Formula One legend Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70, his family have confirmed.
The three-time world champion passed away peacefully overnight on Monday (AEST) – eight months after undergoing a lung transplant.
According to reports from Austria, he initially became ill while on holiday in Ibiza and flew back to Vienna for treatment.
However, his condition worsened leading to doctors deciding to operate.
“With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday,” his family said in a statement.
“His unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur are and will remain unforgettable, his tireless zest for action, his straightforwardness and his courage remain.
“A role model and a benchmark for all of us, he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather away from the public, and he will be missed.”
Lauda, who famous rivalry with British F1 legend James Hunt inspired the Chris Hemsworth film Rush, won three world championships in 1975, 1977 and 1984.
During his battle with Hunt, Lauda was left with severe burns to his face, body and lungs after a near-fatal crash in 1976 but amazingly not only came back to the sport but won the world title the following year.
As well as the burns to his lungs, Lauda also had two kidney transplants as a result of the crash, from his brother in 1997 and from his wife in 2005.
Since retiring from the sport for good in 1985, Lauda was still a prominent figure in the F1 paddock after being appointed as Mercedes’ non-executive chairman in 2012, playing a big role in persuading now five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton to join the team.
Back then, McLaughlin was just three years old and could only harbour dreams of racing success. Now, he’s living those dreams to the fullest, and a second drivers’ title is all but a certainty with the New Zealander building a massive 573-point lead.
Lowndes achieved the mark as a 22-year-old rookie with the Holden Racing Team in 1996, and went on to take 107 career victories alongside three drivers’ titles and seven Bathurst wins.
Sunday’s Race 22 win at The Bend Motorsport Park marked McLaughlin’s 41st career victory, opening a door into where the 26-year-old sits in ATCC/Supercars history.
McLaughlin is now sixth all time on the race winners’ list. Only Jamie Whincup (114), Lowndes, Mark Skaife (90), Garth Tander (54) and Peter Brock (48) have won more races.
Think of names like Glenn Seton, Mark Winterbottom, Allan Moffat and John Bowe. McLaughlin is ahead of all of them, and he’s continuing to rise up the list.
Master qualifier McLaughlin is already second all-time on the pole winners’ list with 60, behind just Whincup (80). Winterbottom (36) and Shane van Gisbergen (18) are the closest active drivers in the ballpark.
This is all before McLaughlin’s 100th round start, which fittingly comes at his home event at the Auckland SuperSprint across September 13-15.
Joining Lowndes is “awesome”, but usurping him on home soil would be even sweeter in such a competitive era.
“You never think that you can probably, in this day and age, win 16,” McLaughlin said.
“I’m so proud of the team to give me a car I can be able to do it.
“I’ve been saying the whole time, it was a privilege to drive this.
“Trying to stay humble, and drive the thing as fast as I can and thankfully it provides some results from time to time.
“Very lucky and hopefully [with] my 100th round in New Zealand coming up, maybe we get a win there and get maybe pass him [Lowndes]. We’ll see.”
The fast and ferocious Pukekohe Park Raceway holds special memories for McLaughlin, who as a teenager in 2013, became the youngest ever driver to win an ATCC/Supercars race.
It was a special moment for the then Garry Rogers Motorsport young gun, who shared the podium with Lowndes on that very special day.
Career win No. 1 was tough as the then 19-year-old held off a fast-finishing pack which included Jason Bright, Lowndes, van Gisbergen, current DJRTP teammate Fabian Coulthard and Will Davison.
Sandown Raceway is expected to remain on the calendar and host a SuperSprint event, likely in November, despite losing the 500km race for 2020.
FOX Sports reporter Chris Stubbs revealed the expected changes across the OTR SuperSprint weekend, and the biggest news regards Phillip Island and Queensland Raceway, with both venues set to be left off the 2020 calendar.
Phillip Island hosted an event in April earlier this year, while the Ipswich event has typically occupied a slot in late August.
It also means Winton will remain on the calendar, likely in its existing May slot.
It’s also believed the Auckland SuperSprint, which was moved to the Sandown 500 slot in mid-September this season, will be held across the Anzac Day weekend in 2020.
The popular New Zealand track last hosted an event across the Anzac Day weekend in 2014.
The Perth SuperNight, which debuted this season, will be accompanied by a return to night racing at Sydney Motorsport Park.
The western Sydney venue hosted a single 300km race under lights in 2018, but was left off the calendar this season. However, it is expected to make a return in 2020 under a two-race format.
The SuperSprint format is also set to be tweaked, with the Saturday 120km race expected to be lengthened to 200km, the same length as Sunday races.
The Adelaide 500 is locked in for February 20-23, and the 13 events and dates that will follow are set to be revealed this week.