Next weekend the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship heads to Winton Motor Raceway near Benalla for the Woodstock Winton SuperSprint, an event that will feature the Kumho Series for V8 Touring Cars that formerly competed in the ‘main game’.
Created in 2008 as a home for cars that have finished their lives in the VASC and Dunlop Series, the category has become an important third tier of the sport, allowing young (and older!) drivers to cut their teeth behind the wheel of a Supercar.
It’s also meant that many significant race cars from Supercars history have found a way to continue racing some years after being driven by the top names of the sport.
This weekend on Saturday Sleuthing we’ve elected to focus on a car that not only has a long and successful history competing in the V8 Touring Car Series but has also tasted success at Winton in the main championship, 10 years ago this year.
It’s the Ford Performance Racing chassis 501, finished in late 2004 as a BA Falcon and it’s the source of the name of the team that races it to this very day in the Kumho Series – Performance 501.
This car was the first in the era of John Russell designing cars at FPR, with the year of its build reversed to start the chassis number, and then the number 1 to signify that this was the first car of the new design specification.
FPR’s new signing Greg Ritter debuted the car at the 2005 Australian Grand Prix event held at Albert Park, and drove it in each round that season leading up to the endurance races where he was joined by Cameron McLean.
Ritter drove the car one last time on the Gold Coast before being dropped and replaced by Aussie international David Brabham for the final two rounds of the series at Symmons Plains and Phillip Island.
FPR 501 became a team spare in early 2006 but was wheeled out for Jason Bright as a replacement for his own ‘new-for-2006’ car that was heavily damaged at Round 1 in Adelaide.
The repairs took some time and he ended up driving FPR 501 as the #6 Caterpillar car for the following round at Pukekohe, Barbagallo and Winton.
Winton was a particularly bright point (literally!) as Bright scored pole position in the car and raced on to take victory in Race 1 and finish second overall for the weekend behind Craig Lowndes.
Bright also scored pole at Oran Park in this car before it reverted back to the #5 blue FPR livery for the endurance races where it was driven by McLean and Matt Halliday at Sandown and Brabham and Halliday at Bathurst.
The FPR paint shop was busy following Bathurst when the car again reverted back to the #6 CAT colours for Bright to drive for the remainder of the season. This late-season stint included victory in the inaugural Bahrain round held late that year.
In 2007 the car was retained by FPR and used by new signing Steve Richards at Pukekohe, Winton, Eastern Creek and Hidden Valley as the #6 Castrol Falcon. Following those rounds the car reverted to spare car status for the remainder of the season.
The following season it was sold to Queensland businessman John Marshall for son Marcus to race in IRWIN Tools colours run by Britek Motorsport. Ironically, Kiwi Matt Halliday – who had already raced the car during its time at FPR – had another taste of it as he was signed as Marshall’s endurance co-driver!
Marshall’s last drive in the car came at the Oran Park series final in 2008 before it was put into storage. It was later placed up for sale but took a few years to attract a buyer, which eventually turned out to be former Group C touring car driver Andrew Manson.
However, his original intent of racing the car in the V8 Touring Car Series never eventuated and FPR 501 was sold to long-time Saloon Car supporter Les Morrall for former DVS driver Tony Evangelou to drive in the 2012 Kumho Series.
Despite a near-white livery, the car sliced its way to a win at Winton in its V8 Touring Car Series debut and re-appeared later that season re-presented in the CAT/FPR colours from 2006.
The car became a constant head-turner at V8 Touring Car events, the family black and yellow colours making it instantly recognisable at high speed on the circuit.
Evangelou raced the car over the course of the last few years with plenty of success, though this year the 501 Performance team has signed up young gun David Wright to drive the car.
Wright will make his V8 Touring Car Series debut aboard the FPR 501 chassis at Winton at the Woodstock Winton SuperSprint where a field of up to 20 V8s will make their first appearance competing for series points at a VASC weekend.
The V8 Touring Car Series will compete in three races over the Winton weekend in what is actually its second round of the season – Taz Douglas won the first round at Sandown in early April and is again entered in THR Development’s ex-Jack Daniel’s/Kelly Racing Commodore.
The series is a great place to check out some genuine V8 Supercar racing history with a blend of Falcons and Commodores entered covering the late 1990s through to the end of the Project Blueprint era.
Saturday Sleuthing will take the weekend off while the Woodstock Winton SuperSprint is unfolding – it will return on May 28 with a special story on a famous Peter Brock Commodore.
If there’s a car you’d like to see featured in an upcoming story you can get in touch with the Sleuth via any of the following methods: