Always a popular part of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship support bill, the Supercars Dunlop Series returns to the track at next weekend’s Castrol EDGE Townsville 400 in North Queensland.
It’s a category that provides a great chance for the sport’s up and coming drivers to hone their skills as well as some of the best in the business keep their eye in ahead of the all-important endurance races later in the year.
Perhaps one of the best parts of the series is the rich history behind the cars on the grid given they all at one time or another had a previous life in the VASC with some of the top teams and drivers in the country.
Today we’re focusing on the #98 Caltex FG Falcon currently driven by young Queensland Renee Gracie, one of two females on the grid in the Dunlop Series.
Now run by Paul Morris Motorsport for the second-year Supercars pilot, Gracie’s FG Falcon actually started its life as the third of a batch of new chassis built by Triple Eight Race Engineering seven years ago in 2009.
It was given the chassis number of 888A-017 and this particular car was the second customer car of that batch and was manufactured for Paul Cruickshank Racing.
The car made its debut at the 2009 Clipsal 500 presented as the #111 Wilson Security Racing Falcon driven by Fabian Coulthard. The Kiwi drove the car for the whole season, scoring his, and the team’s, first podium finish at the Symmons Plains round that year.
Michael Patrizi joined Coulthard for the enduros but the duo failed to finish at Phillip Island with engine issues. For Bathurst the car’s green graphics were replaced with pink in support of the McGrath Foundation, however, the new livery failed to improve their luck at the Mountain as the car exited the race after 120 laps with tailshaft issues.
For 2010 the chassis was sold to the Fiore family and its Triple F Racing Team. Dean Fiore drove 888-017 for the whole season as the #12 entry, joined by Patrizi at Phillip Island for a 14th-placed finish and at Bathurst (again a non-finisher) with Italian former F1 driver Gianni Morbidelli as international co-driver at the Gold Coast 600.
The status quo remained for 2011 with the Fiore team again running the car with the same endurance line-up of Patrizi and Morbidelli, however things changed a little for the following season.
Fiore and his family team retained ownership of the chassis heading into the 2012 season, although it moved across to be run out of Dick Johnson Racing as the #12 Jim Beam Falcon and thus forming part of a four-car DJR operation.
The car underwent a major rebuild in the off-season to bring it into line with the other Triple Eight-built chassis that DJR was racing at the time.
From the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide it ran in the distinctive ‘Devil’s Cut’ livery but later switched to the regular ‘Jim Beam’ colours from the Queensland Raceway round onwards.
Fiore was joined by Kiwi Matt Halliday for the endurance races, finishing 16th in the Sandown 500 and 22nd at Bathurst.
For 2013 the chassis was sold to Sonic Motor Racing to form part of its two-car team in the 2013 Dunlop Series and ran as the #999 entry for now-DVS equal points leader Garry Jacobson.
The car sat idle at Sonic Motor Racing for much of 2014 before it was sold for the 2015 season and re-appeared in February ’15 in its new magenta colour scheme as the #55 Fujitsu Racing Falcon driven by Porsche Carrera Cup graduate Renee Gracie.
Gracie made her Dunlop Series debut in the car at the opening round in Adelaide and competed in the car for the remainder of last season.
In September last year Swiss IndyCar ace Simona de Silvestro tested the car at Queensland Raceway as preparation for the wildcard entry she shared with Gracie at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
While the duo’s ‘Harvey Norman Supergirls’ Bathurst Falcon was the latest spec FG X out of the Prodrive Racing Australia stable, de Silvestro’s stint in 888A-017 allowed her valuable time to acclimatise to a V8 Supercar.
In fact, it was the first time she’d ever driven a car with a roof, let alone a right-hand drive one!
The car has had a new livery applied for this year, appearing at the Clipsal 500 in a multi-coloured Caltex livery with Gracie behind the wheel and #98 on the door.
Again Paul Morris Motorsports on the Gold Coast look after preparation of the FG Falcon, which continues to race on nearly a decade after its initial construction.
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