OUR V8 Sleuth Podcast chat with John Faulkner got us thinking about which drivers have the longest spans between their first and last race starts in the Australian Touring Car/Supercars Championship.
Faulkner’s first championship race start came in the final round of the 1977 ATCC, while his last came at the Bathurst 1000 during the 2005 V8 Supercars Championship – a span of almost 28 years!
That’s good enough for just eighth on the all-time list; cracking the top five on the list requires a span of over 30 years between first and last starts.
By way of comparison, Jamie Whincup – the driver with the longest career span among the current Repco Supercars Championship grid – will tick over 19 years since his debut at the 2002 Queensland 500 when he makes his final full-time start at the Gold Coast 500 in December.
To make it onto the bottom rung of this list, Whincup would need to take part in a race during the 2032 season…
No.5 – DICK JOHNSON
30 years, 45 days
First start: July 26, 1970 – Lakeside
Last start: September 10, 2000 – Queensland Raceway
It’s appropriate that Queensland’s favourite son both started and finished his championship race career on home soil, but Dick Johnson was actually supposed to bookend his career with races at Mount Panorama.
Johnson’s first ATCC round start is considered to be at the Mount Panorama round in 1970, but a broken gearbox in practice meant he had to wait until the Lakeside round for his first ATCC race start.
In a quirk of fate, the 1999 Bathurst 1000 was meant to be Johnson’s swansong at the end of a full-season farewell tour, but he ended up drafted in alongside son Steven when the team found itself in need of a driver for the Queensland 500 enduro.
Had that not happened, Johnson would’ve fallen five days short of pipping Charlie O’Brien to the fifth spot on our list.
No.4 – JIM RICHARDS
30 years, 193 days
First start: March 28, 1976 – Oran Park
Last start: October 8, 2006 – Bathurst
It’s absolutely no surprise that Jim Richards is on this list – the legendary Kiwi seemed to get better as the years went by!
Richards’ first full-time ATCC campaign didn’t come until the very end of the Group C era in 1984, but he’d been making championship starts back in the 1970s, including a one-off appearance for the Holden Dealer Team in 1978.
Richards’ starts came with five different manufacturers: while his drives aboard Nissans, BMWs, Holdens and Fords are well known, it’s often forgot that his very first ATCC start came aboard a Mazda RX-3!
His full-time ATCC career came to a close at the end of the 1995 season but he remained in demand as a co-driver through to 2006, highlighted by his Bathurst 1000 win with the Holden Racing Team in 2002.
No.3 – ANDREW MIEDECKE
31 years, 37 days
First start: August 8, 1971 – Oran Park
Last start: September 15, 2002 – Queensland Raceway
It might be surprising that Andrew Miedecke features so high on this list given he only really turned to touring cars in the late 1980s, but he’d already made his ATCC debut 15 years prior.
While Bob Jane in his Chevrolet Camaro and Allan Moffat in his Ford Mustang Trans-Am engaged in a legendary showdown for the 1971 title at Oran Park, Miedecke joined the pair on the grid in a Volvo 122S!
The Swedish tourer came just prior to Miedecke getting fully serious with his racing, becoming one of the leading runners in Australia’s open-wheel scene for much of the next decade.
His underfunded years racing an assortment of fast but unlucky Ford Sierras were followed by a long period of endurance co-driving, a role that extended his ATCC/SC career when the enduros were rolled into the championship from 1999.
No.2 – BOB HOLDEN
31 years, 339 days
First start: September 3, 1961 – Lowood
Last start: August 8, 1993 – Oran Park
Of course Bob Holden had to be in the top five! A stalwart of the smaller classes, Holden’s entire ATCC career was spent outside the outright battle for victory.
Holden is the only driver on this list whose career spans back into the era where the ATCC was determined by a single race rather than a series, with a fifth-place finish at Lowood in 1961 marking the best outright result of his time in the ATCC.
His best championship race finish, however, was a second placing in Race 2 at Oran Park in 1974; the promoters split the field in two so the Over 3 Litre and Under 3 Litre cars each got their own points-paying race, and Holden drove his Ford Escort to second in the latter.
Holden remained a mainstay of the class cars through the Group A era and into the 2-litre era, with his final ATCC/SC start coming at the end of the 1993 season.
No.1 – PETER BROCK
32 years, 204 days
First start: March 19, 1972 – Calder Park
Last start: October 10, 2004 – Bathurst
The ‘King of the Mountain’s final Bathurst 1000 comeback got him onto this list, despite the car sustaining race-ending damage before he had a chance to drive it.
Brock’s alignment with the Holden Dealer Team and its focus on Series Production touring car racing meant his ATCC debut came a couple of years into his first tenure with the squad.
Even so, his maiden ATCC start came in the Improved Production era aboard a Series Production-spec Torana, and his Hall of Fame career went on to span the Group C, Group A, five-litre touring car, V8 Supercar and Project Blueprint eras of the championship.