Saturday Sleuthing has not generally been a news-breaker in the past, primarily focusing on documenting the histories and whereabouts of old V8 Supercars and touring cars from over the years. But that changes today!
Our V8 Sleuth can reveal that Craig Lowndes’ very first Gibson Motorsport Falcon AU from 2001 – the car he drove after a controversial switch from Holden to Ford – is returning to the track this weekend at the Muscle Car Masters at Sydney Motorsport Park on Father’s Day, September 1.
And the pilot?
We can reveal that Seven Sport V8 Supercar motor mouth Neil Crompton – who was teammates with Lowndes at Gibson and 00 Motorsport in 2001/02 – will step behind the wheel to turn some quick laps in his first steer of this particular car in 12 years!
Despite driving a handful of modern V8 Supercars for Seven’s TV telecasts in recent years, this will be the first time Crompton has stepped into one of his old team cars – and he’s looking forward to it.
“It will be fun to climb back aboard one of those cars and blow the cobwebs out of her – and me!” Crompton said this week.
“I actually only raced this particular car once at the Queensland 500 in 2001, which was the last race before the car that’s become known as the ‘Green Eyed Monster’ made its debut at Bathurst.
“The Masters has been on my list to do for the last few years but I’ve always had a clashing commitment, so it’s nice the diary works this time around.
“Bob Forbes still owns the car, so we’ll get the band back together and go for a burn.”
The car Crompton will drive actually started life with Stone Brothers Racing as one of its two original AU Falcons built in 1999 and driven by Jason Bright in Pirtek colours.
He used the car throughout the ’99 season after debuting it at Albert Park, including a round victory at Hidden Valley in Darwin – Ford’s first and only round win of the season.
Craig Baird joined Bright for the endurance races and this car took pole for the inaugural Queensland 500 though retired with engine problems before also retiring at Bathurst.
The car remained the #4 Pirtek entry in 2000, though with Baird taking over from the Indy Lights-bound Bright. The Gold Coast-based Kiwi scored a race win at Phillip Island in the opening round of the season, though the rest of the year proved to be tough.
Prior to the season ending came news that Marcos Ambrose would return from Europe and drive the #4 Falcon in 2001 and the Tasmanian actually tested this car late in 2000 at Queensland Raceway in his first run with the team.
However, he would not race this particular car, as it became part of one of the biggest news stories in V8 Supercar history – the signing of Craig Lowndes to Ford.
After winning three Championships with the Holden Racing Team, Lowndes signed with Ford and Gibson Motorsport, which then had to purchase this car from SBR given the off-season switch from Commodores to Falcons and the lack of time to build a car!
Lowndes had his first test of the car – still in plain blue colours – at Winton on February 23, 2001, completing about 90 laps under the watchful eye of plenty of TV cameras.
Gibson Motorsport then turned the car into the black and silver #00 entry, which made its first appearance in a race at Albert Park before going on to win the Saturday race at the Clipsal 500.
Lowndes ran the car throughout the single driver races and was then joined by Crompton for the Queensland 500.
However, the car didn’t make it to the first pit stop in the race after Crompton suffered a hit from Cameron McConville’s Lansvale Commodore and a tyre let go and spun him off into the turn one sand trap.
The team built a new car for Bathurst, though this car made one more appearance for the season in Lowndes’ hands at the non-championship Gold Coast event as the brand new car was saved up for the Mountain.
Bob Forbes and Fred Gibson parted ways in late 2001 and the team was renamed 00 Motorsport, with this ex-SBR Falcon becoming the #7 entry for Rodney Forbes in 2002 beginning at Albert Park and running during the season with ‘Milk’ signage.
The car also underwent a full rebuild in the off-season with the interior repainted from the familiar SBR/Pirtek blue to 00 Motorsport silver.
It was the car Forbes drove when he and Paul Romano had a ‘run-in’ at Phillip Island, which saw Romano penalised and become the first – and so far only – driver to finish an ATCC/V8 Supercars Championship with a negative pointscore!
An accident at Phillip Island sidelined Lowndes’ regular car, so he took over this chassis for Eastern Creek and finished on the podium before it returned to Forbes’ hands for Darwin.
A testing accident prompted another car shuffle and Forbes moved into the ex-Colourscan car for Oran Park before this car was repaired and he and Neal Bates ran it in the Queensland and Bathurst enduros.
It had its final race at Sandown’s season finale in 2002 and was not part of the inventory sold to WPS Racing when 00 Motosport closed down in 2003.
The car is retained by Bob Forbes in Sydney, who spoke to the V8 Sleuth in 2011 about it when a story on the Green Eyed Monster was being compiled.
“Both this car and the other were mechanically brought up to speed before the team was sold off,” Forbes said.
“They were both mechanically rebuilt and resprayed and re-sign written as they were. We left the inside of the car as it was, complete with scuffmarks, so it’s all original on the inside. With the panels, naturally they get knocked around when they are racing, but it’s pristine now.”
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