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Lowndes to campaign all new Audi R8 at Bathurst 12-Hour
IN A coup for two-time Bathurst 12-Hour champions Audi, Craig Lowndes has revealed he will return to the fold with the German marque, rejoining the Audi Sport customer racing Australia team as part of the Jamec-Pem Racing squad for the 2016 endurance classic.

Lowndes is no stranger to the Audi product, the 2014 Bathurst 12-Hour winner having raced as part of the winning assault on the Mount Panorama event in both 2011 and 2012, finishing runner-up to current Jamec-Pem driver Christopher Mies in 2011, whilst he and team-mates Warren Luff and Mark Eddy were eliminated whilst in the lead pack during the 2012 event.

Bathurst however wasn’t Lowndes’ only outing in an Audi in 2012, the three-time V8 Supercar champion also putting in a cameo appearance at the fifth round of the Australian GT Championship at Phillip island, taking victory on debut against the might of Mercedes factory driver Maro Engel.

Having been out-gunned in recent years by the later specification GT3 cars, Audi will be back in 2016 with arguably their best chance to reclaim victory at Bathurst, with the all-new Audi R8 LMS GT3.

Released in May, the dramatically styled R8 LMS made it’s debut at the famed Nurburgring 24-Hour race, taking victory first time out with Mies as part of the four-man team, heralding a new start for a car which over the last six seasons has been the benchmark in GT3 competition.

For Lowndes his return to Bathurst in an Audi provides Australia’s most popular driver with another chance to claim victory on the mountain, to finally seal a win for the brand with the four-rings after missing out by just seven tenths of a second in 2011.

“I’m really looking forward to rejoining the Audi Sport customer racing Australia team at Bathurst,” Lowndes admitted. “For me there’s a little bit of unfinished business there after being on the cusp of victory a couple of times over the years, but I feel next year we have one of the most competitive new generation GT3 cars in the world and an opportunity to really take the fight to Ferrari and Nissan.”

The opportunity to have Lowndes back in an Audi was in part masterminded by Jamec-Pem team-boss Steve McLaughlan. 

McLaughlan has played an integral part in Audi’s return to form in Australian GT, the Victorian also recruiting Mies as a part of his 2015 AGT title assault, a project which currently sees the German leading the championship by 65 points with one round remaining.

“No question, when the opportunity came up to have Craig back in the fold, I knew we had to put it together,” Mclaughlin explained.

“The new Audi has already proven to be a success, so we want to launch the new car here in Australia at Bathurst with the best chance of taking victory, and in my mind, that meant having Craig back in the team to go after that elusive third victory.”

Whilst Lowndes and McLaughlan will form an important part of the Jamec-Pem entry for 2016, the team are tight-lipped about who else will join the driver line-up next February, however it is expected that they will field two cars, and both of them 2015-spec R8 LMS GT3s..

Watch this space, February has suddenly become a whole lot more interesting!

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Craig Lowndes and the Audi R8 GT3
2011 Bathurst 12-Hour         
[Craig Lowndes/Warren Luff/Mark Eddy Joest Racing #7 Audi Australia]

Qualifying: P1

Race: P2 - 0.7141 behind the race winner (fastest lap: 2:09.0861)

2012 Bathurst 12-Hour         
[Craig Lowndes/Warren Luff/Mark Eddy - Phoenix Racing #2 Audi R8 LMS GT3]
Qualifying: P5

Race: DNF (156-laps)

2012 Australian GT (Phillip Island Rnd5)
[Craig Lowndes - Skwirk.com.au #888 Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra]

Qualifying: P3
Race #1: P1
Race #2: P3

2013 Bathurst 12-Hour         
[Craig Lowndes/Warren Luff/Rod Salmon - Skwirk.com.au #6 Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra]

Qualifying: P12

Race: DNF (162-laps)
 

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