STRANGE BUT TRUE: PAUL MORRIS STARTED 31ST IN A 29 CAR FIELD

Paul Morris had to line up 31st on the grid for a 29-car race at Albert Park in 2008. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

WHEN does the badge on the front of your car mean more than the time you set in qualifying?

Just ask any of the Supercars drivers who competed at Albert Park in 2008.

Having been absent from the 2007 event entirely, Supercars was back on the support roster for the 2008 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.

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To celebrate its return, Australian Grand Prix organisers came up with a unique idea to further feature the category’s Holden versus Ford rivalry.

“We didn’t just want to have the V8 Supercars back, but to have a point of difference,” the then-CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation Drew Ward said.

The idea was to pit the traditional rivals against each other in the ‘V8 Supercars Manufacturers Challenge’ with the points scored by each car in each race contributing to their marque’s tally across the weekend.

“What we’re trying to tap into is the tribalism we have in Australia: everyone is either a Ford or a Holden person, with very few on the fence,” Ward said.

“We want to create a great, long-term rivalry and another point of interest for the racing at Albert Park.

“There will still be a champion driver and a champion team, but the focus will be the manufacturer champion.”

A key part of the format was a unique method of determining the grid.

The split between manufacturers on the grid for race one is evident by the blue and red windscreen banners. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

Each manufacturer’s cars would be confined to one side of the grid – guaranteeing one Commodore and one Falcon on each row – even if that altered the original position they had qualified/finished in over the weekend.

Garth Tander qualified his Holden Racing Team Commodore on pole position, locking out the odd side of the grid for every other Holden to line up behind him on the grid for race one.

Every Ford driver lined up behind Craig Lowndes on the even-numbered side of the grid for race one after he secured second in qualifying.

With Tander victorious in all three of the races that weekend and a progressive grid format in use, Holden and Ford remained on their respective sides of the grid for the duration of the event.

A quirk of the format was that because there were more Holdens than Fords in the 2008 field, it meant that Commodores lined up alongside empty grid spots on the final three rows of the grid.

This was particularly the case for Paul Morris, driving in his last full-time Supercars season aboard his Supercheap Auto Holden Commodore.

Having had a mechanical drama in race one, Morris started race two from the 31st grid position – in a field of only 29 cars!

Morris started alone off the back of the race two grid, on one of three rows that only featured Holdens. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

The format also made for some big winners and big losers when the qualifying and race orders were split along brand lines.

Michael Patrizi (Ford Rising Stars Falcon) and Marcus Marshall (Irwin Falcon) both gained 11 grid positions over the course of the three races.

Michael Caruso on the other hand was the biggest loser, dropping a combined 10 positions throughout the weekend in his Garry Rogers Motorsport Holden.

The biggest grid position gain between races was Fabian Coulthard’s, who gained six positions between the end of race one (20th) and the starting grid of race two (14th).

Conversely, the biggest grid drop between races was suffered by Paul Dumbrell who finished the first race one spot ahead of Coulthard in 19th but had to start race two down in 25th position: a six-place loss, and 11 places behind Coulthard!

Holden’s Simon McNamara receives the Manufacturers Challenge trophy after the final race of the 2008 event. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

The V8 Supercars Manufacturers Challenge remained in 2009, albeit with the grid format tweaked.

With the split between Commodores and Falcons growing from 16/13 in 2008 to 17/12 in 2009, it was decided that the rest of the Holdens would line up sequentially at the end of the grid and not behind one another.

Despite the disparity, Ford turned the tables on 2008 victors Holden to win overall honours in 2009.

The Manufacturers Challenge – including the Holden versus Ford grid and points format – was dropped for 2010 and remains a unique story in the history of Supercars racing at Albert Park.

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Jordan Treloar is an emerging motorsport reporter who graduated from Charles Sturt University with first class Honours in his Bachelor of Exercise Science (Honours) degree. He has interned at The Western Advocate and joined the V8 Sleuth team for its coverage of the 2021 Repco Bathurst 1000. He continues to report on various categories for V8 Sleuth in 2022.