WITH the stars of Supercars returning to a virtual Oran Park next week as part of the All Stars Eseries, this edition of Saturday Sleuthing is looking back at the car that won the championship’s final race at the Sydney circuit in 2008.
It was Rick Kelly that took the chequered flag in the third and final race of the weekend, the youngest Kelly brother’s final win with the HSV Dealer Team before moving to Kelly Racing for 2009.
The Oran Park event was also the last to recognise a round winner rather than individual race winners, so Kelly received a trophy for third place overall behind round winner Garth Tander and second-placed Craig Lowndes.
The car that Kelly drove to that momentous victory has had quite the racing life, one which is still going to this day – albeit in England rather than Australia!
Chassis WR 008 made its debut in Kelly’s hands halfway through the 2008 season at Hidden Valley, and took its first win a couple of months later at Phillip Island in a qualifying race for the L&H 500.
The convoluted format saw the primary driver and co-driver split into separate races, each of which had their own qualifying session, while a compulsory pit stop for two tyres had to be made in at least one of the races. Championship points were awarded for each race, with the combined total setting the grid for the main race.
Kelly stayed out in his race, vaulting from fifth on the grid to take the win (and the 50 championship points!), while co-driver Paul Radisich pitted in his and came home 17th; their combined points netted them second on the grid, which became seventh on race day.
Sadly, the Phillip Island race was the last of Radisich’s career.
Radisich sustained serious injuries aboard WR 008 during practice for the Bathurst 1000 after a stuck throttle sent him into an unprotected concrete wall at McPhillamy Park.
Although it was seriously damaged, the car was repaired in time for Kelly to race in the season finale at Oran Park, taking a ninth and a fourth in the first two races before his aforementioned win in the final.
With Kelly moving on, David Reynolds made his full-time championship debut aboard the car in 2009 in Bundaberg Red colours, sharing the car with multiple World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx at the Phillip Island and Bathurst enduros.
The future Bathurst 1000 winner’s best result was an eighth at Winton, and at the end of the season he was demoted to a co-driver only role within the Walkinshaw squad for 2010 and replaced by Andrew Thompson, although he fared little better in WR 008, matching Reynolds’ best of eighth place in the penultimate race of the season at Sydney Olympic Park.
Prior to that, Thompson shared the car with a different driver in each of the three endurance events: Nick Percat made his Supercars Championship debut in WR 008 at Phillip Island, Ryan Briscoe joined Thompson at Bathurst, then Mika Salo co-drove with him at the inaugural Gold Coast 600.
The chassis was retained as a spare into the 2011 season before being sold to Brad Jones Racing to replace the car involved in Karl Reindler’s fiery start-line crash at Barbagallo.
The Western Australian qualified a sensational fifth a couple of months later at Queensland Raceway, the highpoint of a season where he was joined by David Wall at Phillip Island and Bathurst, and Fabrizio Giovanardi at Surfers Paradise.
Team co-owner Kim Jones also had a steer of this car at a BJR ride day late that season, his first drive of one of the team’s cars since 2006.
WR 008 remained with BJR into the final season of the ‘Project Blueprint’ era in 2012, Fabian Coulthard driving it in Lockwood colours throughout his first year with the Albury squad.
The Kiwi scored a string of top five and top 10 finishes throughout the season (the BJR team nicknamed the car ‘Rihanna’) he and was joined by David Besnard at Sandown and Bathurst while Nicolas Minassian was his international co-driver for the Gold Coast event.
Coulthard’s 15th place in the season finale at Sydney Olympic Park marked the last race for WR 008 in the main game, but it went on to enjoy three more seasons of racing in the Super2 Series with BJR.
Chris Pither raced the car throughout the 2013 and 2014 seasons, while Josh Kean tackled the 2015 season aboard it.
That marked the car’s final race on Australian soil; in 2018 the car was sold to Englishman Ric Wood and made its first British track appearance at Oulton Park in March 2019.
The car now carries a 2010-spec Holden Racing Team livery, an irony given that it was a Walkinshaw Racing-built car but one which never raced for the HRT in period.