The lessons of Lowndes
I first came over to Australia to race Supercars in 2007, back when I was with Team Kiwi Racing. I’ve been on the circuit ever since.
The Aussies have always been very good to me and I’ve got a lot of friends here now. But deep down, I know that New Zealand will always be home for me. It’s honestly the best country in the world.
I grew up on the family farm just south of Auckland in a place called Manukau. My parents have about 40 acres there. It’s a bit of a sanctuary.
Mum has always had horses on the farm that she breeds and sometimes takes showing. It’s her passion in life. She’s got 25 at the moment!
Dad was a competitive rally driver back in the day, which is where my love of motorsport came from. He taught me to drive when I was about nine or 10 years old in the beat-up cars he kept on the farm.
I still try to go back as much as I can. I would rather live there if I could because Australia’s just too hot this time of year – not even the air-cons are enough for me – and nothing beats a New Zealand summer!
It’s always great spending some time with my mum, dad, sister and all my mates. They keep me grounded. They’ve all been very supportive of me over the years as well, following the Supercars around a lot. It’s great having them along to the races. To be honest, I reckon they’d still be going even if I wasn’t a part of it.
They really just want me to enjoy my racing, so that’s all I try to focus on. And that’s the great thing about the team at Triple Eight Race Engineering as well. Everyone is so friendly, and we all push each other to be the best we can.
It’s the most fun I’ve had racing in my career.
WHAT THE FANS DON’T SEE
If there’s one aspect of being a Supercars driver that I find difficult, it’s the media stuff. It has become a pretty tough part of the job if I’m honest.
It wasn’t always this bad for me but, in the last five years, I’ve seen the media get more and more focused on creating headlines.
It’s a change I’ve seen reflected across all sports. There are more and more negative headlines being written that make a spectacle out of things that don’t even matter. It’s a real shame.
Sometimes they don’t consider that the things they write might hurt someone’s feelings.
I’ve been on the receiving end at times, that’s for sure.
For one, the truth is that DJR Team Penske and Triple Eight are two massive teams parked right next to each other in the paddock. The media try to make out as if there is a rift between us. What they don’t show is the camaraderie between us. We have a laugh and play jokes between each other.
At the track, everyone is just so stoked to be there. It’s a really cool vibe. I wish fans got to see that stuff.
I don’t think the media needs to be so negatively geared. I’d think the positive stuff would be even better for the sport.
If I’m guilty of one thing, it’s that I probably don’t try to influence the media enough. But that’s not my style. I try to do my talking on the track.
BEING MORE LIKE CRAIG
For Craig Lowndes, I’m sure the final race on Sunday in Newcastle is going to feel quite bittersweet as he finishes his career as a full-time driver.
I was a big fan of Craig’s before I started racing. Having had the chance to get to know him and work alongside him over the last few years has been incredible.
Seeing how he is still able to perform at the highest level, winning Bathurst 1000s, at this stage of his career, is inspirational. I hope I can be doing half as well when I’m his age.
The thing about Craig that stands out the most is his enthusiasm.
Even when he’s had a shit day, he’ll still jump out of the car smiling and be happy with everyone. That’s not easy when you consider the incredible pressure we are under.
I’m a different personality. I take everything a bit harder and get so focused on the errors I might have made, and how to fix them. Lately, I’ve been trying to be more relaxed like Craig. He’s set an example for me.
I’d love to have Craig as a co-driver next year, but I think it’s a long shot now. Jamie bought into the team a couple of weeks ago as a shareholder, so I reckon he probably has a bit more say than me now!
And, to be honest, it would be amazing to see those two racing together again as well. Regardless of how it pans out, we’ll be pushing the team to be as strong as ever next year.