Saturday Sleuthing: The Hot Wheels Holden

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 27/09/2014
  • By V8 Sleuth

As the eyes of footy fans turn to the Melbourne Cricket Ground for today's AFL Grand Final between Sydney and Hawthorn we're also getting into footy fever on Saturday Sleuthing with a special footy themed car.

This week's profiled car creates a unique link between two very different codes as it is the only V8 Supercar to ever be raced by an Aussie Rules legend.

John 'Sam' Newman was one of the greats of the Geelong Football Club in the 1960s and 70s, and is perhaps even better known as a colourful and outspoken AFL media personality.

But for one weekend in 2000, the man nowadays referred to as 'Fossil' was also a V8 Supercar driver!

A rev-head at heart, Newman took up motorsport in the late 1990s. In 2000, he raced a Holden Vectra in the GT Production category alongside former Castrol Cougar Melinda Price as part of a two-car, Kmart-backed effort run by Gibson Motorsport.

For the 2000 Australian Grand Prix, a publicity stunt saw Newman enter the non-championship V8 Supercar support races in our featured VS Commodore, which was prepared by Gibson Motorsport alongside the regular Kmart entries of Greg Murphy and Steven Richards.

It was a massive jump into the deep end for the 300-game VFL/AFL veteran who qualified 30th and last, with his best lap of 2m13.629s almost 16 seconds slower than Mark Skaife's pole time.

But Newman stayed out of trouble and finished all three races in 23rd, 24th and 23rd respectively, keeping his #99 Hot Wheels Commodore on the track (or should that be inside the boundary line?!).

This car was lightly raced in V8 Supercar competition after big Sam drove it, but before then it was raced competitively by some well-known names in a range of different liveries.

Crompton, Winton 1995

Built by Wayne Gardner Racing, it debuted in the hands of Neil Crompton at the Winton round of the 1995 Australian Touring Car Championship as a Coca-Cola-sponsored VR Commodore.

It was Crompton's car for the remainder of the ATCC, and was used by the team that year at Bathurst as it finished with both of its entries in the top five.

The now-V8 Supercar TV commentator raced the car again in 1996, though only in the opening rounds of the ATCC as financial issues forced the team to peg back to a single entry for team boss Gardner.

Crompton returned for the final round at Oran Park before this car became the #4 Coca-Cola Commodore at Bathurst driven by Brad Jones and Tony Scott. Crompton stepped back in for the New Zealand showcase events at Pukekohe and Wellington.

In 1997, Crompton moved to the USA to contest the North American Touring Car Championship but made a one-off appearance in this car at the AGP with backing from Bendix Brakes.

It was later pressed into service for Gardner to race at the Eastern Creek ATCC round after his regular chassis was damaged, and it again resurfaced at Bathurst as car #54 driven by Anthony Tratt, Peter Bradbury and Paul Stokell. Unfortunately the trio was the first retirement of the '97 Primus 1000 Classic.

Gardner shut down his operation in 1998, but still appeared in this car at the AGP and later the Sandown and Bathurst enduros, where the former 500cc World Motorcycle Champion was partnered by Stokell.

Gardner, Bathurst 1998

By this time the Coke machine featured a full vinyl sticker wrapped livery - commonplace in the modern era but very much an innovation in 1998!

Gardner upgraded to a Perkins Engineering-built VT for selected races in 1999 and sold the VS to Bob Forbes for his son Rodney to race as the #28 Dietshake Commodore, prepared by the Lansvale Smash Repairs team alongside their regular entry of Trevor Ashby and Steve Reed.

Forbes battled for Privateer's Cup honours throughout the year and at Bathurst he and co-driver Geoff Full finished 12th outright and highest-placed privateer, having even led a lap when running out of pit sequence.

Many V8 Supercar fans will remember this car for its unique PPG paint scheme, which changed colour depending on the light of the day!

Forbes, Phillip Island 1999

After Newman's AGP appearance in early 2000, the VS was up for sale again and later purchased by Phonsy Mullan who contested selected rounds of the 2001 Development Series.

Mullan also entered the 'main game' round at Calder in 2001 but failed to progress through pre-qualifying. He last ran this car in the non-championship 30-lap DVS race at Bathurst in 2002, and a few months later sold the car to its current owner, Tony Floreani.

Floreani raced it occasionally in the Sports Sedan class at Phillip Island club events during the early 2000s, but the car has sat unraced for almost a decade and is still in the red and yellow livery Mullan campaigned at Bathurst in 2002.

Floreani has recently refreshed the mechanicals of the Commodore and we're pleased to report he has plans to restore it to its original WGR spec in the near future.

Next week on Saturday Sleuthing we get in the mood for our own 'stop the nation' day in Australian sport.

Our pre-Bathurst special focuses on one of the most iconic winning cars in the history of The Great Race - and it's one all Ford fans will be excited about.

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