The latest chapter in an often-spiteful rivalry between the Prodrive Racing and Triple Eight Engineering teams is being written, with the former launching a protest hearing against the latter following contact between their respective frontrunning drivers Mark Winterbottom and Craig Lowndes in Sunday’s final race at Sydney Motorsport Park.
The pair was battling in a closely-packed midfield when, during a sudden rain shower, Lowndes hit the back of Winterbottom at Turn 2, pitching the championship leader’s Ford Falcon off the circuit.
Lowndes would go on to finish the race in tenth, while Winterbottom chalked up his worst result of the season in sixteenth place. The result saw Winterbottom’s championship advantage over Lowndes trimmed to 255 points, but Lowndes was bumped down to third in the Drivers’ Championship standings by Winterbottom’s teammate Chaz Mostert, who won Sunday’s race.
Prodrive had expected Lowndes to be issued with a points’ penalty in a post-race stewards’ hearing over the pair’s contact, but the panel ruled it to be a racing incident.
That didn’t sit well with Prodrive, which has subsequently appealed the decision. The protest will be heard at the next round of the championship at Sandown Raceway in mid-September.
The spat between the drivers – who have had a number of comings-together in recent years – continued via social media, with Winterbottom taking to Twitter and accusing Lowndes’ contact of being deliberate.
Lowndes did not return fire via social media, but has subsequently suggested that Winterbottom and Prodrive have a serious case of sour grapes.
“He is just trying to make a mountain out of a molehill,” Lowndes said to the official V8 Supercars website.
“I haven’t spoken to him and he hasn’t spoken to me but if he wants to go on with it on social media that is his call.
“It wasn’t intentional. I don’t go around hitting people off-track. That’s just part of motor racing, sometimes you get the good side and sometimes you get the bad side. We have all been there and sometimes you have to accept decisions that you don’t like regardless of whether you think they are right or wrong.
“I have been in there many times in the past where think I have been in the right [but found at fault], and you have to accept it unless you go to the stewards and Prodrive obviously don’t want to accept it.”
Prodrive’s view is understandably different, with team principal Tim Edwards arguing that the stewards got the decision wrong at the first hearing.
“You can’t get punted off the track and someone just gets away with it scot-free; it’s not the way we operate,” he countered.
“At the end of the day we had no intention of protesting it, it’s only the fact that nothing has been done about it.
“Our grievance is probably more with that than what Craig actually did. To us it was a no brainer that Craig would get a points penalty and we would all move on.”
Images via V8 Supercars