QUADRUPLE CROWN: THE FORGOTTEN BATHURST WIN

Paul Morris leads away at the start of the 1999 Bob Jane T-Marts Bathurst 500. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

SHANE van Gisbergen’s victory in Sunday’s Bathurst 6 Hour earned the Kiwi a special place in Mount Panorama history.

As has been well documented, van Gisbergen became the second driver to win all three major Bathurst events; adding the 6 Hour to his victories in the Bathurst 12 Hour and Bathurst 1000 in 2016 and 2020 respectively.

Paul Morris was the only previous victor of what is colloquially dubbed the ‘Bathurst Triple Crown’, winning the Bathurst 12 Hour in 2007, Bathurst 1000 in 2014 and Bathurst 6 Hour in 2017.

Van Gisbergen’s triumph continued a remarkable run of form that also included winning Supercars’ ‘Mount Panorama 500’ in February, sweeping both of the 250km, single-driver races at the event.

It’s easy to forget that Morris also has a ‘Bathurst 500’ victory to his name; an achievement that could genuinely be claimed as part of a ‘Bathurst Quadruple Crown’.

Morris splashes through a puddle at Murray’s Corner. an1images.com / Andrew Hall

Morris won the 1999 Bob Jane T-Marts Bathurst 500, which was technically the last Bathurst enduro with a direct lineage to the Australian Racing Drivers’ Club-run ‘Great Race’ held on the first Sunday in October.

After two years running the Super Tourers to the long-held 1000km Bathurst format, the TOCA Australia/ARDC/Seven Network partnership opted to halve the duration for 1999.

The move followed a cutback in funding from Seven, which had previously helped finance the influx of British Touring Car Championship teams and drivers that added greatly to the 1997 and ’98 events.

Long-time British Touring Car Championship chief Alan Gow talked about the Super Touring editions of the Bathurst 1000 on the V8 Sleuth Podcast in 2020 – listen to the episode in the players below!

Also without the factory Audi entries that had run in the now ailing Australian Super Touring Championship, a meagre 19-car field started the 1999 Bathurst 500.

It proved a miserable day on the Mountain as heavy rain wreaked havoc.

Fog was ultimately the biggest issue and with the weather showing no sign of clearing, the race was declared just short of three hours in; more than 30 minutes before the time certain cut-off.

At that point only 50 of the 81 laps had been completed – and 28 of those had been under Safety Car!

The Safety Car led the most laps… Pic: an1images.com / Andrew Hall

For all that, it was still a great win from Morris, who beat the might of Jim Richards and the two-car factory Volvo team with his modest, single-car squad and its ageing BMW.

Morris drove superbly in the tricky conditions, taking the lead from renowned wet weather maestro Richards on lap 17 in what proved the winning move.

It marked some form of redemption for Morris, who had led BMW to victory in the Bathurst 1000 two years earlier, only to be disqualified after co-driver Craig Baird exceeded the consecutive driving time rules.

“It doesn’t matter how you win them; it is just great to win them,” said Morris at the conclusion of the 1999 event.

Relive the 1999 Bathurst 500 on DVD, featuring commentary from Peter Brock and Brad Jones – available here in the V8 Sleuth Bookshop.

Unfortunately for Morris, 1999 proved to be the end of the Super Touring Bathurst race; the V8 Supercar 1000 that had started as a rival event in 1997 assumed the mantle of the ‘Great Race’ for 2000.

While the two Super Touring 1000 races are included in all Bathurst 1000 statistics, Morris’ 500 win was somewhat lost in history.

With Supercars having declared this year’s Mount Panorama 500 a one-off before the return of the 12 Hour in 2022, van Gisbergen’s triumph in that event will also likely be largely forgotten.

A true Bathurst Quadruple Crown needs an ongoing fourth Mount Panorama enduro… and that’s exactly what ARG has promised to deliver with the TCR Bathurst 500, to be run for the first time this November.

Although a format has not been confirmed, organisers have announced the event will include two drivers per car and a total 500km of racing.

With an influx of drivers required, TCR teams could do a lot worse than checking the availability of SVG and ‘The Dude’ for November 26-28…