HIDDEN VALLEY’S TRIPLE CHALLENGE THROWBACK

Huge crowds were a signature of the Triple Challenge. Pic: an1images.com / Andrew Hall

SUPERCARS, Superbikes and drag cars unite at this weekend’s Darwin Triple Crown, reviving a popular format from the 1990s.

The Repco Supercars Championship action at Hidden Valley will be supported by the Australian Superbike Championship, while a variety of drag racing classes will be in action on Friday night.

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The format makes the most of the impressive Hidden Valley facility which features a dedicated drag strip immediately to drivers’ left alongside the circuit’s signature front straight.

Four Supercars are slated to take part in the televised drag racing action, including Erebus Motorsport’s unique Mercedes-powered Commodore ZB ride car.

Although Superbikes have been an occasional Supercars support act over recent decades, it’s the first time since the final Winfield Triple Challenge in 1995 that all three disciplines will run at the same meeting.

Jim Richards chases Larry Perkins in 1993. Pic: an1images.com / Andrew Hall

Bankrolled by the cigarette brand as a way to promote its sponsorships across the three classes, the ‘Triple Challenge’ ran for four years from 1992.

It took place in the days when drag racing was held on the Eastern Creek venue’s front straight, in the reverse-direction to that used by circuit racing.

The Triple Challenge kicked off the touring car season each January and, while not all teams attended, the event drew big crowds and enjoyed television coverage on Channel 9.

Ironically for an event instigated to promote Winfield, all four Triple Challenge events were won by Glenn Seton’s Peter Jackson-backed team!

Seton’s Peter Jackson Racing dominated the Triple Challenge. Pic: an1images.com / Andrew Hall

Seton himself won the first three, taking a rare win aboard his Ford Sierra in 1992 before blitzing the field with his EB Falcon in ’93 and the updated EBII in ’94.

Teammate Alan Jones scored the overall honours in 1995; a year where Seton debuted the EF model while Jones stuck with the proven EBII package.

The 1995 event is perhaps best remembered for Mark Skaife’s huge qualifying crash at the end of the front straight, from which he emerged with two broken vertebrae and dislocated ribs.

Skaife had been undertaking wet weather tyre testing when he lost control on a track surface made extra slippery by the presence of VHT compound used for the drag cars.

The aftermath of Mark Skaife’s enormous accident in 1995. Pic: Supplied

The extent of his injuries meant Skaife missed the opening round of the 1995 ATCC at Sandown, while the crashed Commodore was written off.

As a non-championship meeting at the start of the year, the touring car races at the Triple Challenge also featured a few notable one-offs.

They included Brad Jones making his first single-driver event start in a V8 touring car for Bob Pearson’s Pro-Duct Racing in 1994.

Jones arrived at the circuit via helicopter on Sunday morning after taking part in a AUSCAR race at Adelaide International Raceway the previous night!

Hansford aboard a second Perkins entry in 1995. Pic via Perkins Engineering Facebook

A year later Gregg Hansford made what proved to be his only single-driver event start with Perkins Engineering aboard a #9 Castrol Commodore VP.

Sadly, this was 1993 Bathurst winner Hansford’s final V8 drive as he was killed in a Super Touring crash in March of that year.

The Jones and Hansford cameos in Perkins-built VPs both feature in V8 Sleuth’s upcoming book, Perkins Engineering: The Cars, 1986-2008, which can be pre-ordered here.