CRAIG Lowndes will join illustrious company when he lines up for this weekend's V8 Supercars round in Townsville.
After making his debut at Eastern Creek in 1996, Lowndes will join Peter Brock, Dick Johnson, Mark Skaife, Glenn Seton, John Bowe and Russell Ingall as the only drivers to have started in 200 Touring Car/V8 Supercar races.
The three-time series champion is fourth on the 2012 standings (behind Jamie Whincup, Will Davison and Mark Winterbottom), but showed with a last-round win at Darwin's Hidden Valley circuit that he was ready to make a serious challenge for a fourth crown.
"I'm really excited about this weekend. I would love to celebrate it (my 200th start) with a victory," Lowndes said. "We had very strong cars this time last year in Townsville and we're running the soft tyre combination again.
"If we can get the same performance as Darwin, I'm really confident we can come away with a podium finish."
Lowndes has the incredible record of 83 race wins, 29 pole positions and 94 podiums in his career to date.
The hardest man to beat in Townsville may be his teammate Whincup.
He is the only driver to have scored multiple race wins and pole positions at the 2.86km street circuit.
Whincup has finished first or second in five of the six races held in Townsville and has never qualified outside the top 10.
Meanwhile V8 Supercars officials announced yesterday that a deal had been struck that would see a round of the championship held at Pukekohe, just outside Auckland, for at least the next five years.
That had looked in serious doubt after the previous venue at Hamilton racked up losses of $40 million during its tenure.
Auckland Council yesterday voted to fund the event in Pukekohe for five years from 2013, with an option for another five.
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