Fabulous first-timers: Eight great rookie performances

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 06/09/2021
  • By James Pavey

Triple Eight Race Engineering will blood a rookie in Broc Feeney next season alongside Shane van Gisbergen.

While success in motorsport largely falls on the established competitors, first-timers have also had their time in the sun.

From Marc Marquez in MotoGP to Lewis Hamilton in Formula One, several rookies have shaken up the order in motorsport.

The same applies to Supercars, with several drivers making their presence felt in the relative infancies of their careers.

Supercars.com lists eight defining rookie performances ahead of Feeney's arrival in the main game for Red Bull Ampol Racing.

Jacky Ickx, Bathurst 1977

Ickx (to Moffat's right) won as a rookie Pic: AN1 Images

Jacky Ickx was as successful as they come on the world stage, claiming six 24 Hours of Le Mans wins and eight Formula One race wins.

The Belgian was twice a runner-up in Formula One in 1969 and 1970, and made 122 starts between 1966 and 1979.

In 1977, Ickx arrived in Australia to partner with Allan Moffat at the Hardie-Ferodo 1000.

Ickx had only a few days' practice in a car he had never driven before, being Moffat's big, burly Falcon.

However, the then 32-year-old Ickx was doing lap times the same or quicker than established drivers - at Mount Panorama, no less.

Ickx would help Moffat lead a famous Ford one-two form finish, with the international star becoming the first rookie to win the Great Race.

Craig Lowndes, Bathurst 1994

Ickx's victory came just three years after Craig Lowndes was born. In 1994, also at Mount Panorama, Lowndes's star rose.

A Formula Ford champion and Formula Brabham ace, unheralded rookie Lowndes was partnered with Brad Jones in a Holden Racing Team entry.

After an impressive debut at Sandown, Lowndes arrived in Bathurst with nothing to lose - but few could have predicted would what follow.

Jones put in a gut-busting double stint, and Lowndes emerged as John Bowe's primary challenger in the final stages.

With 11 laps to go, Lowndes incredibly swept around the outside of Bowe at Griffin's Bend to take the lead.

Bowe later retook the lead and won the race, but Lowndes had won fans' hearts.

Two years later, Lowndes crushed the field to claim a stunning rookie title, and added crowns in 1998 and 1999.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Marcos Ambrose, 2001

A stunning rookie pole at Mount Panorama Pic: AN1 Images

Marcos Ambrose's 2003 and 2004 titles should have been no surprise considering how quickly he took to the category.

Ambrose arrived in the United States to pursue his NASCAR dream in 2006, having achieved the highest heights in Supercars in just five seasons.

In his very first season, Ambrose won the Darwin round, having earlier claimed a stunning pole on debut at the Australian Grand Prix support event.

He also scored poles at Eastern Creek and Queensland Raceway - but the best was yet to come.

Ambrose's first visit to Mount Panorama reaped a rookie pole, with the Tasmanian only the second rookie - after Klaus Ludwig in 1987 - to claim pole in Bathurst.

His race would only last 42 laps, but Ambrose would become the championship's leading man after years of HRT dominance.

Nick Percat, Bathurst 2011

Percat became the first rookie Bathurst winner since Ickx

While now an established ace on the grid for Brad Jones Racing, Nick Percat hit the jackpot at his very first attempt.

Percat was paired with 2007 series champion and two-time Bathurst winner Garth Tander for the 2011 enduros.

Two years earlier, Percat ran away with the Formula Ford title. However, sharing a HRT car with a titan in Tander - at 23 years of age, no less - had Percat in the deep end.

He had had limited time in Supercars prior to his Bathurst start, but still finished fourth in Super2 in 2010 as a rookie with Jay Motorsport.

Tander and Percat finished fourth at Phillip Island, the latter having to put in a big first start after stalling on the grid and starting from pit lane.

Percat got away with a wall rub at Griffin's Bend to hand the car back to Tander, who held out Craig Lowndes to win by just 0.2917s.

It was Tander's third Bathurst win, with Percat becoming just the second rookie - after Ickx in 1977 - to win the Great Race.

Scott McLaughlin, Pukekohe 2013

Scott McLaughlin was rewarded for his 2012 Super2 title with a full-time drive for Garry Rogers Motorsport.

It took the mercurial Kiwi little time to hit the top, with McLaughlin winning a non-championship race at Albert Park.

When he arrived on home soil at Pukekohe, McLaughlin lifted to another level.

Aged 19 years, 10 months and three days, McLaughlin became the youngest ever winner of an ATCC/Supercars race.

A heavy accident in a later race marred his weekend, but McLaughlin recovered and scored another victory at Queensland Raceway.

He scored six wins in GRM Volvos between 2014 and 2016 before he sealed a move to the DJR Team Penske.

Between 2017 and 2020, McLaughlin scored 48 race wins, 59 pole positions, three drivers’ titles and a Bathurst 1000 win in 2019.

Chaz Mostert, Ipswich 2013

McLaughlin's Super2 rival Chaz Mostert - now a regular front-runner for Walkinshaw Andretti United - was also thrown into the deep end in 2013.

After a solid start to his 2013 Super2 campaign, Mostert was handed a full-time drive at the ailing Dick Johnson Racing team.

At his team's home track in Ipswich, Mostert qualified on the front row and won in just his 14th start.

The 21-year-old had won DJR's first race in three years, and Mostert would seal a move to Ford Performance Racing for 2014.

That year, he would win Bathurst alongside Paul Morris after starting from 25th.

All before his 23rd birthday, Mostert had won as a rookie, and was a Bathurst winner in the most epic of circumstances.

Anton De Pasquale, Bathurst 2018

De Pasquale put it all on the line

Anton De Pasquale's first full-time campaign with Erebus Motorsport brought little joy, but his maiden Bathurst weekend was something to behold.

De Pasquale dropped in an incredible ARMOR ALL Top Ten Shootout lap, which saw him hold provisional pole for much of the Shootout.

His effort was only bettered by teammate David Reynolds - the 2017 race winner - and Jamie Whincup.

It was a staggering effort on the biggest stage, with De Pasquale the second driver out after setting the ninth fastest time in qualifying on Friday with a 2:04.6942s.

He improved to a 2:04.3498s during the Shootout to raise eyebrows in the paddock. While the race didn't go to plan, it helped pave the way for De Pasquale to become a one-lap ace for the Shell V-Power Racing Team.

Brodie Kostecki, Sandown 2021

A stunning podium in trying conditions back in March

As it had done with De Pasquale, Erebus threw its weight behind a rookie in Brodie Kostecki, and he duly rewarded the team in quick time.

Having made his presence felt in the 2020 Bathurst 1000, Kostecki earned a call-up to the big league this season.

In just his fifth full-time race start, Kostecki braved difficult conditions at Sandown to finish second behind Shane van Gisbergen.

Kostecki vaulted from seventh to hunt down the series leader, and clinched his maiden Supercars podium in just his 10th race start.

After seven rounds in 2021, Kostecki is just six points from 10th in the standings.

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