WITH Triple Eight Race Engineering securing its milestone 200th (and 201st) Supercars Championship race wins in Townsville, this edition of Saturday Sleuthing is looking back at the car that delivered its first.
Chassis 888A-010 delivered plenty of ‘firsts’ in its time with Triple Eight: its first championship race win, its first major endurance race win and its was the team’s first car to contend for the championship.
This car also delivered one of the most emotional triumphs in the sport’s history.
888A-010 was built new for the start of the 2005 season and was the fourth car built by Triple Eight since its purchase of Briggs Motor Sport in September 2003.
Armed with a supply of Stone Brothers Racing engines and new recruit Craig Lowndes, the 2005 season saw the team begin to show the kind of strength that spurred it to a double century of championship race victories.
Lowndes debuted the car in ominous fashion at the non-championship Australian Grand Prix; after spinning into the gravel late in the opening race, he charged from 31st on the grid to sixth the next day.
A pair of first-up podium finishes followed in the season opener at Adelaide, while Lowndes scored three poles in a row across Pukekohe (also the team’s first in Supercars), Barbagallo and Eastern Creek.
It was the latter event where Lowndes, 888A-010 and Triple Eight finally broke through for their first race and round wins – the first of many, as it turned out.
All of Triple Eight’s winning chassis are represented in a new limited-edition collector’s print celebrating the team’s history-making triumph, produced by V8 Sleuth in partnership with the team.
Lowndes retained 888A-010 for the remainder of the 2005 season, which included he and French flyer Yvan Muller’s victory in the Sandown 500 plus their troubled Bathurst 1000 a few weeks later, when Lowndes damaged the rear suspension after brushing the wall while leading in the early laps followed by his infamous collision with a loose wheel on the exit of Griffin’s Bend.
After taking the 2005 title battle to the final race of the final round, Lowndes continued into the 2006 season with the same car.
A win from seventh on the grid in the opening race at Adelaide was followed by a DNF in the second after a tangle with James Courtney and Cameron McConville.
More race wins followed at Winton and Oran Park, Lowndes once again using 888A-010 to put himself in the thick of the title battle.
Famously, this car is the chassis that claimed Triple Eight’s first victory in the Bathurst 1000, an emotional triumph given the death just a few weeks earlier of Lowndes’ friend and mentor Peter Brock.
Lowndes used the car just once more in 2006 – at the Gold Coast – before it was handed to Whincup for Symmons Plains, where a lap-one crash in the opening race sidelined it for the rest of the season.
Repaired and reliveried in the fluorescent red and chrome of Triple Eight’s new title sponsor Vodafone, Whincup used 888A-010 – upgraded to Ford Falcon BF specifications – for the first half of the 2007 season.
Highlights included a win from 20th on the grid at Winton, Whincup’s first Supercars Championship pole position at Queensland Raceway, plus a Sandown 500 victory with Lowndes before the car became the team’s spare for the rest of the year.
The car returned to action one last time with Triple Eight in early 2008, Lowndes using the car at Eastern Creek and at Albert Park after his primary chassis was damaged in a crash at the Adelaide 500.
However, the car’s racing life had one last coda: the Sieders Racing Team leased the 2006 Bathurst-winning chassis from Triple Eight in order to take part as a wildcard entry in the Phillip Island and Bathurst enduros in 2009.
Driven by Andrew Fisher and David Sieders as the #13 Jesus Racing entry, it crashed twice in the lead-up at Mount Panorama and was the first retirement from the ‘Great Race’.
Retained by Triple Eight due to its special significance, the car was given a meticulous restoration back to its Bathurst-winning spec during 2011 and 2012 by former team member Gary Bailey – who’d been the #2 mechanic on the car in 2006, and would later perform a similarly exceptional restoration on another highly-successful Triple Eight chassis ‘Kate’.
The restored machine has spent plenty of time at the National Motor Racing Museum at Bathurst, and in 2016 was briefly put up for sale through Dutton Garage in Melbourne, however at the time of writing 888A-010 remains in Triple Eight’s ownership.