Saturday Sleuthing: The Briggs Supercheap Auto Falcon
Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
By Aaron Noonan, V8 Sleuth
This year marks a special milestone for Supercheap Auto in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship as it celebrates its 20th year as a car sponsor in the category since first appearing on the flanks of a Supercar race car back at the start of the 1998 season.
Supercars.com reader Milton Strong recently attended the Perth SuperSprint at Barbagallo Raceway in Western Australia and came across an old Supercheap Auto Falcon AU on display in the paddock - and it prompted him to get in touch with us.
“It sure looked familiar and the colours reminded me of those cars from the late 1990s but I was really interested to see if you could dig up some more on the history of that particular car,” Milton wrote to us.
“I’d be intrigued to know if it had been a car sold to the John Briggs team by a bigger team that already had some race history or if it was one they built themselves.”
The answer to that particular question is that it was a car built new by John Briggs’ team in Queensland in 1999; a brand new AU Falcon constructed using a chassis via Peter Beehag’s On Track Engineering organisation.
It made its racing debut as the #70 Supercheap Auto Falcon AU in round four of the 1999 Shell Championship Series at Phillip Island, one of a handful of new AU model race cars to debut that weekend.
Briggs raced this particular car for the remainder of the ’99 season, sharing it in the Queensland and Bathurst endurance races with then-young open wheeler up and comer, Tim Leahey. The duo lasted 116 laps at Mount Panorama before Watts Linkage problems took them out of the race.
Albert Park, 2001
At the end of the season the team sold off its V8 Supercar franchise and the Falcon was placed up for sale, eventually acquired by Anthony Tratt’s Toll Racing team to be used as a spare chassis.
It was wheeled out as Tratt’s #75 Toll car on the Gold Coast in 2000 for the non-championship event to protect the team’s newer car for that year’s Bathurst race and then again ran in Tratt’s hands at Albert Park in 2001.
From there the car disappeared from the track for the majority of the season, undergoing a complete rebuild by chassis expert Paris Acott that also included a major transformation of design in the roll cage. The interior was also resprayed white; originally the interior had been red during the car’s Supercheap Auto days.
It made its re-appearance in V8 Supercars at Bathurst in 2001 driven by Tratt and Alan Jones, though the former was wiped out early in the race by Simon Wills’ CAT Falcon. The #75 Ford was able to resume from being deposited in the Murrays Corner sand trap and finished 15th, three laps down.
The Toll team ran this car for the remainder of ‘01 and also the beginning of 2002 before the arrival of a brand new car came for Eastern Creek. However the ex-Briggs car came in handy for the busy part of the season, wheeled out again for the Gold Coast that had by that stage become a round of the championship.
This particular Falcon bounced through the hands of a few different owners in the years that followed (we recall seeing it for sale in mid-2007 as a rolling chassis for just under $30,000!) before being acquired by current owner Darren Boland in Perth in 2011.
Since then he’s been a regular at the helm of this chassis at Barbagallo Raceway, including competing in the track’s annual 300-kilometre endurance race.
Many of those that had seen the car compete in recent years would likely not have recognised its history given it appeared in Boland’s own black livery, however earlier this year he made the decision to return it to its ’99 Briggs Supercheap Auto livery - and that’s exactly the colours in which reader Milton Strong spotted it at Barbagallo earlier this month.
In fact, when we spoke to the car owner this week he was on his way back from racing in last weekend’s WA Sports Sedan/Street Car State Championship round at Collie Motorplex.
“I’ve basically raced it in Sports Sedans ever since I got it,” Boland told our V8 Sleuth this week of his Falcon, which has its engine power looked after by former Stone Brothers Racing motor man Pete Wallace.
“I was always first at the gate to get into the track at Barbagallo when the V8 Supercars were in town. It had always been a passion of mine. I had an XR6 Turbo Falcon and Steve Renshaw from PAE Engineering said I should go and get a V8.
“He found me a body shell and we went half and half in it. I bought him out and got him to help me build it up. When I bought it I had no idea of its previous life racing in Supercheap Auto colours!”
The car as it sits today
So there you have it, a Supercar racer from the past that continues its active competition life nearly two decades after it began.
If you have a car you’d like to see featured by our V8 Sleuth this year, send him an email here or visit the website here to get in contact.
Saturday Sleuthing returns next week with a special look at a special car from Allan Moffat’s racing past that continues to compete on the track to this very day.