A HARD-EARNED thirst needs a big cold beer, as they say.
Watching a qualifying Shootout where every car in the field takes part is certainly one way to work up a hard-earned thirst – especially if you’re in the running to win a year’s supply of beer, depending on who sets the fastest time!
This Strange But True tale looks back at the only full-field Shootout in ATCC/Supercars Championship history and the spectacular prize that was on offer to one lucky fan.
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The 2003 VIP Petfoods Main Event at Eastern Creek is best remembered for Marcos Ambrose securing his first championship win amid a rainstorm, and the infamous tangle between Mark Skaife and Russell Ingall in the closing stages.
It was the first event promoted by V8 Supercars itself, which billed the event as a ‘motorsport extravaganza’ with a host of on and off-track action plus fan-based competitions in the lead-up.
To add an extra variable to the weekend, it decided to ditch the usual all-in qualifying session and expand the Top 10 Shootout to encompass the full 33-car field.
But with no preceding qualifying session, how would they set the starting order for the Shootout?
The answer: a barrel draw!
Each driver was paired with one of 33 lucky fans who had pre-purchased their tickets to the event, with the fan pulling the driver’s position in the Shootout running order by pulling an envelope at random out of a barrel.
The kicker was that the 33 fans arguably had as much riding on the Shootout result as the 33 drivers, including title contenders Ambrose, Greg Murphy and Skaife.
The fan that was paired with the pole-winning driver would win a year’s supply of Victoria Bitter!
With a 12-month supply of the ‘very best’ on the line, the 33 fans and 33 drivers assembled on Saturday morning for the draw.
One of the concerns prior to the weekend was that the draw may have an unwanted impact on the delicately poised championship battle.
The Shootout was expected to take almost 90 minutes, plenty of time for changing weather conditions to favour or hurt any of the three contenders.
Much of that concern was mitigated by Murphy and Ambrose’s fans drawing consecutive positions (13th and 14th in the order respectively) while the weather and temperature stayed sunny and steady throughout the session.
Making his sole championship Shootout appearance, David Thexton was the only driver who failed to qualify after missing the 105 percent cutoff by less than a tenth of a second, while the back row of the grid was occupied by the first and last drivers to tackle the Shootout, Anthony Tratt and David Krause.
The front row was an all-Holden Racing Team affair, with Skaife heading Todd Kelly by almost half a second to take his 31st career championship pole position and the $5,000 Monroe Pole Award cheque.
But the big winner was Fiona Rourke, the fan that Skaife was paired with.
Skaife’s pole lap earnt Rourke a limited-edition Sony PlayStation 2, a garage tour, breakfast on Sunday morning with several V8 Supercars drivers, a high-speed lap of Eastern Creek in the Safety Car, a garage tour with a team of their choice, a bunch of signed merchandise, plus the year’s worth of Victoria Bitter.
And before you ask, according to the terms of the competition, the year’s worth of beer amounted to a total of 52 cartons.
The remaining 32 fans didn’t go home empty handed.
The fans paired with Kelly and third-fastest qualifier Jason Bright also joined Rourke in having breakfast with several V8 Supercars drivers, as well as receiving a garage tour, Safety Car ride and signed merchandise.
The other 30 fans won a poster signed by the driver they were paired with, plus a pre-race grid walk.
While Rourke did well out of the experiment, the full-field Shootout failed to capture the imagination of trackside fans or the V8 teams or drivers and was never repeated at a championship event.
However, history shows that one more full-field Shootout was held – coincidentally, at the same venue.
The 2015 V8 SuperTest at the rechristened Sydney Motorsport Park featured a full-field ‘SuperShootout’, won by Chaz Mostert.
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