Lowndes still smiling after Bathurst drama
Photo Source: AAP
It was enough to wipe the ever-present smile off Craig Lowndes' face.
But the Holden veteran still tried to look on the bright side of his devastating Bathurst 1000 campaign.
Defending Great Race champion Lowndes suffered gear dramas early and a pit lane penalty midway and never recovered, finishing fourth last at Mount Panorama on Sunday.
It was a crushing blow to six-time winner Lowndes' Bathurst title defence.
And his Supercars championship hopes.
Not to mention it occurred at a Bathurst 1000 honouring the 10th anniversary of his great mentor Peter Brock's death.
Yet Lowndes put on a brave face.
"We had great car speed towards the end of the race," Lowndes said.
"But it was frustrating we couldn't make our way forward.
"We cop it on the chin.
"But for us to have the pace that we did, I think it was fantastic to be able to bounce back after a really difficult and disappointing lead into this race - we take a lot out of it."
Perhaps the only positive is that Lowndes remains third in the Supercars drivers' championship, albeit 319 points behind leader Shane van Gisbergen who came second on Sunday.
All eyes were on Lowndes at the Great Race due to the Brock anniversary.
Lowndes received the inaugural winners' Peter Brock Trophy in 2006, one month after the motorsport legend's shock death.
He hoped history repeated.
But fate had other ideas.
Lowndes started 21st on the grid after his worst-ever Bathurst qualifying effort.
He contested his first Bathurst in 1994.
However, Lowndes worked his way up the field to 11th before handing over the reins to co-driver Steven Richards.
Then disaster struck.
Richards complained that the Holden was stuck in sixth gear on lap 34, prompting a frenzied pit stop in which even Lowndes got stuck into the car to help.
All to no avail.
"The failure with the gear lever link was something no one could have predicted," Lowndes said.
"I think it's the first time it's happened in the category.
"It was great work from the team to get the car up and running again."
To cap their horror day, Lowndes received a pit-lane penalty for breach of procedure at the safety car re-start on lap 96 after Andrew Jones' crash prompted the first of six yellow flags.