Saturday Sleuthing: Mostert’s Retro Supercheap Auto Ford
Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
By Aaron Noonan
This year’s Retro Round of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship at the Wilson Security Sandown 500 was a big hit back in September.
Amid the various retro liveries being run by teams in the Pirtek Enduro Cup kick-off event was Chaz Mostert’s 2002 Supercheap Auto-inspired Falcon FG X run by Prodrive Racing Australia.
But taking things to the next level was the fact that the car the livery was based on – Steve Ellery’s 2002 Supercheap Auto Falcon AU – was also on hand and Mostert himself was handed the wheel for a few hot laps of the historic Victorian venue.
Climbing aboard to film the Go-Pro Hot Lap for the Supercars Media telecast of the race event, Mostert quickly found himself with the very unfamiliar H-pattern gearbox – he’d never driven a Supercar with anything other than a sequential shift!
A telecast feature of every round of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, the Go-Pro Hot Lap allows the drivers to talk viewers around the track, featuring a number of previously unseen camera angles provided by the Go-Pro cameras.
The beautiful sight of the 2014 Bathurst winner aboard the old AU in full flight made us think about the cars’ past, and almost immediately, our last Saturday Sleuthing article for the year was born.
The car Mostert drove was actually the second AU model Falcon built by Steve Ellery Racing utilising a Peter Beehag-supplied chassis.
Ellery debuted the car in its distinctive purple, red and yellow Supercheap Auto livery running as car #31 at the Winton round of the 2001 V8 Supercar Championship.
He shared the new car with Aussie international Geoff Brabham in the endurance races, finishing a strong seventh place at Bathurst as a single car team up against some very heavy-hitters.
Ellery used this chassis throughout the 2002 season and was joined by Luke Youlden in both the Queensland 500 (finishing 14th) and Bathurst 1000, finishing ninth.
The former Australian Formula Ford Champion became the full time driver of the AU in 2003 when it was passed down to the Konica V8 Development Series, though still run by SER as Ellery himself stepped up into a new BA Falcon for the main game
Youlden again piloted the car in the Konica Series in 2004, this time finishing the year equal on points with Andrew Jones after the final round at Mallala.
Unfortunately the Supercheap Auto driver the lost the series on count back and was declared runner-up given Jones had claimed two round wins and Youlden hadn’t claimed one.
Back in those days the Development Series wrapped up at Mallala, leaving the Saturday afternoon 25-lapper at Bathurst as a non-points paying event for the DVS teams. SER retained their AU Falcon though it was repainted in the yellow and green colours of Kanga Loaders and driven by V8 Utes ace Gary MacDonald.
MacDonald ran the car in the 2005 DVS season opener in Adelaide before moving back into the team’s BA Falcon that he had crashed in pre-season testing.
For the remainder of the season the AU lay idle before it moved on to Partington Raceprep. The team ran Kiwi Chris Pither in the 2006 Fujitsu Series, again racing in Kanga Loaders livery.
The Falcon raced briefly in 2007 as the #31 DQH car for rookie Damian Assaillit under the Partington Raceprep banner before sitting idle for the remainder of that year and the next.
In 2009 it was sold to South Australian privateer Michael Bartsch who ran it as the #81 Falcon in the Kumho V8 Touring Car Series over the next few years.
Bartsch ran the car in the first three rounds of 2011 before selling the car to Saloon Car competitor and current owner Bruce Heinrich from South Australia.
Heinrich raced the car in the Kumho Series and partway through 2013 returned the ex-Ellery Ford to its #31 2002 Supercheap Auto/Steve Ellery Racing multi-coloured livery.
It has also taken part in the annual Adelaide Motorsport Festival too as part of the Australian Five-Litre Touring Car Association’s demo sessions at the ever-growing event.
When Supercheap Auto Racing and Prodrive elected to run Chaz Mostert’s FG X Falcon in this same livery for the Sandown 500 Retro Round this year, the opportunity to get the two cars together was too good to pass up.
Heinrich brought the AU across to Melbourne and was only too happy to allow Mostert to give the car a run for the cameras.
“We organised some new tyres for Chaz to run on and the PRA guys gave the car the once over before he went out. He knows what he’s doing,” said Heinrich at the time as he and son Joel watched on as Mostert took the Ford through its paces.
Despite a couple of missed gearshifts in the H-pattern gearbox Mostert thoroughly enjoyed his run in a car that was competing in Supercars long before he even made his car racing debut.
And that is the final Saturday Sleuthing for 2016. We hope you’ve enjoyed the stories of the great old cars we’ve brought you this year, Keep sending in your emails and messages over the summer break too!
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