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Analysis: The changing face of the grid in 2019

With Craig Lowndes retiring from full-time driving and Mark Winterbottom in a Holden Commodore, the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship grid will look very different at the 2019 season-opening Superloop Adelaide 500, as we explore in SupercarXtra Magazine issue #108.

07 January 2019

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Back in 2005, the last year Mark Winterbottom wasn’t part of Tickford Racing, Russell Ingall won the title, Marcos Ambrose had yet to depart for NASCAR, Lowndes only had one Bathurst 1000 win and Jamie Whincup had yet to race for Triple Eight Race Engineering.

The last time Lowndes wasn’t a full-time driver in Supercars back in 1997, Whincup and Winterbottom were still racing in go-karts, Peter Brock was still racing full-time, Marcos Ambrose had yet to debut in Supercars and Triple Eight Race Engineering was six years away from arriving in Australia.

That puts into the perspective the significance of Lowndes’ retirement as a full-time driver and Winterbottom’s departure from Tickford Racing and move to Team 18 for 2019.

Lowndes kickstarted the silly-season moves with his retirement announcement, then won Bathurst and the PIRTEK Enduro Cup. He reunites with Triple Eight Race Engineering as an endurance co-driver with Whincup in 2019.

With Sandown moving to November, Lowndes’ next Supercars race will be at the 2019 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, where he will be out to defend his title and add to his tally of six Bathurst wins with the team.

Despite strong results throughout 2018, Lowndes insists he’s “still happy with the decision” and he “still believes it’s the right time” to retire.

Winterbottom’s departure from Tickford Racing was the second shock of the silly season, ending a 13-year partnership that began in 2006 and netted a Bathurst win in 2013 and championship in 2015.

It also means Winterbottom will race a Holden for the first time in his Supercars career, having raced Falcons exclusively through the Dunlop Super2 Series and main game, and his Ford links dating back to his karting days.

“It’s very hard to walk away after 13 years” says Winterbottom.

“That’s probably the saddest part, but life moves on and you look for new challenges.”

For more from Winterbottom and Lowndes, read their latest columns in issue #108. 

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