weighs 400kg.
“It’s great to have it back home, and I’m looking forward to getting it finished off, and my backside back in it.”
Since becoming a fully-fledged historic category in recent years, Formula Ford has seen bumper fields around the country, with notable drivers from time to time jumping back behind the wheel.
The group is divided up into three sub-groups, with the Lowndes Van Diemen slotting in to Group Fc for cars with a competition history between January 1st 1984, and the 31st of December 1989.
…but back to the Lowndes in Formula Ford story.
Stepping up to the latest RF93 Van Diemen for the ‘93 season, Lowndes was a picture of consistency en route to the inaugural Australian Formula Ford Championship, winning the Winton and Oran Park rounds, while placing on the weekend podium at seven of the eight events.
The move to Formula Brabham the next year was followed by a call up to the Holden Racing Team for Sandown, and the rest they say, is history…