RETIRING MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi will forever be motorsport’s most famous number #46.
Adopted by the Italian following its use by his father, Graziano, during his own motorcycle racing career, the two digits have been a big part of Valentino’s ‘brand’ since he burst onto the world stage in 1996.
Coincidentally, that same season a Kiwi named John Faulkner made his first foray into Australia’s growing V8 touring car ranks with #46… and his history with the number stretched back 15 years!
Faulkner, one of the most-loved privateer runners of the late 1990s and early 2000s V8 Supercar era, had first been handed the number during his karting days.
“When I went into professional karting at an elite level internationally, they gave me a three-digit number which was 323,” Faulkner recalled to V8 Sleuth.
“The number plate was too big, it wouldn’t fit between my knees, it caused me all sorts of dramas!
“So, I rocked into the karting caravan and said ‘look, I need a two-digit number’ – and the only one they had available was 46. That was 1981.
“I did a bit of history on the 46 number and it was one of the unluckiest numbers in racing … and it’s moved on from there.
“Days of Thunder (the Tom Cruise movie in which #46 featured on the car of fictitious driver Cole Trickle), Valentino Rossi, everyone seemed to latch onto the number then, and I’d had it for years!”
After enjoying success with the number in karting, Faulkner made sure the later succession of AUSCARs, NASCARs and V8 Supercars run by his own team were all emblazoned with #46.
“I made a point, everything I raced I put the number 46 on as large as I could,” he said.
“It became … you’d go to restaurants and get table 46, the chassis number on the Harley (Davidson, road bike) was 46, it just kept popping up. I thought it was good luck!
“I still encourage it today, everything I do revolves around the number. I’m not superstitious, I just get a kick out of it.
“With social media nowadays, it’s good to be attributed to something. People remember you by it. If they can’t remember your name, they remember your number!”
The privateer made a total of 180 ATCC/Supercars Championship race starts with #46 and ran it at Bathurst each year from 1996-2002.
Faulkner then secured use of it for the Holden Young Lions program he fielded in the Konica Minolta V8 Supercar Series throughout 2003 and ’04.
That team’s entries in the 2003 Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000 with Dale Brede and Tony Ricciardello at the wheel remain the number’s last appearance in the ATCC/Supercars Championship.
Hear more from Faulkner in this recent episode of the V8 Sleuth Podcast Powered by Repco