One of the high-profile wildcard entries at this year’s Repco Bathurst 1000, Craig Lowndes and Declan Fraser defied the doubters to finish strongly, achieving the best finish for a wildcard entry in the history of the Great Race.
Lowndes, a 28-time Bathurst starter and seven-time winner, brought experience to the Triple Eight-backed Supercheap Auto entry, while Fraser, a Super2 series frontrunner with Triple Eight, brought proven speed and enthusiasm to his Bathurst 1000 debut.
When the wildcard was announced in June, Lowndes declared the pairing would be competitive, adding that he was excited to guide the rookie Fraser on his journey into Supercars.
For his part, Fraser said it was almost surreal to see his name alongside Lowndes’s on the #888 Supercheap Auto ZB Commodore.
After aquaplaning the car in dramatic fashion in practice, Lowndes qualified in 16th place and would make his 300th ATCC/Supercars race start as the opening driver. Avoiding the incidents that marred the early laps, Lowndes had picked up six places and moved into the Top 10 before handing over to Fraser, who kept the Supercheap Auto car inside the Top 15 and was even leading at one point during the pit stops.
Midway through the race, Lowndes was back in the car and back in the Top 10, with Fraser holding a similar position for his next stint.
Late in the race, Lowndes was in ninth, hunting down the Shell V-Power Racing Mustangs of Anton de Pasquale and Will Davison. When Davison crashed with 20 laps to go, Lowndes was elevated to eighth; a position he would hold until the chequered flag.
Eighth was the best for a wildcard entry in the history of the Bathurst 1000, eclipsing the tenth that Andy Priaulx and Mattias Ekstrom achieved in 2013.
"We started the race with high hopes of being in the 10,” said Lowndes.
"The car was really strong at the end of the race and to finish eighth, I’m really pleased with that.
“To be the highest-placed wildcard entrant ever at the Bathurst 1000 is really pleasing.”
For his part, Fraser was rapt to be involved and get through his first ever Supercar race without incident.
"I got to lead my first ever Supercars race, even got to do my Safety Car [restart] and we sat comfortably my whole stint,” the 22-year-old said.
"I just can’t thank Craig, Supercheap Auto, Triple Eight and everyone involved enough.
“It’s my first ever Bathurst 1000 and to come home in P8, I’m absolutely ecstatic and I can’t believe it."