Following the news that 25-year-old V8 Supercars star Shane Van Gisbergen will return for his second run at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, two of the series’ most dominant drivers tell RACER they’d also like to find rides for January’s classic endurance racing event.
Triple 8 Racing teammates Jamie Whincup (at right, ABOVE) and Craig Lowndes (at left) have amassed incredible records during their tenure in the V8 series, with Whincup recently capturing his sixth championship in a seven-year span and Lowndes holding firm at three titles dating back to 1996.
Whincup’s four wins at the legendary Bathurst 1000 complement the five earned by Lowndes, and both have excelled in sprint and endurance formats. Lowndesy’s win in 2013 at the Bathurst 12 Hours driving a Ferrari F458, endurance racing experience in an Audi R8 LMS, and participation at the Spa 24 Hours in a Ferrari prepared by AF Corse (see video below) would made his transition into a GT Le Mans or GT Daytona seat rather easy.
“The Daytona 24-hour is definitely on my radar; it’s just a matter of getting an opportunity,” Lowndes told RACER. “It’s on my agenda, it’s a race we want to go over and compete in, and something I want to be part of. If there’s any chance of driving with a good team, I’d be right there.”
Lowndes credits the speed and professionalism demonstrated by Van Gisbergen during his Rolex 24 debut in January with Alex Job Racing for stoking interest among V8 drivers, and hopefully piquing the interest of TUDOR United SportsCar Championship teams in need of top-tier driving talent.
“Looking at what Gizzy (Van Gisbergen) did his first time over at Daytona, he showed what we’re capable of,” Lowndes added. “Shane’s an incredibly quick driver, and I think he did himself some favors and also hope he did Aussie drivers some favors as well with his performance. There are definitely a lot of V8 drivers who would happily get on a plane and head over for Daytona.”
The V8 series kicks off its season in late February and runs through early December, making the Jan. 9-11 Road Before The 24 test and Jan. 23-25 Rolex 24 race the only window of opportunity to explore. Speaking with Whincup shortly after he won his sixth title, the mercurial 31-year-old told RACER he’s been looking at the Rolex 24 in recent years.
“It’s certainly something I want to do, and you’ve actually triggered my memory to try and sort something out!” he said. “I’m doing a Europe trip later in January, so maybe I could fly over to the U.S. before and do Daytona as well. I want to look into it and see what I can do. Shane has nothing but good things to say about the event and said he had a good time. I’m absolutely interested in looking outside of the V8s series to do one-off events and show what we’ve got Down Under.”
While the 40-year-old Lowndes has an extensive racing history that includes major enduros, Whincup’s experience is limited, by comparison. Whincup’s routine domination of the V8 series longer races – up to six hours in length – with teammates ranging from Sebastien Bourdais to the late Allen Simonsen is an indicator of his potential, and his position as the sport’s most successful and consistent driver should open the door to add Daytona to his resume.
As Bourdais (LEFT, Marshall Pruett photo) told RACER, his former Triple 8 teammates would be welcome additions to the TUDOR Championship season opener.
“Craig has been driving GT cars pretty regularly and has been driving everything for many years now; he’d be ready for Daytona anytime, plus he’s a great guy. I don’t think Craig, or Jamie, or any of the top V8 guys would have any problems. Daytona isn’t that hard of a track, to be honest, and you really need guys who are quick and smart, and that’s what these guys have to do for a living already,” he said.
“Jamie and I won some good races together; he’s super quick, very reliable, makes very few mistakes, and is very talented. When you put them in different circumstances like endurance racing, they adapt and get it done. He’s the guy to be reckoned with in the V8 series, and when you see how close the series is, it’s a massive achievement for what he’s accomplished.”
Bourdais won the 2014 Rolex 24 with the Action Express Racing team, and says he’d welcome having a V8 reunion in Florida in January as he returns to defend his victory.
“Jamie’s a great all-round driver, Craig is like a legend down there, and many of those guys deserve more than to be restricted to the V8 series,” he noted. “That’s the cool thing about Daytona: It happens way before all the series start, so you can get all these drivers like Jamie and Craig to come add to the race.”