SATURDAY SLEUTHING: THE FIRST SUPERCHEAP AUTO V8 SUPERCAR

Supercheap Auto's colours in their V8 Supercars debut at Sandown in 1998. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

WITH 2020 marking the end of its title sponsorship of the Bathurst 1000, this edition of Saturday Sleuthing is looking at the first V8 Supercar to carry the colours of automotive retailer Supercheap Auto.

The company even won its very first race: the Privateer’s Dash at the first round of the 1998 Australian Touring Car Championship at Sandown!

John Briggs’ #70 Falcon carried the Supercheap Auto colours on an EL Falcon during the 1998 season, a presence that began a streak of 23 seasons through to the 2020 championship.

While the company may have been new to V8 Supercars, the car that carried its logos was entering its sixth year of racing.

Waldock at the wheel of this car in its debut race, the 1993 Sandown 500. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

PSR 1 started its life as Kevin Waldock’s first Komatsu-backed Ford Falcon EB, built in New Zealand during the 1993 season and debuting at that year’s Sandown 500.

Waldock continued to race the car throughout the 1994 season – during which it was badly damaged in a crash at Surfers Paradise – and into the 1995 season, until it was replaced by a newly-built EF Falcon for the endurance races.

Parts from the original car were used to complete the build of the new car, so the stripped Falcon sat around before it was purchased by Briggs, who built it back up and it appeared as a plain white #70 EF model in the final round of the 1997 ATCC at Oran Park.

Briggs charging onto Oran Park’s main straight during the 1997 ATCC round. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

It was updated to EL specification for 1998 and Briggs ran it in Supercheap Auto livery; he raced the car to eighth in that year’s Privateers Cup with wins in the Mallala and Barbagallo Dashes to add to his Sandown triumph, while he finished 29th in the overall series standings off the back of just six round starts across the 10-race calendar.

The Supercheap Auto colours had to wait another 12 months to make their first start in the Bathurst 1000, but they did so on the panels of this car.

The build of a new AU model Falcon allowed Briggs’ team to expand to two cars, with this EL Falcon becoming the #80 entry of Bob Thorn, Supercheap Auto’s managing director of the time.

Thorn, who had raced production cars and Geminis before his step up into V8 Supercar racing, campaigned the car in nine of the 13 rounds, including the Bathurst 1000 where the #80 Ford was shared by speedway ace Todd Wanless.

The car’s final race in Supercheap Auto colours came at the 1999 Bathurst 1000. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

The car was placed up for sale in 2000 but was wheeled out for one final ‘main game’ race appearance at that year’s non-championship Gold Coast Indy support races, this time in Caterpillar colours with John Bowe at the wheel after Briggs had taken over the PAE Motorsport squad mid-season.

It was eventually sold to Wanless, who raced it in Sports Sedans to increase his V8 experience given he was driving an ex-Marcos Ambrose AU Falcon at the time in the V8 Supercar Development Series.

After being sold to Rod Dawson the car then found its way into the hands of Victorian racer and current owner Keith Linnell, who raced it in Touring Car Challenge events throughout the middle of the 2000s.

The red #56 Falcon is Linnell in this car at the Phillip Island Touring Car Challenge round in 2006. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

Almost a decade ago, Linnell made the decision to return the Falcon to its bold Supercheap Auto livery from the 1999 season and has made appearances in Australian 5 Litre Touring Car Association demonstration events in the years since – on occasions, with former V8 Supercars racer Melinda Price at the wheel.

The car came full circle, in a way, in 2017 when it joined the then-current Supercheap Auto Racing machine of Chaz Mostert for a photoshoot ahead of that year’s Sandown 500, after a fan vote selected the company’s 1999 colours as the retro livery for Mostert’s #55 Tickford Racing Falcon.

Past meets present: Chaz Mostert’s 2017 Ford Falcon FG X with this car in Thorn’s 1999 livery. Pic: Supplied
Will Dale began his media career as a breakfast radio newsreader before joining SPEED TV Australia and FOX SPORTS Australia in 2012 as its Digital Editorial Lead - Motorsport for the next six years, covering all forms of motorsport both in Australia and internationally. He became part of the V8 Sleuth team in 2018.