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Lowndes becomes Falcon flyer

Switched camps: Craig Lowndes (left) has forsaken the might of the Holden Racing Team in favour of a new Ford-backed team run by Fred Gibson (right).

Ford motorsport fans will celebrate the Blue Oval's signing of talented Craig Lowndes

Ford logo7 Jan 2001

By GAUTAM SHARMA

THE question of which team Craig Lowndes will be driving for in 2001 and beyond has been laid to rest.

Ford Australia today announced it has signed the former Holden Racing Team icon to spearhead a one-car team handled by one of Australia's top team managers, Fred Gibson.

Lowndes is contracted to Ford for the next five years.

Rumours regarding Lowndes's prospects for 2001 have abounded since it became clear he would no longer be driving for HRT after the conclusion of the 2000 season.

Many observers had tipped Lowndes would switch allegiances to Ford, although there was also a flurry of rumours that suggested he would drive for a team set up by former Holden legend Peter Brock.

The Gibson Motorsport team could prove a formidable outfit in 2001 as Ford strives to establish itself as a genuine rival for the Holden-backed teams.

Fred Gibson last tasted success as a team owner/manager when the Gibson/Wynns Racing Team Commodore driven by Greg Murphy and Steve Richards took the honours at Bathurst in 1999.

Gibson subsequently sold the outfit to Garry Dumbrell, but he bought back the team and the level one franchise at the end of last year.

Lowndes will open the season for the new Gibson Motorsport team at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in March.

Ford Australia president Geoff Polites said: "I am extremely excited about this opportunity to bring together the tremendous skill of such a talented young driver as Craig with the undeniable expertise of one of Australia's greatest team managers, Fred Gibson. It should be a dynamic combination.

"This new team is another key step in Ford Australia's increased commitment to, and involvement in, what I consider to be arguably the most competitive form of motorsport in the world - the Shell V8 Supercar series.

"Craig Lowndes is undeniably a very impressive young man. He's immensely talented and tremendously popular and we consider it a great coup to have him working with us from 2001 onwards.

"Our existing support of the other Ford teams is unaffected by this new arrangement." Gibson Motorsport will field one car for the 2001 season, but plans to introduce a second car to the team for 2002 and beyond.

Lowndes's place at HRT has been filled by former Ford pilot Jason Bright. Mark Skaife remains the lead driver.

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