SPORTING NEWS PROFILE – CRAIG LOWNDES:
When you think of Craig Lowndes, you think of a charismatic, perpetually smiling character, who has been fortunate enough to rub shoulders with some of the best in Australian racing, and who seems to be naturally gifted in the art of manoeuvring a 460-485 kilowatt four-wheeled beast, in amongst thirty other victory hungry V8 Supercar drivers.
And yet, when asked what defines him from other V8 Supercar drivers, Craig Lowndes simply says, “luck.” Lucky to have worked with and been mentored by Peter Brock, lucky to be naturally talented at driving and lucky enough to have a passion for the sport, and also a love…
Born on the 21st of June in 1974, in Melbourne Victoria, Craig Lowndes began racing go-karts when he was just 9 years of age, and then progressed on to Formula Ford before debuting at Bathurst, in 1994. And from there, his racing career has evolved to see him become one of Australia’s most loved racers.
Claiming victory in the V8’s only 2 years after his debut, saw Craig take his first Championship win. He then went on to win again in 1998, and in 1999. In addition to this, he also has taken out the famous triple-crown with Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000 victories in 1996, and consecutive Bathurst 1000 wins in 2006, 2007, and 2008. The most monumental of these victories, for Craig, was the 2006 Bathurst 1000, as he felt that Peter Brock, the Australian racing legend, and his friend and mentor, who passed away the month before, stood with him on the podium.
“My biggest victory was winning the Bathurst in 2006 because of Peter Brock,” Craig said, confessing that he had goose-bumps just talking about the win. “We had a mutual respect and he was there for me at that race. That was my moment in motorsport; the whole atmosphere was electric — the fans, Pete’s family and mine — and I felt that Peter was such a huge part of that victory.”
Craig was first introduced to Peter Brock in his younger years, as his father, Frank, was what Craig refers to as the ‘mechanical engineer’ for the Holden Racing Team, which Peter drove for. In fact, Craig was born two years after Peter’s first race win at Bathurst.
Without a doubt, racing and a love of cars courses through Craig’s veins. He has tinkered with many a car and followed in his fathers footsteps to become a qualified mechanic, before moving on to race alongside Peter in 1994. Though, Craig does confess that racing, back then, was much more simplified.
“Over the years that I have been driving it has changed immensely – when I started professionally racing V8’s in 1996, things were much quieter. Now the competition has doubled in terms of fan and car attendance, plus sponsorship has become more corporate. In fact, before I even get to put on my race helmet, I have to visit many corporate boxes. I have 20 minutes to talk to some 100-150 people in one box, and then I have to move on to the next one.” Craig then goes on to describe his race lead up. “I need to prepare the hour before driving because I visit the physiotherapist, as do most drivers, to make sure the lower back is feeling good. Then I get to strap-in and focus on driving.” Taking a moment to reflect, Craig then says, “Driving the car is the most exciting event of the day. A couple of tenths is the difference between pole position and being 8th on the grid, whereas as, years ago the gaps were further apart and you had more leeway. Today, I do a lot of debriefing pre-and-post-race; I talk with the team boss, and the engineers, as well as the data-man, who downloads the car’s performance data, and the chief mechanic. We talk a lot about car set-ups and car components to see if it’s working, and then discuss changes. Of course, being a mechanic really helps here.” Craig laughs and then adds, “It is full-on; constantly doing appearances before racing, and trying to do as much as possible sponsor wise, then having to focus on driving the race car.”
When asked what it was like inside that car the moment before racing, Craig said, “Noisy; imagine being surrounded by 30 cars that are sitting on rev limiter, waiting to go, it is really noisy and there are so many distractions. But, you have to focus because you want a good start off that line, you need to concentrate on your start procedure or you will get a bad start and lose positions. Then when you get away on the start line, you need to shift your focus to finding a good race line, so you get away from the dirty line. The first turn and the first lap are the toughest, because we are all looking for that ‘one’ best position, and this means having to avoid rear and front bumpers and any form of contact. You need to get around cleanly and to communicate with your team. Then you concentrate on pace, and the weather. All of these things are all in the back of your mind, the whole time you are racing.”
Winning, or placing in the V8 Supercar Series is a release for Craig, as he said, “I feel relief when I am on that podium, because it means that I got the race right, had a good start, and got the job done. It is a humbling feeling on a personal level, one that I really enjoy because I get to share this with the fans, and for me this is what it is all about.”
For Craig, being an Australian racing champion is not just about winning, it is ultimately about the fans, his and that of the V8 Supercar Series, and it is about friendships and partnerships, with fellow team-mates and sponsors.
“Brock was a huge influence on me in a professional sense. “Always move forward,” he would say, “Because the only thing you get from looking back is a sore neck.” He was very philosophical. Peter Brock was a half-a-glass full man, not half-a-glass empty.”
Craig uses this philosophy when investing in his future, and likes to focuses on traditional investments that he can visually see and touch.
“I crave security when it comes to investment as there is a lot to invest in. People will always give you a rosy outlook, but what are the pros and cons? I am a bricks and mortar person, I like to see what I have invested in. I know the risk and I know the reward, and I understand this.”
Craig’s children, Levi and Chilli, are very much a part of his investment plans. In fact, Craig has adopted the same principal as his parents when it comes to financial planning for the children’s futures.
“I auction off my race gear, on EBay, at the end of every season, and the money I make from this then goes into building my children’s financial future. My parents did this for my brother, and I, and it meant we had financial backing early on. I wanted to follow this tradition for my children,” Craig said. “My driving forces for investment are long-term, I want to make sure my life and income is secure, so that if I am injured I will have enough to live on, and when I finish racing I am then able to sit back and relax and enjoy my family.”
For Craig the most important things to him in terms of life and lifestyle are balance, priorities, enjoyment, friendships and travelling.
“Balance is the key, and it changes as you grow older because your priorities are changing constantly, especially when you have kids. And, enjoyment is a must. If you can’t enjoy life, then what can you enjoy?” Craig asks. “Friendships with my team and fans, are vital, in fact I love hearing what my fans think and talking with them as much as I can, especially when I travel, because it allows me to connect with the cultural vibes.” Craig laughs and then states, “Trust me, as a racing car driver you don’t get to see much, even though you are constantly travelling. There is no time to go sightseeing, you are busy, busy, busy, but it is something that I really love doing.”
For those who are looking to invest, regardless of what they are investing in, Craig’s advice is simple.
“Be one-hundred percent happy and comfortable with what you are entering into and be committed. Only invest what you can afford and don’t take risks, especially if you cannot afford them. You need to be confident, and it is so important that you don’t put everything you have, financially, into the one investment, or you will lose in the long run.”
Being a V8 Supercar driver, like an investor, has its ups and downs, and Craig believes that a lot can be learned from life experience, whether on the race track, or considering your next investment.
“Lows make for better victories, because winning is then that much sweeter; if you haven’t got the fastest car you look at where you can achieve and then aim for that, instead of being first. Lows teach you a great deal, you need to learn from them, and look at what happened and why it happened. In an investing sense, I have either come out even or in front. I always use the same philosophies when we invest and stick to these. And, if I don’t make as much as I expected, then I always look on the bright side and learn from my mistakes.”
“Overall, I am just looking to have a comfortable lifestyle and to be able to watch my kids growing up, and sit back and enjoy my life.”
For more information on Craig Lowndes, please visit his official website and fan club at http://www.craiglowndes.com.au
Please Note: This article was originally written by Tricia L. Snell and published in Lifestyle Investor Magazine Vol. 1.2 | Issue September/October 2009. This article has been altered to suit the changes in Craig’s life and has been re-printed with the permission of the Lifestyle Education Group and Craig’s management.