EVEN the Gods love Craig Lowndes.
Thunder, lightning and lashing rain helped Lowndes extend his legend when the Holden hero was awarded the Endurance Cup’ after the Gold Coast 600 was declared a washout.
Continuing his fairytale farewell as he prepares to retire from full-time driving, Lowndes was declared the endurance season king after an abandoned race denied Scott McLaughlin his shot at the crown.
Lowndes and co-driver Steve Richards emerged triumphant after wet weather forced Supercars officials to abandon the second instalment of the Gold Coast after just 43 laps.
“What a weekend,’’ Lowndes said.
“Saturday we qualified poorly and stormed back through the field and Sunday we qualified well and then the storm came.
Craig Lowndes celebrates his bizarre win on the Gold Coast. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images
“It has been a hell of a run but it is special to be able to take it (the Pirtek Endurance Cup) back to the workshop with both my and Richo’s name on it.’’
The Endurance Cup — awarded to the combination with the most combined points from the Sandown 500, Bathurst 1000 and the Gold Coast 600 — was the only trophy awarded after the Surfers Paradise street fight was abandoned.
Officials stopped proceedings at 4.25pm local time with the field eight laps short of completing the distance required to be “classified” a race.
“Safety comes first,’’ Triple Eight Race Engineering boss Roland Dane said.
LEGEND: Lowndes wins 7th Bathurst 1000 crown
“Not just for the drivers but for all the volunteers and staff. We were right to suspend the race. We need to just accept the fact that sometimes we need to look at the big picture. When it is raining like this there comes a point when you have to say the weather simply got the better of us.’’
The flooded racetrack that was deemed unsafe for racing denied DJR/Team Penske pilot Scott McLaughlin a chance at winning the Endurance Cup and extending his championship lead over Red Bull rival Shane van Gisbergen.
“We were going quite well and had a good chance,’’ McLaughlin said.
“But at the end of the day it is safety first for everyone. It was pretty bad out there and it was the right decision to stop it.’’
Craig Lowndes and other drivers battled incredible conditions. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images
McLaughlin stole the championship lead from van Gisbergen on Saturday and was out to extend his 14-point lead before rain ruined the race.
“It has been neck and neck with me and Shane for a while,’’ McLaughlin said.
“Me and Shane are obviously battling hard and I come out of here knowing that they are going to be really strong. We will go to New Zealand next round looking to give it our all and we will fight on.
“Our lead is only little but it is a lead.’’
The day began with sunshine and a stunning top-ten shoot out that saw Dave Reynolds bounce back from his Bathurst heartbreak to win.
Blasting a 1min 10.69 sec early in the session, the Erebus Motorsport driver watched on as big guns Jamie Whincup and McLaughlin both bombed out with kerb strikes.
“I was pretty nervous,’’ Reynolds said.
Steve Richards and Craig Lowndes with the Enduro Cup. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images
“We might have got a bit lucky there with a few kerb strikes.
“But I put a good lap together. I was 90 per cent through Turn 1 and did a good job for the rest of the lap.
The race was ruined after just 30 laps when the heavens opened and chaos reigned.
Paul Dumbrell sparked a five-car pile-up in what was ultimately the last of the proper laps run.
The drivers retreated to their garages on lap 37 as rain and lightning belted the famous Surfers Paradise street track.
“I have never seen conditions this bad,’’ McLaughlin said.
“I was locking up under safety car when I got out there.’’
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Originally published as Washout! Weather gods hand Lowndes bizarre win
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