Craig Lowndes has admitted he was surprised by the timing of Jamie Whincup’s retirement announcement ahead of the seven-time champion’s final full-time campaign.
Earlier in Feb 2021, it was confirmed that seven-time champion Whincup will end his full-time career at the end of the 2021 season.
Whincup will transition into team management, taking over from Roland Dane as team principal and managing director of Triple Eight Race Engineering from 2022.
The announcement came some weeks ahead of the new season, with Whincup readying to commence his 18th and final full-time campaign at Repco Mt Panorama 500.
Lowndes acknowledged Whincup’s ambitions of team management, but was surprised he didn’t extend his career into the Gen3 era; something Mark Winterbottom also highlighted.
“It makes sense with his progression… he’s always been saying that he’s wanted to run a race team,” Lowndes told Supercars.com.
“I think that side of it was not a surprise.
“The timing, for me, was more of a surprise.
“For me as a driver, you’d like to go into that next generation car to have a bit of a sense of what it’s like and how it feels.
Whincup recently said that he wasn’t keen to make up the numbers in 2021; rather, he will attempt to win an unprecedented eighth championship.
Knowing the competitive side of the man, Lowndes had no doubts Whincup will give his all in 2021.
“For him, it’s going to be 110 per cent,” said Lowndes, a full-time teammate of Whincup between 2006 and 2018.
“He’ll want to finish off the season strong, regardless of what happens next year(2022).
“He’s always been very focused on the objective, and that is to win races.
“I think he’s going to put the other side behind him, especially when it comes to race weekends, and only focus on the race car.”
At the 2021 season , Whincup quipped that he would rather his final full-time campaign not become a “funeral tour”.
Whincup was Lowndes’ teammate when the latter announced his full-time retirement mid-season in 2018.
Lowndes was celebrated at every event following his announcement at Townsville, before he was honoured by fans, drivers and teams in an emotional send-off at the Newcastle finale.
“I witnessed Lowndesy go through what we call the ‘funeral tour’ a few years back, which I was sort of trying to avoid,” Whincup said.
“But it’s good to get the announcement out of the way early, and certainly have clarity for all our commercial partners and also certainly the staff at the Red Bull Ampol Racing team about what the plans are.
“But really, we can probably talk about more of that at the end of the year(2021).
“I watched Lowndesy go through the 2020 and he’s so much more famous than I ever will be.
“People were sort of treating him like he was going to die the next year(2022), but he’s still a part of this pit lane as much as he ever was, and hopefully I can be the same as well, with the new role.
“So, if you want to get rid of me, unfortunately I’m still going to be around for a little bit longer, just not inside the car.”
Whincup’s final full-time season will commence with opening practice of the Repco Mt Panorama 500. Tickets are on sale now.
The event will be broadcast live on Foxtel and the Seven Network, and will be streamed on Kayo. Check out the full TV schedule here.
“Obviously for him, it’s the right time, and I’m looking forward to what he does now behind a desk instead of a seat.”
The pre-season announcement may have ended speculation over Whincup’s future, but also confirmed he won’t be on the grid when the category enters the Gen3 era next season.