Craig Lowndes celebrates after winning a race earlier this year.
Craig Lowndes celebrates after winning a race earlier this year. SUPPLIED

Lowndes backing van Gisbergen for championship

VETERAN Supercars driver Craig Lowndes is watching his two stablemates fight out the championship across the final two rounds but the six-time Bathurst winner predicts Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen will lift the trophy.

The 27-year-old van Gisbergen holds a 148-point championship lead over Red Bull Racing teammate Jamie Whincup and he would become the first New Zealander to be crowned champion since Jim Richards in 1991 if he can maintain that lead through this week's ITM Auckland SuperSprint at Pukekohe Park Raceway and the final round of the series on the streets of Homebush in Sydney later this month.

Lowndes, who won the championship in 1996, 1998 and 1999, believes van Gisbergen is driving too well to cough up that sort of lead.

"I think Shane will be the guy to beat,” Lowndes said. "He is very determined and we know he is coming back home and he will be hard to beat at Pukekohe and he is also very good at Homebush.

"I thought Shane did a fantastic job last time out at the Gold Coast.

"He really dominated the Saturday. He wasn't as happy with the car on the Sunday and of course Jamie came out and threw some punches back at him. They got a one-two, which is fantastic.”

Lowndes lies third in the title fight but concedes he has too big a gap to claw back to contend for the win. Instead, he is concentrating on the minor placings.

"We have sort of fallen off the back of the points trail with both of those two (van Gisbergen and Whincup).

"We are having our own battle with another Kiwi in Scotty McLaughlin and we are trying to secure the third position in the championship.

"For us, as a team, to get the first one-two-three finish in the championship would be fantastic.”

Lowndes, 42, is looking forward to a slightly different and much simpler format in use across the weekend at Pukekohe.

"Pukekohe is a little different again as we go back on the hard tyre,” he said.

"We have four 100km races so they really are a pure sprint race, no pit-stops, hopefully qualify at the front and hopefully stay there and win some races.”

NZ HERALD



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