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How winding back the clock aided ‘rubbish’ AU Falcon

THE Ford AU Falcon is one of the most memorable Supercars – but not necessarily for the right reasons, especially in the eyes of those who drove the model at the time.

Its debut 1999 season proved wildly unsuccessful: two wins (Jason Bright in Darwin, John Bowe at Ipswich) from 33 races.

That strike rate improved in subsequent seasons, but the Holden Racing Team still reigned supreme until Ford’s BA Falcon was unleashed in 2003.

The AU’s four seasons in the line of duty coincided with the complete span of Paul Radisich’s full-time tenure at Dick Johnson Racing.

Returning to Australasia after six years in the British Touring Car Championship, Radisich replaced Bowe for ’99. Reflecting 25 years on, his assessment of the AU was blunt.

“The AU was, how do you put it, a piece of rubbish really,” he recalled via the V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Castrol.

“The aero was designed I think for the car to go backwards, because the scoop at the front, all that did was remove dirt.

“It could have worked for the Ministry of Works, that thing, just as a little mini-digger.

“It had so many problems… just aerodynamically it was horrible, let alone everything else with the car.”

Radisich would however go on to challenge for victory in the end-of-season 1999 Bathurst 1000 alongside Steve Ellery.

‘The Rat’ noted how reverting to the EL Falcon for the non-championship Gold Coast round (he swept all three races) four weeks before the 1999 Great Race had proven helpful.

“I remember driving the EL at Queensland, the street race around there, and the car was so well balanced and you could do anything,” said Radisich.

Paul Radisich dominated the 1999 Surfers Paradise round in an EL Falcon. Pic: an1images.com / Andrew Hall

“We went on and won those races and you could just do anything with it.

“So I learnt a lot from the EL which transferred over to the AU.

“I think the next race must have been Bathurst. So we did learn a lot and tried to set the car up in a similar format to how the old EL was, other than the aero, and we had great horsepower at Bathurst and were able to use it.

“That’s the only thing that catapulted us right to the front for that event anyway.”

But it wasn’t to be.

“I think strategy wasn’t brilliant for the day, we were always coming from behind, and we had to work the car fairly hard to get back into the front,” he explained.

“Then with 15 laps to go, I passed a slow car over McPhillamy, and I didn’t feel it but I must have just touched the wheel or something happened and it pulled the valve stem out of the wheel and boom, that’s it, all over…

“When we went back out, we only did another five laps I think and the engine expired, so the chances are, it was not my race to win.”

Radisich ended up a two-time Bathurst 1000 runner-up, both with DJR (1990 and 2000).

He picked up eight championship race wins across 2000 and ’01, the bulk of which followed a front aero change for the AU.

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