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HomeNewsVan Gisbergen's chance to repeat unusual Moffat feat

Van Gisbergen’s chance to repeat unusual Moffat feat

SHANE van Gisbergen will match an unusual feat should he beat Brodie Kostecki to the 2023 Repco Supercars Championship title.

The reigning champion heads to the VAILO Adelaide 500 with a 131-point deficit to his Erebus Motorsport rival with 300 points available across the final two races of the season.

Along with Kostecki, Will Brown, Chaz Mostert and Cam Waters have all carried the points-leader’s orange window numbers in 2023.

But not van Gisbergen, whose exclusion from the opening race in Newcastle left him as a pursuer throughout this year’s title chase.

If he can run down Kostecki in Adelaide, SVG will become just the second driver to win an ATCC/Supercars crown without having led the championship prior to the final round.

You have to go back exactly 40 years ago to find the first instance.

Allan Moffat secured the 1983 ATCC title without having led the points standing throughout the season, although the circumstances surrounding his comeback were very different to the challenge that van Gisbergen has faced.

The chief on-track adversaries for Moffat and his Mazda RX-7 that year were Peter Brock and Allan Grice, but the two Commodore pilots had inconsistent seasons and weren’t part of the title fight.

Instead, Moffat was battling the Nissan Bluebird of George Fury who, thanks to a quirk of the points system, could finish behind the RX-7 but score more championship points.

Fury running second on the opening lap of the 1983 season at Calder; race leader Grice is out of shot, while the Bluebird is pursued by eventual winner Moffat. Pic: an1images.com / Ian Smith

The 1983 ATCC contained two different classes – an over three-litre class, and an under three-litre class – and each class had its own schedule of points per finishing position.

However, the smaller-capacity cars were rewarded with more points per position than the outright contenders.

The potent little rotary-engined RX-7 had been classified as an over three-litre car, but the Bluebird was still considered an under three-litre car despite it being turbocharged.

That meant that while Moffat earnt 25 points for winning the opening round at Calder Park, Fury’s second-placing earnt him 27 points and the championship lead.

Crucially, the points system also forced drivers to drop their worst score at the end of the eight-round season; for Moffat, that was likely to be his DNF in Round 2 at Sandown, when the RX-7 broke an axle.

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Fury, in contrast, was the model of consistency, finishing on or on the fringe of the podium throughout the middle of the season.

The run included a second-placing to Moffat at Wanneroo, when the Mazda pilot famously planned a mid-race fuel stop and charged back to win with a handful of laps remaining.

What the Nissan lacked was wins, and Moffat had plenty of those.

After retiring at Sandown, Moffat finished second to Grice at Symmons Plains, won at Wanneroo, finished second in a photo-finish to Brock at Adelaide International Raceway, then took back-to-back triumphs at Surfers Paradise and Oran Park.

Moffat claimed the first ATCC title for a rotary-engined car in 1983. Pic: an1images.com / Dale Rodgers

He also had help at Surfers; Moffat entered a second RX-7 for Gregg Hansford, who claimed third place ahead of Fury to aid his team boss’ title aspirations.

Oran Park hosted the penultimate round, where a breakthrough victory for Fury would have delivered both the first ATCC race win for a turbocharged car and mathematically sealed the title.

Fury took a career-first ATCC pole in a qualifying session that was controversially curtailed by fading light, but he fluffed the start and sank to fifth while Moffat went on to win.

That left a 14-point margin on uncorrected points, but Fury’s Oran Park result represented his worst score of the season, meaning he’d have to finish the Lakeside finale in fourth place or better just to increase his points tally, never mind beat Moffat to the title.

However, the season finale proved a fizzer when it came to the championship.

The Bluebird started to become a competitive proposition in Fury’s hands in 1983. Pic: an1images.com / Ian Smith

Nissan didn’t turn up, the official line being that it withdrew from Lakeside in order to focus its energies on the upcoming endurance races.

Regardless of the reason, Fury’s absence meant all Moffat had to do was finish fifth or better to seal the title.

A third-place finish behind Brock and Hansford was more than enough, and Moffat took the points lead for the first time to clinch the title by six points over Fury, once their worst scores were dropped.

The victory represented Moffat’s fourth and final ATCC title and, in a twist of fate, van Gisbergen would also move to four championship wins should he overhaul Kostecki this weekend.

While the same points system was used for the 1984 championship, Nissan was no longer in a position to exploit it.

The Bluebird was reclassified as an outright-class car amid the concessions handed out to all the major Group C marques at the close of the 1983 ATCC.

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