TRIPLE EIGHT TO HIT MAJOR MILESTONE IN SYDNEY

Old and new: Triple Eight's first and 249th round start. Pics: an1images.com and Supercars

TRIPLE Eight Race Engineering will clock up its 250th Repco Supercars Championship round start this weekend when the 2021 season continues at Sydney Motorsport Park.

The marker is set to be reached just over 18 years after the Roland Dane led operation joined the then V8 Supercars Championship at the 2003 Sandown 500.

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Along the way the team’s milestone rounds have been a rollercoaster of delight and disaster and provide an insightful series of snapshots that chart Triple Eight’s journey.

Round #1 – Betta Electrical Sandown 500
September 12-14, 2003

Paul Radisich at the 2003 Sandown 500. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

Triple Eight’s debut came in the ninth round of the 2003 season after Dane and his business partners bought-out Briggs Motorsport, including its cars, workshop and licences, for a reported $5 million.

Although there were no changes to the team or its Ford Falcons ahead of Sandown, lead driver Paul Radisich stunned by putting his Betta Electrical-backed machine on provisional pole.

Radisich and co-driver Rickard Rydell ended the rain-hit Melbourne enduro in seventh and teammates Dean Canto/Matthew White finished 14th, as Dane and tech whiz Ludo Lacroix plotted the road ahead.

Round #50 – Skycity Triple Crown, Hidden Valley
July 1-3, 2007

Lowndes at Hidden Valley, 2007. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

By round start #50 the team had established itself as a winning force on and off the track; the reigning Bathurst 1000 victors now fielding two Falcons in striking Vodafone colours.

Craig Lowndes scored two of the three race wins and the round honours at Hidden Valley, quoting the Disney Cars movie in declaring he was as “happy as a tornado in a trailer park” as he took the chequered flag.

Second-year teammate Jamie Whincup was an emerging force but did not have such a happy weekend; 26th in the final race after losing time with an oil link dented his title charge.

Round #100 – Sydney Telstra 500, Sydney Olympic Park
December 3-5, 2010

Jamie Whincup at the 2010 Sydney 500. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

Triple Eight clocked its Supercars century at what proved a dramatic conclusion to the 2010 season: its first since switching from Ford to Holden.

Whincup lost any realistic hope of snatching the title from James Courtney when the team proved unable to get their car repaired in time to finish the Saturday race after a crash involving the title contenders.

Lowndes had also been taken out in the downpour-induced Saturday carnage, before Whincup and Lowndes finished fifth and sixth respectively on Sunday.

Event #150 – Castrol Townsville 500, Reid Park
July 4-6, 2014

Jamie Whincup following victory in Townsville. Pic: Supplied

It was more boom and bust for Triple Eight during round #150, which took place in Townsville during the second year of the Car of the Future regulations, and the team’s second with Red Bull backing.

Whincup won Races 1 and 3; the first a 125km sprint from 10th on the grid and the third a 250km encounter in which a mix of strategy and sharp driving defeated a determined Garth Tander.

Lowndes though was spun into the wall on the opening lap of Race 1 and later crashed out with broken steering, before finishing eight laps down on Sunday after repeated pit stops due to an overheating engine.

Event #200 – Adelaide 500, Adelaide Parklands
March 1-4, 2018

Shane van Gisbergen wins the 2018 Adelaide 500. Pic: Supplied

Triple Eight’s 200th round coincided with the start of a new era as the team debuted two Holden Commodore ZBs; a race car designed and developed entirely by Triple Eight in its role as the factory Holden team.

It delivered in spectacular fashion as Shane van Gisbergen romped to victory in both races, leaving a storm of parity complaints in his wake.

Triple Eight’s weekend though was somewhat soured by Whincup’s car breaking a transaxle while leading on Sunday; an issue traced back to a heavy crash for the seven-time champion at Turn 8 during qualifying.

Event #250 – Armor All Sydney SuperSprint, Sydney Motorsport Park
November 6-7, 2021

Shane van Gisbergen holds off Will Davison during Triple Eight’s 249th round. Pic: Supplied

The team heads into its 250th with van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup comfortably at the top of the championship, separated by 338 points and with a further 125 points back to nearest rival Will Davison.

Dick Johnson Racing set the pace in Sydney last weekend though and also show the way on the all-time round starts leader board with 471 (including its period as DJR Team Penske).

Triple Eight is fifth among current teams as its also trails Walkinshaw Andretti United (388, including its HRT lineage), Brad Jones Racing (296) and Tickford Racing (257, formerly Ford Performance Racing and Prodrive Racing Australia).

Next year will mark the start of another new era for Triple Eight, as Whincup moves into Dane’s team principal role and is replaced in the drivers’ seat by teen Super2 star Broc Feeney.