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HomeNewsSleuthing: The first Adelaide 500 pole winner

Sleuthing: The first Adelaide 500 pole winner

THE inaugural Adelaide 500 in 1999 is remembered for Craig Lowndes’ remarkable last-to-first drive in the Sunday leg of the two-part 500km race.

It was the start of a period of domination for the Holden Racing Team in Adelaide, as Mark Skaife and Jason Bright piled on further wins in the years that followed.

But what’s easily overlooked is that a Ford Falcon AU scored the very first Adelaide 500 pole position with young gun Bright at the wheel.

Bright’s Stone Brothers Racing entry was among a fleet of AUs that were just two events old at the time, having contested Albert Park and the Eastern Creek championship opener.

The Pirtek-backed car was dubbed SBR AU2, as it followed an AU built for Mark Larkham out of the SBR workshop.

While the unbalanced AU aero package repeatedly proved no match for the VT Commodore in race trim during the season, it was quick over a single lap, as Bright proved in Adelaide.

Bright blitzed Adelaide’s inaugural Top 10 Shootout – a format usually reserved for Sandown and Bathurst – to score pole by over 0.4206s ahead of HRT duo Skaife and Lowndes.

The Pirtek Ford then led the opening 26 laps of the Saturday leg, which Bright ended eighth after falling behind on strategy, and ultimately finished third on Sunday.

The start of the 1999 Adelaide 500. Pic: an1images.com

This car remained Bright’s for the entire 1999 season, which included taking the first round win for an AU at Hidden Valley in June, before Craig Baird stepped into the drive in 2000.

At the end of that year it became the first SBR V8 Supercar to be tested by Marcos Ambrose, who then received a fresh chassis for his rookie season in 2001.

SBR meanwhile sold SBR AU2 to Gibson Motorsport, which was still some time away from having its first in-house build Falcon ready for star signing Lowndes.

Lowndes on his way to victory in the Saturday race of the 2001 Clipsal 500. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

It was in Lowndes’ hands that this AU became Ford’s first race winner at the Adelaide 500, taking out of the Saturday race at the 2001 event.

Lowndes continued to campaign this car until the Bathurst 1000, where Gibson’s in-house built car – complete with new ‘green-eyed monster’ livery – debuted.

‘CL’ went back to the ex-SBR chassis for the non-championship Gold Coast event before it reverted to spare car status.

Rodney Forbes at Phillip Island in 2002. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

It was then handed to teammate Rodney Forbes for the 2002 season, which included a famous incident with Paul Romano at Phillip Island that left the latter on negative points.

Lowndes’ primary car was damaged in an accident at that same event, resulting in him driving SBR AU2 for one last time at the following round at Eastern Creek.

The introduction of the BA model Falcon in 2003 marked the end of this AU’s racing life. It was returned to its 2001 Lowndes colours and has been retained by team owner Bob Forbes ever since.

SBR AU2 alongside HRT 037 in the National Motor Racing Museum in 2021. Pic: NMRM

The Falcon lives in the National Motor Racing Museum at Bathurst, where it was pictured above in 2021 alongside the HRT Commodore in which Lowndes won the first Adelaide 500.

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