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HomeNewsClassic CarsThe Thunderdome's last AUSCAR title winner emerges!

The Thunderdome’s last AUSCAR title winner emerges!

THE Ford Falcon V8 that took Leigh Watkins to the 1998/99 AUSCAR Championship at the Calder Park Thunderdome has popped up for sale via online auction.

The EL Falcon was driven by the Bendigo-based racer in the super speedway series and wrote itself into the history books by becoming the first – and ultimately only Ford – to win the AUSCAR title.

The ‘98/99 series was the last completed AUSCAR series. No champion was declared for the ’99/00 series that only included two rounds – one as part of the Bathurst Tourers 300 race at Bathurst in October 1999 and a Thunderdome round in December 1999 – before Bob Jane pulled the pin on funding super speedway racing early in 2000.

Conceived by Jane’s brother Bill (father of eventual four-time Australian NASCAR champion Kim) as a cheaper, local-version of NASCAR racing to provide support racing at the Thunderdome to the American stock car category, AUSCAR racing boomed in the late 1980s and early 1990s with full fields and tight racing.

Initially packed with Holden Commodore V8s, many of which were converted from production and Commodore Classic cars, Ford’s Falcon debuted in the series initially with XF models, including the Mick Webb-run Bib Stilwell XF model driven by Jim Richards.

Commodores always outnumbered Falcons in the AUSCAR series and won multiple AUSCAR crowns, including five in a row by Brad Jones.

Watkins was a regular at the Thunderdome in AUSCAR dating back to the category’s very first season in 1988, though it took until the category’s later years for him to become a title contender.

The car that is now being auctioned made its race debut at the Thunderdome in November 1998 at the ‘98/99 season-opening round.

Watkins won the ‘98/99 title at the final round at the Thunderdome in April 1999, finishing five points in front of now-Super2 team owner Matthew White with Nathan Pretty third in the final points, another 30 behind White.

The Watkins Falcon is reportedly as last raced on the Thunderdome, including the Windsor V8 engine, which was reportedly stroked to 314 cubic inches and pumped out just over 400 horsepower.

The body shell for the car was also reportedly a lightweight unit supplied by Ford with no VIN or chassis number.

The auction for the Watkins Falcon ends later this month via Lloyds Auctions.

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