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Craig Lowndes on Finke debut: “I’m a race driver so I want to try and beat our class, but we’ve got some stiff competition”

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Credit: Chevrolet

With a month until Craig LowndesFinke Desert Race début, he and co-driver Dale Moscatt are more than ready to put their Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 Off-Road Racer to the test.

“We’re both very excited. I think we’ve put it through its challenges so far,” began Lowndes. “We’ve had a number of test days and as we’ve been progressing the truck, we actually got to a point where we start tuning it and understanding it.

“Mechanically, the thing’s a rock, it’s like a tank, so I’m looking forward to seeing what it goes like down the track.”

Lowndes is one of the greatest drivers in the history of the Supercars Championship, winning three titles along with seven Bathurst 1000s to go with his 110 career race victories. His résumé also includes two overall and four class victories at the Bathrust 12 Hour.

Although pavement is his forte, he also certainly knows his way around in the off-road realm. In 2010, Lowndes entered the Australasian Safari rally raid and won on his first attempt. A repeat the following year was in the cards before a rollover ended any prospect of that, and he would not race in the discipline again as his focus shifted back to Supercars.

In 2021, now retired from regular Supercars competition, Lowndes participated in the Finke Desert Race’s Prologue stage in a side-by-side vehicle. Three years after that one-off, he will now run the full distance. He announced his plans to enter the race in March.

“Been to Finke a number of times has a spectator but never actually get a chance to run down the track,” Lowndes continued. “The main aim is obviously for everyone (who have) been involved in this project. It’s been a a passion of love. It’s come from internal of GMSV (General Motors Specialty Vehicles) and we want to see the truck go down but also we want it to return so that’s our first goal.

“Of course, I’m a race driver so I want to try and beat our class but we’ve got some stiff competition. First things first, let’s get it home and then see where we end up.”

The Silverado ZR2 Off-Road Racer is a concept car designed by General Motors in 2022 until Lowndes convinced them to turn it into an actual vehicle. Such a process was completed at GM’s factory in Port Melbourne with support from Chevrolet Racing and Rampex, while American Chevrolet team Hall Racing lent input for building the suspension. It will compete in the Production 4WD category.

Moscatt has served as a navigator in a plethora of off-road series including the Australian Off-Road Championship and World Rally Championship. In January, he and AORC competitor Glenn Brinkman finished twenty-sixth overall in the Dakar Rally’s Challenger class; it was Moscatt’s third Dakar after working with Peter Jerie in 2016 and Molly Taylor in 2023.

“The course is actually very, very diverse so there’s a lot of places where this machine is going to be amazing. I’m really looking forward to the big fast rally sections in the middle of the course; it throws some good roosters out,” Moscatt commented. “It’s a it’s a long, long course. We’re going to be expecting, you know, a few hours in the truck each way. It’s more us getting used to the car and knowing what it can and can’t do. It’s been a hell of a lot of fun.”

The 2024 Finke Desert Race will take place on 7–10 June. Brad Lovell is the defending Production 4WD winner after claiming the 2023 edition in a Ford Ranger Raptor, which was built in partnership between Ford Performance and former Supercars outfit Kelly Racing.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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