SEVEN SHOCK MID-SEASON SUPERCARS SPLITS

V8 Supercars has seen its share of mid-season divorces between drivers and teams. Pic: an1images.com

GARRY Jacobson’s sudden departure from PremiAir Racing six rounds into the 2022 Repco Supercars Championship came as a surprise to many.

Ambitious first-year team owner Peter Xiberras has taken decisive action as he aims to lift the struggling former Team Sydney outfit.

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Mid-season divorces between Supercars teams and drivers are big news, but they’re not as rare as you may think. A comprehensive list – and their backstories – could fill a whole book!

Here though are seven of the most memorable mid-season splits, starting with the first year of the V8 Supercar branded era in 1997.

Steven Ellery / Tony Longhurst Racing (1997)

Ellery aboard the Konica Ford at Phillip Island. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

Tony Longhurst expanded his eponymous team to two cars for 1997, fielding young gun Ellery – who had co-driven with Longhurst to third at Bathurst the previous year – in a Konica-backed Falcon.

But by Saturday of Round 4 at Symmons Plains the parties had agreed to part ways, a move that became known on Sunday after the pair clashed on track and reportedly exchanged heated words off it!

The Konica Falcon (which Ellery owned) left Tassie in Glenn Seton Racing’s transporter as Ellery made it clear that he’d elected to leave Longhurst’s squad, not the other way around.

Although the divorce was messy, Ellery told V8 Sleuth in 2018 that he remains grateful for the Bathurst opportunity Longhurst gave him, noting it kick-started his career.

Steven Richards / Garry Rogers Motorsport (1998)

Richards’ last outing with GRM came at Lakeside. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

Richards spearheaded GRM’s Super Touring and V8 Supercar campaigns in the mid-1990s.

The combination was three rounds into its third V8 season in 1998 when Richards suddenly departed to take a test and reserve driver role with Nissan’s British Touring Car Championship team.

Despite talk of guest race outings for the 24-year-old in a third car, a BTCC debut never materialised. Richards did though co-drive a works-supported Team Dynamics Primera in that year’s AMP 1000.

The suddenly vacant seat at GRM was taken by Garth Tander, 21, who had been without a drive in any category after winning the Australian Formula Ford Championship the previous season.

John Bowe / Briggs Motorsport (2001)

The CAT Ford wears the scars of Wills’ incident at Bathurst in 2001. The Kiwi took over the drive after Bathurst, but was himself replaced mid-season in 2002. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

JB’s tenure at CAT Racing didn’t quite last a full three years, as the former Dick Johnson Racing star was sacked following the 2001 Bathurst 1000 and replaced by co-driver Simon Wills.

Bowe, who sat out the final two rounds of the season and joined Brad Jones Racing for 2002, told the V8 Sleuth Podcast in 2019 that his axing came after he voiced frustration over their Bathurst demise.

Encouraged by team owner John Briggs, young gun Wills had set the lap record during the Bathurst race before an audacious overtaking attempt resulted in an incident that ended the car’s chances.

Bowe recalls he was giving his marching orders via a phone call from Ford Motorsport boss Howard Marsden and as detailed here, feels the team wanted to get rid of him to make way for Wills anyhow.

Greg Ritter / Ford Performance Racing (2005)

Ritter’s final start with FPR came on the Gold Coast. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

Ritter’s rookie V8 Supercars season ended suddenly when 00 Motorsport shut its doors midway through 2003 but, after impressing as co-driver to Marcos Ambrose in ’04, another opportunity knocked.

For 2005 the Melbourne-based plasterer snared what appeared a dream drive with Ford factory squad FPR (then operated by UK powerhouse Prodrive) aboard its #5 Falcon.

But a season of frustration (and just one top 10 round result) with the still-fledgling operation ended suddenly with two rounds remaining.

Prodrive swung the axe and parachuted in its Aston Martin GT ace and V8 Supercars co-driver David Brabham for the final two events, before signing Mark Winterbottom for the following season.

Jonny Reid / Dick Johnson Racing (2013)

DJR only just made it to the grid in 2013. Pic: an1images.com / Andrew Hall

A cash strapped DJR scrapped its way onto the 2013 grid with drivers Tim Blanchard and Jonny Reid both embarking on their first full-time V8 Supercar seasons.

Porsche ace Reid was believed to have brought backing from businessman Nathan Tinkler, who had sponsored the Kiwi’s efforts in Carrera Cup and previously been linked to a DJR buyout.

However, DJR parted ways with Reid after just three rounds and replaced him with Dunlop Series leader Chaz Mostert, on loan from FPR alongside engineer Adam De Borre.

Mostert sensationally won a race in just his fifth main game round start at Queensland Raceway that July, giving DJR its first race win since 2010.

Alex Rullo / Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport (2017)

Rullo on debut at the Adelaide 500. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

Rullo famously made his Supercars debut as a 16-year-old schoolboy in 2017, competing with LDM initially on a race-by-race Superlicence dispensation having not met the age or experience requirements.

What’s less remembered is the fact Rullo didn’t actually complete the season, suddenly leaving LDM ahead of the final two rounds, where Jack Perkins and Taz Douglas substituted.

Rullo’s exit came after he was informed at the Gold Coast event that he was not part of the squad’s 2018 plans, which involved new ownership from Phil Munday and a reduction to a single entry.

LDM’s other car meanwhile hosted several drivers in 2017, including Aaren Russell, whose own rookie season at Erebus the previous year had come to a screeching halt halfway through. 

James Courtney / Team Sydney (2020)

Courtney’s Team Sydney tenure lasted just one event. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

The high-profile combination of 2010 Supercars champion Courtney and Team Sydney (newly rebranded from Tekno Autosports) lasted just a single event.

Courtney raced at the Adelaide 500 with last-minute sponsorship from his own backer Boost Mobile and then quit Team Sydney claiming “a big commitment” had not been met by the squad.

Replaced by Alex Davison for the remainder of the campaign, Courtney remarkably did not miss a race as the COVID-19 pandemic paused the season and ultimately created a new opportunity.

That was at Tickford Racing, where Courtney and Boost slotted into the place vacated by 23Red Racing, which left its driver Will Davison sidelined when it suddenly pulled out of the championship.