As the countdown continues to the 2013 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, we’ve dipped into the mailbag this week for Saturday Sleuthing and made sure it has a ‘Mountain’ flavour.
Kelvin Davis emailed asking about the special livery ‘Spiderman’ Kmart Commodore that Greg Murphy and Rick Kelly used to win the Bathurst race in 2004.
The Sleuth actually has first-hand memory of the car and livery given he was actually the team’s media manager at the time via Holden Motorsport!
With Kmart as the team’s sponsor, a plan was hatched to have a modified livery for Bathurst pointing to an upcoming Kmart toy sale, which ended up promoting Spiderman 2 and the DVD of the movie that had been released that season.
The Murphy/Kelly Commodore was re-liveried with a Spiderman on bonnet and flanks and webbing added to give the team a different look heading to the Mountain.
But many V8 Supercar fans won’t have known that the 2004 Bathurst-winning car had actually been built as a Holden Racing Team VX Commodore three years earlier.
HRT chassis 044 was actually new in 2001 and was the first new VX model rather than being a VT upgraded to the latest model.
It was debuted by Jason Bright at Eastern Creek in ’01 and he drove it as the #2 HRT entry that season. Tony Longhurst and Tomas Mezera drove it in the Queensland 500 before Bright and Mezera ran it at Bathurst, though were wiped out by an errant Simon Wills and did not finish.
Bright retained the car in 2002 and ran it up until he debuted a new car at Winton, so this car transferred to the sister Tom Walkinshaw Racing Australia (TWRA) squad – Kmart Racing.
Todd Kelly drove it as the #15 entry from Winton onwards, though it was rested from the Queensland and Bathurst endurance races.
A Kelly remained on board the car at Kmart Racing in 2003, though it was Todd’s younger brother Rick as ‘big bro’ moved across to HRT to replace Bright.
Rick – who had driven the EA Sports Young Lions car in the previous season – ran the 044 chassis as the #15 Kmart VX through to Oran Park when he moved into another car.
This chassis was sidelined for the remainder of the season and was given a birthday and updated to VY specification for 2004 and remained as Kelly’s #15 Kmart entry.
He used 044 to claim his first solo round victory at Eastern Creek on a wet murky day that year and drove the car through to the endurance races, where he was joined by Greg Murphy.
For Sandown they actually ran this car under Murphy’s regular #51, but for Bathurst the car reverted to its usual #15 with the new Spiderman livery added.
As the history books show, Murphy qualified fourth and the duo led 100 of the 161 laps to claim their second straight Bathurst win.
But it wasn’t all rosy prior to the last stop.
The #15 car had pitted on lap 118 for Kelly to hand over to Murphy but still had a stop to complete – with track position not in hand in comparison to their rivals that also needed to stop once more.
But the Safety Car appeared on lap 134 after Garth Tander was sent spiraling into the fence at the top of Mountain Straight by Mark Winterbottom.
That meant all the leaders fired into the pits on schedule – but the leading cars of Brad Jones and Russell Ingall needed a full tank of fuel to make it home, whereas the Kmart Commodore had only pitted 16 laps earlier and needed less stationary time for refueling.
Murphy came in behind the OzEmail and Caltex Falcons and pulled out of the pits into the lead – one he’d never lose on the run home to the line.
It was just as well for Holden too, giving them a sixth straight Bathurst victory with Fords filling positions two to seven!
Such was the performance at Bathurst that the Kmart team left the Spiderman livery on the car for the Gold Coast, though Kelly got involved in a serious accident that left Jason Bright firing into the concrete wall hard at the back chicane.
Kelly drove it for the remainder of the season (the Spiderman livery lasting as long as Symmons Plains!), save for the final event at Eastern Creek where he and Murphy swapped chassis and the Kiwi drove this machine in his final appearance with the team.
The car was sold to Tony D’Alberto Racing in 2005 and D’Alberto himself drove it in that year’s HPDC V8 Supercar Series.
He won a race at Bathurst, however it was declared a no-race due to a red flag and he’d have to wait a few more years before his first win in the series.
The team kept the car as a spare in 2006 and it was driven by Mark McNally in the second half of that year’s Fujitsu Series before running it again in 2007.
He split with the team partway through that season and the car was retained by the D’Alberto team as a spare and later used as a ride car.
The V8 Sleuth caught up with D’Alberto this week, who confirmed the team retains the car in storage with the long-time plan to restore it to its Bathurst-winning livery.
They also have the 18-degree Chev engine that the car carried to victory as well – so one day, look for the ‘webbed’ Commodore to ride again!
Have a car you’d like to know more about? Know where one is? Get in touch with the V8 Sleuth via the following methods: