CURRENTLY leading the V8 Supercars championship, Craig Lowndes has been in the game long enough to know there's no need to start counting chickens just yet.
He's preparing for a long year in a season which has already delivered some surprises.
"We've already seen plenty of different winners, so it's obviously going to be a highly competitive year," he said,
"Preparations (for Auckland) are going well, we've spent a lot of time thinking about why we struggled for race-winning pace at Winton, but I don't expect we'll have those problems in New Zealand which is a completely different style of circuit.
"There are no added challenges racing in New Zealand, it's a great place and the fans are so enthusiastic."
Lowndes said youngster Scott McLaughlin in the Volvo had surprised everyone in pit lane this year.
There has been an interest resurgence for the V8s with the introduction of Volvo, joining fellow newbies Nissan and Erebus (Mercedes-Benz) up against the Ford and Holden stalwarts.
"The Volvo has surprised everyone with its speed, the Mercedes-Benz has now won its first race and the Nissans have been up there... I think the variety at the front is great for the series, and it's great to see fans wandering around wearing different colours," he said. "Personally I'd love to see more brands as it makes the sport more relevant to the car market here and the investment would be good for the sport. It also keeps it all fresh."
While Lowndes' on-track performance is well documented, we caught up with him to discuss motoring life away from the V8s.
What was your first car?
My first car was a 1966 Ford Cortina … a four-door in silver. It kinda looked like a GT but it wasn't. I still have it.
What are you driving now?
A Holden Colorado. It's very practical, good for carrying kids and lots of gear, and it's nice and low-key. It's a good car.
What cars did your family have while you were growing up?
Dad had a Ford panel van, it was a six-cylinder and white. Mum had a red Nissan Pintara. Funny, dad and I turboed both of them!
Do you have any preferred driving music?
Usually I like a mix, so tend to jump between Triple J and Triple M. Also a bit of AC/DC never goes astray.
What is your greatest frustration on the road?
People sitting in the right hand lane and fluctuating speed. Also not indicating, it's outright dangerous.
If you were to pick anyone in the world to go on a road trip, who would it be?
Probably my family. My partner makes a pretty good DJ in the passenger's seat and the kids are a pretty mean choir in the back.
What is your dream car?
I probably shouldn't say this, but a Nissan GT-R (Godzilla). Those things are mean.
Who: Craig Lowndes.
Born: June 21, 1974.
Resume: He shot to fame as a rookie, winning the 1996 series making him the youngest champion at age 22. Lowndes went on to win another two titles in 1998 and 1999. For the past three years he has been runner-up. During his career he has achieved 94 V8 Supercar race wins and more than 30 pole positions. He is a five-time Bathurst 1000 winner (1996, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010) while he also won the Bathurst 12 hour this year.
See him: Driving for the Red Bull Racing team in the V8 Supercars series.