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We drive Craig Lowndes' Commodores

Andrew Maclean
10 October 2014
www.drive.com.au

Craig Lowndes hands us the keys to his signature Commodore - and his Red Bull Racing V8 Supercar.

There's a thick, grey blanket of cloud hanging low in the sky and a wind cold enough to freeze a penguin is keeping the temperature in single figures.

It's bitterly cold but there's a hive of activity in the paddock area behind Sandown Raceway's pit lane as an army of worker bees in hi-viz uniforms dismantle a village of temporary structures.

There's a buzz in a few of the garages too, as a league of sponsor-clad personnel from Red Bull Racing Australia prepare to give those who pay their wages – and others who have paid for the privilege – the ride of their life in a ridgy-didge V8 Supercar alongside either five-time champion Jamie Whincup, Bathurst legend Craig Lowndes or his co-driver, Steven Richards.

Two days ago, it was a different story altogether. The paddock was lined end-to-end with transporters and marquees, the garages were nests of stress and strategy and the circuit was bathed in glorious spring sunshine for the Sandown 500, the first of three endurance races in the V8 Supercar championship and the warm-up to this weekend's Bathurst 1000.

At the end of its 161 laps, Lowndes joined his Red Bull crew in yet another shower of champagne from race winner Whincup (and co-driver Paul Dumbrell) after the veterans narrowly missed out on joining the podium antics with a hard-fought fourth place.

Today though, in spite of the chill and his result, the 40-year old arrives back at the circuit with his unflappable cheer and wearing his trademark ear-to-ear grin.

Among a collective of racing robots full of self-importance, there is something special about Lowndes that has made him the unequivocal fans' favourite.

Few drivers have managed to journey across the crevasse that divides Ford and Holden supporters and survive. Even fewer have ever successfully made it back again.

Lowndes has. And so did Peter Brock, the King of the Mountain who mentored the early part of his career when he was known as "The Kid".

There is an uncanny familiarity about the path both drivers have walked to achieve their places among legends of Australian touring car racing.

There is also now an uncanny familiarity about their involvement with Holden away from the racetrack as clearly the Aussie car maker thinks Lowndes is a little bit special too and, in celebration of his 20-year career in V8 Supercars, it has created a limited run of Craig Lowndes signature edition Commodores based on the range-topping, high-performance SS-V Redline.

It is the first time Holden has done anything similar since the demise of Brock's Holden Dealer Team division in the late 1980s, and it is the reason why I'm here today ... to find out whether Lowndes feels even more like his idol, and to be among the first in the country to drive his car.

It's the first question I ask moments after joining him in the heavily bolstered, leather-clad front seats as he gives the starter button a quick one-finger punch to fire the 6.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 into life.

"I'm hugely proud, and honoured," Lowndes says.

"I grew up idolising him [Brock] and I'm lucky to have been a part of a team with him. I still admire those cars that he created with HDT back in the day, so for me to do the same in the next generation is really quite special."

Holden will build 230-odd Craig Lowndes Edition Commodores, each costing $57,990 plus on-road costs (or $60,190 for the six-speed auto) and only available in either Heron White or the Red Hot of our test car.

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Picked one of these up today to review for week apart from the brakes feeling a touch better it's pretty much just like any other SSV, but it looks much better then any SSV I've seen, the bonnet stripes, black roof, black rims really set the car it looks amazing from any angle.
Had a brief play with the paddles and they work great and there's a nice blip of the throttle as you down shift.
 
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