ON THIS DAY in 2000, Glenn Seton and Craig Lowndes staged an epic Ford versus Holden fight for victory in the opening race of the Adelaide 500.
The advent of the Adelaide 500 a year earlier came as the Tony Cochrane-led V8 Supercar empire was enjoying a period of phenomenal growth, based squarely on the manufacturer rivalry.
Relive 22 years of Adelaide 500 action in our new book, ‘Sensational Adelaide: An Illustrated History of the Adelaide 500’.
In fact, 1999 marked a return of sorts for Ford to the category, anointing a factory team for the first time since the 1970s via a rebrand of Glenn Seton Racing to Ford Tickford Racing.
Ford Australia and performance partner Tickford had seen the success of the Holden Racing Team and HSV connection and wanted a slice of that success on and off track.
While the 1999 Adelaide 500 was dominated by HRT and Lowndes, the Saturday race at the second running of the event provided perhaps the most thrilling ‘red versus blue’ fight the event ever witnessed.
New rules for 2000 required two compulsory pit stops, one for fuel and one for tyres, with neither able to be done under Safety Car.
Seton and Lowndes went for opposing strategies; the Ford driver took tyres at his first stop and fuel at his second, and vice versa for the Holden ace – whose first stop was delayed by an unscheduled drink bottle change.
That all set up a thrilling final stint as Lowndes chased down Seton; the two most recent champs for their respective marques driving for opposing factory teams going head-to-head.
The battle was tailor-made for the Adelaide venue and its vocal pit straight crowd, who rode every inch of the action as the drivers battled it out.
“We pitted early and were vulnerable, but I was determined to win,” recalled Seton of the race in his book, ‘Seto: The Official Racing History of Glenn Seton’.
“My concentration was incredibly high, trying to get everything out of the car.
“My body was so tense, and I was fully focused on driving it as smooth and straight as I could to look after the tyres, all the while keeping the speed up so he couldn’t attack me.
“Ultimately Craig had far more grip than I did and, with four laps to go, I could no longer hold him back. After a little rub at Turn 7, he was through.”
Smoke emanated from the left-front corner of Lowndes’ car in the moments after the contact, but he ultimately charged on unaffected to win the race.
While Seton fell short of victory, a second-place finish was a major relief after a troubled start to the 2000 season for FTR that threatened the very future of the squad.
Seton delves deep into the FTR saga in his book, detailing pressure from Ford and Tickford that he felt undermined his efforts and ultimately resulted in the program ending after three seasons.
The 2000 season was Lowndes’ last with HRT, defecting to Ford at year’s end and returning to score another memorable Saturday win in Adelaide the following April.