Saturday Sleuthing: PWR's Crash Test Commodore

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 20/12/2014
  • By V8 Sleuth

Today's edition of Saturday Sleuthing is the last for 2014, so we've decided to go out with a bang - in more ways than one!

Our final featured car for the year had quite a short racing history, but is unique for later being utilised in a way that no other V8 Supercar ever has.

It's a car that featured in one of the incidents most played in V8 Supercar highlight reels over the years - the massive crash during practice for the 2008 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 involving Paul Weel and Chris Pither.

Fortunately, both drivers in that terrifying T-bone accident lived to fight another day, but anyone who saw Weel's PWR Commodore in the aftermath would have written off the mangled wreck from going anywhere but the scrap heap.

But would you believe that wasn't the last 'big hit' this car would have?

To go back to the start of this car's racing life, you need to wind back to 2007 when it was completed and debuted mid-season by PWR Racing.

It debuted at the Queensland Raceway round of the '07 season as the #50 Supercheap Auto/PWR Racing VE Commodore driven by Cameron McConville.

McConville was joined by current Falcon Bottle-O star David Reynolds for Sandown and Bathurst, but the pair didn't get to start the Great Race after engine problems sidelined the Holden on the warm-up lap.

In short, it was a miserable season for the team. It struggled for pace and reliability, endured a potential ownership change that fell through and a lack of any real race results to speak of.

PWR retained the chassis for 2008 when it took on a black, white and red livery and was driven by rookie Andrew Thompson, with backing from PWR and Hog's Breath Caf.

Thompson drove the car in the sprint events with a highest finish of 13th at Eastern Creek, before Weel joined him for the enduros at Phillip Island and Bathurst.

The crash that so many V8 Supercar fans will remember occurred during Friday morning practice at Mount Panorama, when Weel lost control at Sulman Park and spun backwards into the concrete barrier - a sizeable shunt on its own which brought the Commodore to a stranded halt in the middle of the track.

A number of seconds later, Pither entered the left-hander at undiminished speed with no chance of stopping his Team Kiwi Racing Falcon.

The current Dunlop Series driver belted straight into the driver's side of Weel's Commodore with sickening force, obliterating the car from the B-pillar backwards, but thankfully missing the driver's door area.

Pither walked away unscathed, and after being transferred to hospital with a ruptured spleen and broken ribs, Weel was able to make a full recovery.

It proved to be the last V8 Supercar race meeting for Weel, whose family's PWR Performance Products business continues to expand and manufactures cooling components for many of the world's leading race teams.

But where did the leftovers of Weel's crashed Commodore end up?

Unsurprisingly, the car was too badly damaged to race again, but it was repaired and sent to the other side of the world by Weel and his father Kees, who donated it for a very worthy initiative.

It went to the world-leading FIA Institute in Italy in 2010, and with the help of the Australian Institute for Motorsport Safety, became the first ever V8 Supercar to be sent overseas for crash testing.

The repaired chassis underwent a major front-on impact, which enabled the FIA Institute to understand how safety could be improved in the event of such an accident - and more importantly, use the 'imprint' of the car on the wall for further research to be done.

After that, the PWR Commodore was scrapped once and for all.

While it may not have had the most chequered history on track, this car certainly has made an important contribution to the safety of motorsport and the ongoing quest to improve it.

This is the final Saturday Sleuthing story for 2014 - many thanks to the many V8 Supercar fans who have got in touch throughout the course of the season.

We'll have more stories in 2015, so 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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