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HomeNewsRANKED: BEST-EVER BATHURST 1000 WILDCARDS

RANKED: BEST-EVER BATHURST 1000 WILDCARDS

THE Repco Bathurst 1000 is this year set to feature its biggest field in almost a decade as at least three wildcard entries join the 25 Supercars Championship regulars.

Supercars legends Craig Lowndes and Greg Murphy spearhead wildcards for Triple Eight and Erebus respectively, while an additional Dick Johnson Racing-built Mustang is also set to be on the grid.

MORE: Lowndes to lead wildcard entry in 2022

The wildcard concept was formally introduced to the Bathurst 1000 in 2009 after a period of consolidation for the Great Race grid.

In celebration of this year’s extra entries, V8 Sleuth has picked the six best-ever Bathurst 1000 wildcards.

They are ranked below based on the impact they made on the race, be it through marketability and fan interest or competitiveness on race day.

6) Super Black Racing (Ford Performance Racing)
Ant Pedersen/Andre Heimgartner

Super Black Racing ran as a fifth FPR Falcon in 2014. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

Funded by Kiwi businessman Tony Lentino, Super Black Racing debuted as a wildcard in the 2014 Bathurst 1000 ahead of a full-time entry to the Supercars Championship the following season.

The all-black Falcon was run by Ford Performance Racing and provided then 19-year-old Heimgartner with his V8 Supercars debut, paired with countryman Ant Pedersen.

A smooth run through the chaotic race netted a highly credible 11th place finish, albeit after Pederson was forced to pit for fuel on the penultimate lap while running sixth.

The team described the result as bittersweet, but they weren’t the only ones to be caught-short on fuel that day.

5) NAPA Auto Parts Racing (Walkinshaw Andretti United)
Alexander Rossi/James Hinchcliffe

WAU’s much-anticipated wildcard failed to fire in 2019. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

This 2019 entry appeared the perfect leverage of Walkinshaw Andretti United’s international connections, two IndyCar drivers aboard a Bathurst wildcard with strong commercial backing.

Although ranking highly for star power, the duo’s lack of experience with the car and the circuit showed as they found the fence in practice, qualified at the back and finished two laps down.

“If I didn’t have access to timing and scoring, that was the best weekend of my life,” said Rossi on a recent F1 podcast, where he declared he’d only return if he could experience the 12 Hour first.

Unfortunately, this entry is perhaps best remembered for Rossi’s off at Murray’s Corner late in the race, which triggered the infamous “debriss” Safety Car period.

4) Shannons Mars Racing (Kelly Racing)
Grant Denyer/Cameron Waters

The Shannons wildcard was run by Kelly Racing in 2011. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

This 2011 wildcard scores plenty of points for out-of-the-box thinking.

Then 17-year-old Formula Ford ace Waters became the Bathurst 1000’s youngest-ever starter having won his seat in a reality television show called Shannons Supercar Showdown.

Although Waters clobbered the wall at Forrest’s Elbow early in the race and the car was ultimately retired, the now Tickford star’s career is a tremendous legacy for this entry.

A year later Waters shared with Series 2 Showdown winner Jesse Dixon, while a third running of the show gave Todd Hazelwood a Dunlop Series debut at Homebush in 2013.

3) Supercheap Auto Racing (Triple Eight Race Engineering)
Broc Feeney/Russell Ingall

Broc Feeney starred on race day in 2021. Pic: an1images.com / Nathan Wong

This wildcard from 2021 was a case of guerrilla marketing at its finest!

Having lost naming rights sponsorship of the Bathurst 1000 to arch-rival Repco, Supercheap Auto bankrolled this high-profile, Triple Eight-run wildcard to win back some attention.

It was win-win for sponsor and team as Ingall’s return from retirement gained plenty of headlines and Feeney banked great experience before replacing Jamie Whincup in 2022.

A crash for Feeney while running in the top 10 during the closing stages was a mixed blessing, as it at least ensured the car airtime on a TV broadcast that had otherwise largely ignored the entry.

2) Harvey Norman Supergirls (Prodrive Racing Australia)
Simona De Silvestro/Renee Gracie

The Harvey Norman entry finished 21st, 40 laps down after repairs. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

For mainstream media impact, this entry in 2015 is the best Bathurst wildcard ever.

A deal stitched together by Gracie’s then manager Chris Jewell paired the Dunlop Series driver with IndyCar runner Simona De Silvestro and blue-chip brand Harvey Norman.

The first all-female Bathurst entry since 1998 was a huge story pre-event and only gained further headlines thanks to David Reynolds’ infamous press conference comment in race week.

Gracie found the wall early on race day which put paid to a result, but De Silvestro drove strongly and, after repeating the wildcard with Nissan the following year, she joined Supercars full-time.

1) XBOX ONE Racing (Triple Eight Race Engineering)
Andy Priaulx/Mattias Ekstrom

The Xbox car was a competitive force in 2013. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

Almost a decade on, this 2013 effort remains the benchmark for Bathurst 1000 wildcards.

The category’s top team, a big-name sponsor, two highly credentialed international drivers and a very competitive run in the race. It ticked all the boxes.

The Brit and the Swede finished 10th, the best of any on this list, and had genuinely looked a winning threat in the latter stages as the fuel strategies ebbed and flowed.

The true legend of this wildcard though was its straight-line speed, which Ludo Lacroix – race engineering a car for the first time in several years – claimed post-race was due to setup factors.

There was plenty of chat from other drivers and teams about it during the race though, with even Craig Lowndes quipping to his team via radio that he wanted “Ludo’s engine” …

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