The recent announcement of the PIRTEK Enduro Cup is great news for the V8 Supercars Championship, which will recognise the top point-scoring driving squad over the Sandown 500, Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 and ARMOR ALL Gold Coast 600.
It reminds us of the days of a separate Australian Endurance Championship, which was run in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s when a range of endurance races were run separately – and generally after – the Australian Touring Car Championship was completed.
Since the endurance races became part of the V8 Supercars Championship in 1999, they’ve proven to be both the making and failing of many a Championship challenge.
But just who would have won the PIRTEK Enduro Cup had it been awarded every year since then? Our V8 Sleuth Aaron Noonan pondered the question of the retrospective ‘enduro cup’ to get us into the mood ahead of the three big events – and there are some interesting revelations.
A third at the inaugural Queensland 500 and second at Bathurst gave Craig Lowndes his third – and most recent – V8 Supercar Championship.
It would have also given he and Cameron McConville the PIRTEK Enduro Cup, though Wynn’s Bathurst winners Greg Murphy and Steve Richards were second by a narrow margin, their brake problems late in the ‘500 that dropped them to sixth effectively cost them the enduro crown.
This year was a clear-cut win for Garry Rogers Motorsport with Garth Tander and Jason Bargwanna finishing second at Queensland and winning Bathurst.
A pair of third places at both races put Murphy/Richards runners-up for the second year in a row.
The 2001 PIRTEK Enduro Cup would have seen a solo winner in Mark Skaife. The points for the Championship were weighted strongly towards Bathurst, so his victory there with Tony Longhurst – coupled with the fourth he had in Queensland with Jason Bright – gave him the crown.
A pair of third places for Kmart’s Greg Murphy and Todd Kelly put them second – Murphy runner-up in the enduros for the third straight year!
A pair of seconds gave Steven Richards and Russell Ingall the most points across Queensland and Bathurst.
It was a ‘Richo-fest’ with Jim scoring the next most points after finishing fourth at Queensland with Tomas Mezera and winning Bathurst with Skaife for HRT.
Greg Murphy’s 2003 endurance campaign will always be remembered for his ‘Lap of the Gods’ and subsequent Bathurst win, but he and Rick Kelly would have also added a PIRTEK Enduro Cup to their season achievements.
Their third place at Sandown (where they were delayed in a pit stop when the rear wing came adrift!) proved crucial and would have given them the cup by four points over impressive Supercheap Auto pair Steve Ellery and Luke Youlden.
A Sandown 500 win and fourth at Bathurst gave Marcos Ambrose and Greg Ritter the crown in 2004 in the PIRTEK/SBR Falcon, just four points clear of Bathurst winners Murphy and Kelly.
One more position gain at Sandown for the Kmart lads would have tied them with the PIRTEK crew and snatched a win on count back (based on Bathurst being the tie-breaker).
A runner-up result at Sandown and win at Bathurst gave Mark Skaife and Todd Kelly the PIRTEK Enduro Cup in 2005 – though they were pushed by Tasman Motorsport, who finished one position behind in both races with Jason Richards and Jamie Whincup.
A tie on points (620)! Third at Sandown and a win at Bathurst got Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup over the line in front of Rick and Todd Kelly with Triple Eight winning on a count back due to their Mountain victory.
This was a simple Lowndes and Whincup victory given they won at both Sandown and Bathurst.
Second at Phillip Island and a third straight Bathurst crown gave Lowndes and Whincup a third straight PIRTEK Enduro Cup.
Another simple one – Garth Tander and Will Davison won both endurance races to seal what would have been HRT’s fourth cup.
This year was the first time the Gold Coast 600 joined the ‘500’ and Bathurst in the Championship and Craig Lowndes’ win with Mark Skaife at Phillip Island and the Mountain set up his PIRTEK Enduro Cup win. A second and 10th with Andy Priaulx at the 600 sealed the deal.
The 2011 winner was a bit of a surprise – Mark Winterbottom!
A delayed 17th at Phillip Island was followed by fourth at Bathurst (with Steve Richards), before a third and win on the Gold Coast with Richard Lyons gave him most points, clear of the tied Greg Murphy and Garth Tander.
Jamie Whincup’s stellar year in his ‘Kate’ chassis gave him the PIRTEK Enduro Cup – a third and win at Sandown and Bathurst with Paul Dumbrell was backed up by a win and second at the ‘GC 600’ with Sebastien Bourdais.
The end result would see Craig Lowndes as a five-time PIRTEK Enduro Cup winner with Whincup having four and Tander and Skaife two each.
Lowndes would effectively be a six-time enduro champion given he won both enduros back in 1996 before they were part of the Championship.
And Larry Perkins’ endurance record can’t be denied – he and Russell Ingall were the best performers in the endurance races in 1995, 1997 and 1998, three of the four years before the enduros counted towards the Championship.