It seems the motorsport gods are smiling on Supercars veteran Craig Lowndes.
A mistake in qualifying on the streets of Surfers Paradise on Saturday ensured the Bathurst 1000 champion began the opening race of the Gold Coast 600 a lowly 21st.
But the 44-year-old wasn’t giving up hope of securing a result.
Lowndes was the only full-time driver to start the 102-lap race, carving his way into the top 10 after the opening 20 laps.
Then, just as Lowndes was getting ready to hand over to co-driver Steven Richards, a crash sparked a safety car meaning the early pit-stop didn’t cost them any of the places they’d made up as the rest of the field also headed into pitlane.
In the end, Lowndes jumped back in the car at the 61-lap mark and worked his way to a podium finish, passing Holden’s James Courtney late in the race to snatch second.
With Scott McLaughlin (5th) and Shane Van Gisbergen (10th) finishing behind Lowndes, it means he and Richards head into the Sunday’s final race of the weekend holding an 87-point lead in the standings for the Endurance Cup.
“We opted to mix up the strategy, for me to start and then for Steve to do his minimum run in the middle part of the race, and it was just perfect timing for a safety car,” Lowndes said.
“We actually put the call in for me to pit that lap and then, halfway round that lap, the safety car came out.”
The fortuitous timing came two weeks after Lowndes claimed his seventh Bathurst crown in his final full-time season as a co-driver when David Reynolds succumbed to cramps in the race’s final laps.
“If Shane or Scotty had won the race, we would have had to finish eighth to go in equal going into tomorrow’s race,” Lowndes said of the Endurance Cup battle, which is awarded to the best performing pairing across the Sandown, Bathurst and Gold Coast events.
“To be able to beat both of them today was completely unexpected. We thought we might have a fight on our hands but, at the moment, we’ve got a good gap – actually expanded that gap.”