The Lowndes departure timeline, how it happened
It has been quite an amazing few months for Craig Lowndes, and his supporters. A trawl through the V8SP10 news archives found eleven articles talking about the possible rumor of defection of the three-time champion from his champion team, Holden Racing Team.
The story has, no doubt, been the biggest in Australian domestic motorsport in recent times, and will continue to be so as Lowndes now finds a new team, and Holden Racing Team attempt fill the hole left by the departure of Australia's most recognisable modern day race driver.
The whispers about discontent in the Lowndes camp were about far before it was first
reported by V8SP10. The first sign of a possible change in the landscape was on 16 August, when it was announced that Lowndes would drive a Panoz Sports Car in the season ending ALMS race at Adelaide on New Years' Eve.
There were two significant points in this announcement; one was that Lowndes was still contracted by Holden Racing Team on that day (albeit the last day of his contract), and two, that the Panoz Engine, at the time, contained Ford parts.
But this was nothing compared with what came next on 21 August. Geoff Polities, Ford Australia's motorsport chief, called for Lowndes to decide what he wants to do, and stated that "Lowndes knows my phone number. If he's interested in changing we would be interested in talking to him. He's a very talented driver."
This started the first firestorm about Lowndes' future. HRT would not speculate on Lowndes future when contacted by us that day.
Then the second peak was reached in early September, when it was reported that D-Day had arrived, and that Lowndes' future would be announced tomorrow. This turned out to be a non-event, with HRT being critical of the ongoing speculation driven by the media.
This was expected to settle down the rumor mill until after the Queensland 500, but it had the reverse effect, with more rumors about Lowndes' future destination surfacing, including a possible move to Castrol Racing, or Kmart Racing.
HRT supremo John Crennan went public about Lowndes' outrageous demands during negotiation in Australian AutoAction.
The fuel was added to the fire when Neil Crompton announced an amicable separation from Ford Tickford Racing. With Lowndes signature still not on the HRT dotted line, he was on top of the FTR shopping list for 2001.
Seton announced that it was not likely that Lowndes was one of the two candidates remaining for the second FTR seat on October 13. This, combined with other media reports indicated that Lowndes was going to sign with Holden Racing Team, and that it was just a matter of time.
That was, until yesterday, when Lowndes announced his departure to the surprise of the motorsport community. Holden Racing Team appeared equally surprised at the news, delivered to them in a statement from Lowndes' lawyers. HRT's reply was swift, and critical of the negotiation process which led to the end of the negotiations.
To be continued...
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