TRIPLE Eight has taken a punt on youth with new signing Broc Feeney, who will replace Jamie Whincup in the team’s driver line-up for the 2022 Repco Supercars Championship.
Born on October 18, 2002, Feeney made his main game debut as a co-driver in last year’s Bathurst 1000 on his 18th birthday, which made him the eighth-youngest driver to start an ATCC/Supercars Championship race.
Feeney will be 19 years old when his rookie full-time season gets underway, which begs the question of where that will place him in history.
For the purpose of the below list, we’ve defined a driver as having competed as a full-timer if they contested at least 75 percent of the rounds in a season and have taken their age at the opening round.
Based on that definition, Feeney will become the fifth-youngest full-time driver in the category’s history – provided the opening round of 2022 is held somewhere in the first six months of the year.
The current fifth position on the list could be claimed by Kevin Bartlett, who was 19 years and 252 days when he drove a Morris Minor in the single-race 1960 ATCC at Gnoo-Blas.
But for the purposes of classifying full-time seasons, we’ll keep the list to those who have competed since the ATCC/Supercars Championship became a multi-round season in 1969…
5) Scott McLaughlin
Age at first round: 19 years, 265 days
McLaughlin scored a full-time V8 Supercars call-up with Garry Rogers Motorsport after capping a three-year Dunlop Series stint with the 2012 title.
He’d also competed in the 2012 endurance races as a co-driver at Tekno Autosports and contested his first single-driver main game race with GRM at that year’s Sydney season finale in place of an ill Alex Premat.
McLaughlin’s first full-time season coincided perfectly with the introduction of the Car of the Future regulations, for which he had been one of the key test drivers.
The youngster enjoyed a stellar 2013 aboard the #33 Fujitsu-backed Commodore, which included race wins at Pukekohe and Queensland Raceway en route to 10th in the championship standings.
4) Rick Kelly
Age at first round: 19 years, 58 days
The first of Kelly’s 19 full-time Supercars seasons came in a Holden Young Lions Commodore run alongside the pair of Holden Racing Team and K-Mart Racing entries from Tom Walkinshaw Racing’s Clayton empire.
In terms of quality of equipment, this opportunity was comparable to Feeney’s at Triple Eight, ableit without the pressure of being in one of the squad’s expected front-running entries.
Kelly was promoted after a 2001 season in which he’d dominated the Australian Drivers Championship, competed as an enduro co-driver with K-Mart Racing and made his single-driver main game debut for HYL in the Sandown finale.
Heatstroke got the better of Kelly during Adelaide’s gruelling 2002 season opener, but he ultimately finished a solid 16th in the standings with the highlight an outstanding fourth at Bathurst alongside Nathan Pretty.
3) Shane van Gisbergen
Age at first round: 18 years, 290 days
By the time van Gisbergen embarked on his maiden full-time season with Stone Brothers Racing in 2008, he was well into the swing of V8 Supercars driving duties.
The team blooded the youngster aboard the SBR-run Team Kiwi entry in the second half of 2007, where he competed in the last seven rounds of the 14-round season.
In 2008 he stepped into the shoes of Russell Ingall aboard SBR’s #9 entry and didn’t take long to shine, showing his class with a second-place race result in tricky conditions at Sandown’s Round 5.
Van Gisbergen ultimately finished 15th in the championship standings and is the youngest driver to have completed a full ATCC/Supercars Championship season.
2) Paul Weel
Age at first round: 18 years, 189 days
While the other four drivers on this list were known circuit racing up-and-comers given a chance by existing teams, Weel’s move into V8 Supercars as an 18-year-old came in very different circumstances.
The Gold Coaster made the leap from stadium trucks to V8 Supercars by purchasing a Tony Longhurst Racing EL Falcon in 1997, competing in couple of lower-level events that year before jumping into the ATCC in ’98.
It was a fiery baptism that famously included being spun by race leader Dick Johnson while trying to let the Ford legend lap him during Lakeside’s third round of the season.
Weel had a big crash at Mallala’s Round 6 and missed the following two events but won a Privateers Dash on his return at Hidden Valley and ended up 31st in the championship.
1) Alex Rullo
Age at first round: 16 years, 262 days
Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport’s signing of 16-year-old Rullo ahead of the 2017 season made plenty of headlines.
Rullo was under both the minimum age (17) and achievement requirements stipulated in the new-for-2017 Superlicence needed to compete but did so initially with round-by-round dispensation.
He arrived in the Supercars Championship following stints in the V8 Touring Car Series (now Super3) and Super2 Series and became the youngest driver in ATCC/Supercars history at Adelaide’s opening round.
The West Aussie though faced a tough ask to be competitive in the main game with the under-funded LDM, and his best result of 15th came alongside Alex Davison in the rain-hit Bathurst 1000.
Rullo and LDM ultimately parted ways with two of the year’s 14 events remaining, after it’d become clear he would not be retained under the team’s new 23Red guise in 2018.