WHAT HAPPENED TO TRIPLE EIGHT’S ‘NIGHT DRIFT’ SUPERCAR?

Shane van Gisbergen piloting Triple Eight's specially modified drift-spec V8 Supercar at Sydney Motorsport Park in 2016. Pic: Red Bull Content Pool

TRIPLE Eight Race Engineering has embarked on many cool side-projects in its history.

One of the most spectacular came in 2016 when the team converted one of its fleet of Holden Commodore VF Supercars into a drift car.

The end product was spectacular, with Shane van Gisbergen unleashing the reworked machine under lights at Sydney Motorsport Park for a tyre-smoking session captured on video by title sponsor Red Bull.

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Externally, the biggest differences between the Supercar and Triple Eight’s drift version were the guard flares to cover significantly wider tyres plus an extra element in the rear wing, but a significant amount of effort went into re-engineering the car’s steering and suspension to make it more suitable for drifting.

Watch the Red Bull video documenting the project in the player below!

But what became of Triple Eight’s Drift Supercar after 2016?

The car had an extensive race history before its time as a drift machine and it returned to circuit racing after its time as a drift car was through.

Chassis 888A-040 was built during 2015 and became Jamie Whincup’s car in time for the Sandown 500.

He and Paul Dumbrell won both qualifying races to give the car pole position on debut, and the pair led 96 laps before falling out of contention with a punctured tyre after Whincup ran over a piece of debris exiting his pit bay following his final stop.

Whincup and Dumbrell were fast but unlucky at the 2015 Sandown 500. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

The pair were also out of luck at Mount Panorama: Whincup elected not to double-stack behind teammate Craig Lowndes when a late Safety Car period was called and was then penalised for passing the Safety Car once he caught up to it.

It typified a luckless season for Whincup that ended a run of four consecutive championships, but he closed out the year with nine podium finishes across the final nine races, including five wins.

The car remained Whincup’s into 2016, but it started the year in an unusual fashion.

Triple Eight elected to show off its recently-revealed new livery by having Whincup pilot 888A-040 in the Burnout Championship at the annual Summernats car festival, where the team even completed a mid-session pit stop for fresh rubber!

Despite fitting thermofans to the radiator, Whincup inadvertently cooked 888A-040’s engine with his enthusiastic burnouts at Summernats in 2016. Pic: Red Bull Content Pool

In a twist of fate, he’d later cop a $3,000 fine at the Australian Grand Prix for doing a celebratory burnout down an escape road after winning the third race of the non-championship event!

Whincup won the opening Supercars race of the year at the Clipsal 500 in March but didn’t find the top step of the podium again until the Saturday race of the Townsville 400 in July.

He was the most consistent driver throughout the first half of the season though, and led the championship when he stepped out of 888A-040 for the final time after the Queensland Raceway round.

This chassis was then converted to drift spec by Triple Eight and made its first public appearance at the Bathurst 1000, but its reinvention didn’t mark the end of its racing life.

In fact, the car is still racing in the Super2 Series in 2021!

Will Brown raced with V8 Sleuth backing in Super2’s non-points 250km Bathurst race in 2017. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

The car was converted back to Supercars spec and sold to Eggleston Motorsport at the start of 2017, and the team has campaigned it in the second-tier class every year since.

Will Brown raced the car in his rookie Super2 season in 2017 and came within five laps of claiming his maiden second-tier win in the finale at Newcastle, only to be felled by a gearbox problem.

Brown remained aboard this car for the 2018 season, ending his time with it by claiming his first Super2 podium finish in the final round at Newcastle.

Jack Perkins captured a Super2 Series round win at Sandown in 2019. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

Dean Fiore started the 2019 Super2 season aboard 888A-040 before Jack Perkins took over for the balance of the season, driving it to the overall win in the penultimate round at Sandown.

Perkins also drove the car in the opening two rounds of the COVID-19 impacted 2020 season.

888A-040 remains part of Eggleston Motorsport’s Super2 fleet in 2021 and has been driven by Matt McLean.

Matt McLean heads over Skyline during the season-opening Bathurst round of the 2021 Super2 Series. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

The karting graduate has used the car to win three consecutive rookie of the round awards and earnt the Dunlop Driver of the Day gong at the series’ most recent round in Townsville.

Will Dale is V8 Sleuth's Head of Content - Digital. He began his media career as a breakfast radio newsreader before joining SPEED TV Australia and FOX SPORTS Australia in 2012 as its Digital Editorial Lead - Motorsport, covering all forms of motorsport both in Australia and internationally. He became part of the V8 Sleuth team in 2018.