SLEUTHING: THE FIRST ADELAIDE 500 WINNER

Craig Lowndes attacks the Senna Chicane in 1999. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

REGULAR V8 Sleuth readers will know that we’re big fans of the Adelaide 500… so much so that we even made a book about the history of the event!

While we wait in hope that the iconic street race will be reborn, today we’re taking a look at where the event’s first winning car has ended up.

Craig Lowndes took a famous and controversial victory in the inaugural Adelaide 500, held in April of 1999 under a unique format that comprised a single 500km race made up of two 250km legs.

The Holden Racing Team ace was disqualified from the first leg (which he’d won) following contact with privateer Danny Osborne, but then charged from rear-of-grid to win on Sunday.

It was a gruelling two days for cars and competitors in an era where 20-minute sprint races were the norm outside of the two-driver enduros.

The car that Lowndes stormed to victory in was actually HRT’s first VT Commodore, debuted by Greg Murphy at Calder Park in 1998.

Murphy debuted the car at Calder in 1998. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

It was then used by Lowndes in the final two rounds to clinch that year’s ATCC and shared with Skaife for the subsequent Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000.

Lowndes continued in it for the opening half of 1999 before it was purchased by South Australian businessman James Rosenberg and raced by Mark Poole in John Deere colours.

Lowndes’ car returned to the Adelaide 500 in 2000 in John Deere colours. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

In mid-2000 it was sold on to Paul Morris Motorsport and reborn as a Big Kev Commodore, winning the Calder Park round of the 2001 Shell Championship Series in Morris’ hands.

The car’s last outing in Big Kev colours came at the 2001 Bathurst 1000.

Paul Morris at Calder in 2001. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

PMM fielded it as the #24 entry at the 2003 Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000 (where it failed to qualify), before it was sold to Greg Murphy Racing and used as a ride car in New Zealand with VY bodywork.

After more ride duties in Australia for Tasman Motorsport, in 2008 the long process of restoring the car to its HRT VT glory commenced.

The car parked in the National Motor Racing Museum. Pic: NMRM

It was returned to the specification and livery in which Lowndes and Skaife had driven it in the 1998 FAI 1000, where it scored pole and dominated the race until striking tyre trouble.  

The restoration was complete ahead of the 50th year celebrations at the Bathurst 1000 in 2012, and lives today in the National Motor Racing Museum, on loan from owner John Anderson.