Eight moments that made Triple Eight

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 09/09/2018
  • By Mitchell Adam

Next weekend's RABBLE.club Sandown 500 marks 15 years since Triple Eight arrived in Supercars.

Roland Dane's operation took over Briggs Motorsport in time for the Melbourne enduro in 2003, and it has largely gone from strength to strength since.

A first victory came in early 2005 with then-new recruit Craig Lowndes, and a maiden Bathurst win followed one year later.

Now Holden's factory team, Triple Eight has taken eight drivers' and eight teams' titles since 2008 and six Bathurst victories in total.

Supercars.com tracks the big moments that have built its empire.

Buying out Briggs

Triple Eight was a force in the British Touring Car Championship when it branched out to Australia in late-2003.

The squad ran the factory Vauxhall operation and was in the middle of a run of four drivers' and teams' titles between 2001 and '04.

It purchased Briggs Motorsport, which was running a pair of Betta Electrical Falcons largely in the mid-field of the highly competitive Supercars category.

Briggs did, however, boast an impressive base and some promising personnel, including young engineers Mark Dutton and Jeromy Moore.

Led by Dane and technical chief Ludo Lacroix, Triple Eight's new Australian arm bought the team on September 1, taking over in time for the 2003 Sandown 500.

In Betta Electrical BA Falcons sporting #65 and #66, Paul Radisich and Rickard Rydell finished seventh, and Dean Canto and Matthew White 14th.

Its entry was the second high-profile addition to Supercars within 12 months, following Prodrive's takeover of Glenn Seton Racing for 2003.

Coincidentally, seventh for the lead Triple Eight Falcon was one spot ahead of Ford Performance Racing's best, David Besnard and Owen Kelly.

Signing Craig Lowndes

Lowndes was part of that Ford Performance Racing line-up at Sandown in 2003, in a much-hyped partnership with Glenn Seton.

They finished second a month later at Bathurst, but Lowndes was buried in a largely-forgettable run in Falcons.

Lowndes made headlines with his defection from Holden to Ford in 2001, but had to settle for 11th and seventh in the points in his two Gibson/00 Motorsport seasons.

A move to FPR netted fifth in 2003 but only 20th in an '04 campaign plagued by unreliability.

That dearth of results and Marcos Ambrose's pair of titles meant Lowndes was no longer Ford's golden boy, and his next move had to be a good one.

Similarly, Triple Eight had a trying 2004 learning the Supercars ropes and was in the market for a gun driver to match its ambitions.

It saw out 2003 with Radisich and Canto, but Radisich and Max Wilson were only 19th and 28th the following season.

Dane got his man in Lowndes and the rest is history. While a fourth title has eluded Lowndes, he was runner-up six times and sits fourth in the 2018 points.

After Lowndes announced his full-time retirement in July, Dutton described his recruitment as "a turning point for Triple Eight".

Signing Jamie Whincup

If Lowndes was the dream signing, Jamie Whincup was the outside bet at long odds that is still paying off.

Whincup was an Australian Formula Ford Champion, but his first foray into Supercars in 2003 with Garry Rogers Motorsport didn't work out.

The youngster was flung after finishing his rookie campaign 27th, and had to settle for an enduro drive in a third Perkins Engineering Commodore in 2004.

A lifeline came with a full-time Tasman Motorsport drive in 2005, Whincup and team-mate Jason Richards combining to finish third at Sandown and second at Bathurst.

Beyond the enduros, Whincup shaded his more-experienced partner in the points and had done enough to catch Dane's eye.

A "young punk" when he rolled in, Whincup won the 2006 Adelaide 500 in his first weekend with Triple Eight, Bathurst with Lowndes later that year and now has a record seven titles to his name.

The first Bathurst win

Lowndes won 10 races in a Triple Eight Falcon through his first season-and-a-half with the team, including the Sandown 500 in 2005.

None, though, mattered anywhere near as much as winning Bathurst in 2006 with Whincup.

The Great Race victory was just Lowndes' second, his first having come with Greg Murphy and the Holden Racing Team way back in 1996.

Perhaps more importantly, it came one month after the death of his mentor and close friend Peter Brock in a rally accident.

Lowndes set his sights on winning the maiden Peter Brock Trophy, and carried the text 'BROCK ALWAYS WITH US' on his helmet visor.

He was visibly emotional on race morning after driving one of Brock's Toranas, Dane checking Lowndes still wanted to start the race.

After 161 laps, Lowndes and Whincup had done it, Lowndes keeping Rick and Todd Kelly's HSV Dealer Team Commodore at bay in the final stages.

It was a big moment too for Dane, who'd made no secret that the lure of winning Bathurst was a key reason for moving to Australia in the first place.

It started a hat-trick for Lowndes and Whincup, as Triple Eight put a stranglehold on the biggest race in the land.

Crossing the Ford/Holden divide

Ford's loss was Holden's gain in 2010, when Dane orchestrated a move from Falcons to Commodores.

Triple Eight was frustrated by the lack of financial support it was receiving from Ford, which opted to put its money behind Ford Performance Racing and Stone Brothers Racing.

For its part, Ford expressed a reluctance to spend money on a 'red' car, given Triple Eight's dayglo-orange Vodafone backing.

In 2009, Dane's FG Falcons carried sponsor Hog's Breath Cafe badges rather than Ford badges, and a brand switch was announced in August.

It remains one of Supercars' biggest news stories, especially given Lowndes' own inter-brand history.

When the dust settled, Whincup – the 2008 and '09 champion – won Triple Eight's first four races with a Commodore in the Middle East as the '10 season got underway.

While Whincup narrowly missed out on the drivers' title to James Courtney in a Triple Eight-built, Dick Johnson Racing-run Ford, the team's ability to be instantly competitive with a new model was undeniable.

A Bathurst 1-2

Triple Eight's first three Bathurst victories came in Supercars' era of teams pairing their full-time drivers.

That ended in 2010 with a change in regulations to keep them split through the endurance races.

In effect, it promised to open up Sandown and Bathurst from teams having an 'A' car and a generally unloved 'B' car.

Triple Eight used its co-driver draft picks wisely, signing Mark Skaife to partner Lowndes and Steve Owen to join Whincup.

The reunited Lowndes and Skaife won at Phillip Island, and then at Bathurst, their fifth and sixth Great Race triumphs respectively.

Lowndes had to drive the last 79 of the 161 laps himself, after Skaife picked up a back injury earlier in the day.

The icing on the cake was Whincup and Owen finishing second, in a formation finish.

Triple Eight's first Bathurst victory with a Holden was also its fourth in five years.

Most importantly, Triple Eight had become just the third team to achieve a one-two at Bathurst following the Moffat Ford Dealers and Holden Dealer Team efforts of 1977 and 1984.

Two becomes three

By the time 2016 rolled around, Whincup had won six titles for Triple Eight, which had seven teams' crowns of its own.

Whincup and Lowndes had been team-mates for a decade, but turned 31 and 42 that year.

Dane's eye to the future was Shane van Gisbergen, who made his Supercars debut as a teenager in 2007 and would turn 27 in '16.

After a stint with Stone Brothers Racing, van Gisbergen won nine races with Triple Eight customer Tekno across 2013-15, finishing runner-up to Whincup in the '14 championship.

Crucially, the capture of van Gisbergen did not come at the expense of either of Triple Eight's two established stars.

Dane instead elected to do something he said he never would - expand to three cars, allowing Lowndes to continue in a new, third entry.

Van Gisbergen joined Whincup in the Red Bull garage, winning the title at the very first opportunity.

In the last year of van Gisbergen/Whincup/Lowndes alliance, the trio are currently first, third and fourth in the standings.

Factory special

Triple Eight's commercial clout was evident before 2017, through Vodafone and Red Bull title sponsorships.

Even then, its unseating of Walkinshaw Racing as the factory Holden outfit last year was significant.

The late Tom Walkinshaw's Australian empire was built around close ties with Holden, to form the Holden Racing Team and Holden Special vehicles three decades earlier.

HRT was the dominant force through the second half of the 1990s and early 2000s, primarily with Lowndes and Skaife.

Its broader 'Clayton' set-up won two more titles in 2006 and '07 under the HSV Dealer Team banner.

Since Triple Eight switched to Commodores in 2010 Walkinshaw had, though, played second fiddle within the 'red' ranks.

In August 2016, Holden made the call to shift its factory backing and name to Banyo and Triple Eight.

The team developed the new-for-2018 ZB Commodore, and working on a V6 turbo engine until that program was parked by Holden earlier this year.

Triple Eight capped its first season as the Red Bull Holden Racing Team with a dramatic seventh title for Whincup in Newcastle.

Van Gisbergen holds a narrow lead in the 2018 points heading to Sandown, where it all started for Triple Eight, 15 years ago.

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