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by Tim Beissmann

Australian V8 Supercar racer Craig Lowndes will drive Jenson Button’s McLaren Formula One car around Bathurst next month in what will be a first for both the champion driver and the legendary circuit.

Bathurst Regional Council last night approved the proposal, which will see the two Vodafone-sponsored racing teams come together next month in the lead up to the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park.

On Tuesday March 22, Lowndes will get behind the wheel of Button’s McLaren Mercedes F1 car, while Button will likewise jump in the cockpit of Lowndes’ Triple Eight Racing Holden Commodore V8 Supercar.

Each driver will complete five laps in their counterpart’s vehicle, with three of those to be at top speed.

Official final approval is still required from the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS), but Bathurst Region Council expects this to be a formality.

Bathurst Mayor, Paul Toole, explained it would be the first time a Formula One car had ever driven around the Mount Panorama circuit.

“This is fantastic news for Bathurst and we are thrilled that everyone has been able to work together and make it happen in such a short period of time,” Mr Toole said.

“Mount Panorama is one of the world’s premier racing circuits and Formula One is the planet’s premier motor racing category so this event will provide huge exposure for our region.”

Lowndes set the lap record around the mountain during practice at last year’s Bathurst 1000. His time of 2:06.8012 is expected to fall as he pilots the McLaren around the 6.213km circuit.

Engineers are still making sure the F1 car will be able to make it around the track unmodified, with the steep drop of The Dipper especially coming under review.

The Vodafone car swap is a step up from a similar event last year, when Jamie Whincup and Jenson Button swapped cars around Albert Park.

This year’s Australian Formula One Grand Prix will be run on March 27.




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