Saturday Sleuthing: Larko's Gold Coast Winner

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 18/10/2014
  • By V8 Supercars

THIS week Saturday Sleuthing goes into pre-Castrol EDGE Gold Coast 600 mode by tracing a V8 Supercar that won on the streets of Surfers Paradise 16 years ago - and we're putting the call out to our readers for its current whereabouts.

Current day V8 Supercar fans will best know Mark Larkham as Channel Seven's larrikin pit lane reporter, but in the late 1990s 'Larko' was one of the gun drivers on the grid.

Today we're featuring the Mitre 10 Racing EL Falcon the Ford stalwart drove to a pair of maiden non-championship race wins on the Gold Coast in 1998.

V8 Supercars' annual visit to the beachside venue back then was a non-championship event supporting the Gold Coast Indycar race. The V8s gridded up for two sprint races that weekend and Larkham qualified his Stone Brothers Racing-prepared Ford second for Race 1.

Larkham hauled past the pole-sitting Holden Racing Team Commodore of Craig Lowndes when the lights went out to lead into the first chicane. Behind him, an out of control Garth Tander (then a V8 rookie) locked his brakes and fired into Lowndes, sending the HRT machine spinning and the rest of the field scurrying in avoidance.

Larkham's now fellow Seven Sport commentary team member Neil Crompton challenged and later overtook for the lead in his Ford Credit/Glenn Seton Racing Falcon, but retired only a few corners later with a broken Watts linkage, leaving Larkham to record his first V8 Supercar race victory six seconds clear of SBR team-mate Jason Bright.

The Mitre 10 Ford again got the jump in Race 2 and Larkham headed - another one of his current TV sparring partners! - Mark Skaife into Turn 1. The new race winner managed the race from the front again until it was red-flagged and declared following a four-car pile-up, triggered by Russell Ingall who went head-on into the second chicane barriers with a flat front tyre.

Having debuted in the category in 1995, luckless Larkham finally broke his drought with this car after enduring a baptism of fire in his first three seasons.

Indeed, this car was brought into service after Larkham's regular car was badly damaged in a huge Phillip Island start line crash in 1997.

Larkham's team used this car in the second half of the 1997 Australian Touring Car Championship, debuting at Lakeside in 1997 where it was involved in a controversial incident with Ingall that resulted in a fiery verbal clash in pit lane.

Larkham was joined by Andrew Miedecke for the enduros and his luck began to change, qualifying second at Sandown and finishing third at Bathurst.

Ross and Jim Stone bought out Alan Jones at the end of 1997 and rebranded the team as Stone Brothers Racing. In 1998 they ran this car for Larkham alongside Bright's #4 Pirtek entry.

Following victory on the Gold Coast, Larkham and Brad Jones were contenders to win at Bathurst, but eventually finished fourth after a late starter motor issue.

Larkham and SBR upgraded to the new model AU Falcon in 1999 and sold the EL to Steve Ellery, whose family team ran it in selected events in the white and yellow colours of their Chelgrave Contracting family business.

Ellery scored an impressive pair of third placings at the Australian Grand Prix support races in Melbourne, and made sporadic appearances in the 'sprint' rounds before joining Dick Johnson Racing for the enduros - meaning that this EL sat on the sidelines for the big endurance races at Ipswich and Bathurst.

Ellery's last start in the EL was at the non-championship event at the Gold Coast Indy, where it was involved in a big accident with Lowndes and Tander.

SBR bought it back in 2000 and it was repainted with a white interior and given a new Caltex Havoline exterior livery. SBR gave its young enduro signing David Besnard miles in this car by entering the final two Konica (Development) Series rounds at Lakeside and Mallala, with Besnard winning at both.

Later that year it was purchased by privateer Michael Simpson, who ran it in the Development Series during 2001-02 and made his last appearance at Adelaide in 2003 where this car ran a plain white livery.

Another privateer, Shane Beikoff, bought it from Simpson during 2003 and raced it at Winton and the non-championship 30-lap Development Series race at Bathurst - which to date was the car's last race.

Beikoff also owned an ex-Rod Salmon AU Falcon, and took the internals out of the EL and fitted them to the AU when EL Falcons were ruled ineligible for the Development Series from 2004.

Our last update is that this was car went to Queensland collector/enthusiast Melvin Karrasch in around 2006, but that's where the trail ends.

Karrasch may still own the car but we have not seen or heard any more since, other than reports that it was being restored back to its Mitre 10/Larkham spec with the mechanicals slowly being re-installed.

Saturday Sleuthing readers, what do you know?

Can you help us track down Larkham's Gold Coast winner?!

Can you help us find Mr. Karrasch?

We'd love to find out the latest on a car very important in the history of V8 Supercar racing on the Gold Coast.

Saturday Sleuthing will take a break next weekend for the Castrol EDGE Gold Coast 600 but will return on Saturday November 1.

If you have a suggestion for a car story, some information or want to give some feedback, contact the V8 Sleuth via the following methods:

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