WHAT’S IN A NUMBER? THE HISTORY OF #26 IN ATCC/SUPERCARS

Allan Grice carried the #26 to its sole ATCC/Supercars Championship race victory to date at Phillip Island in 1977. Pic: an1images.com / Ian Smith

DAVID Reynolds’ move to Kelly Grove Racing will see the #26 return to the Supercars Championship grid full-time for the first time in over a decade.

According to AN1 Data, the #26 has appeared in a total of 244 Australian Touring Car/Supercars Championship races prior to the start of the 2021 season.

Its most recent appearance came when Shae Davies made a handful of wildcard starts during the 2017 season, but its last full-time appearance was with Jason Bright’s Britek Motorsport squad between 2006 and ’08.

The #26’s final full-time appearance came with Marcus Marshall in 2008 in the final championship race at Oran Park. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

In among its time with Britek, the #26 was briefly used for another wildcard entrant.

The late Mark Porter made his final solo Supercars Championship starts at the Pukekohe round in 2006, leasing the Britek slot to race his usual Development Series Holden in front of his home crowd.

Porter raced the #26 in his final solo championship appearance at Pukekohe in 2006. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

Queensland racer Roy Sawyer gave the number its championship debut at Lowood in 1961 on the panels of his Ford Anglia 105E, but its next user was the first of a string of legends to race under the #26.

John French used the number in exactly half of his 20 championship race appearances, starting with his first at Lakeside’s 1964 title race in a Morris Cooper S.

Along with the Mini, French also raced an Alfa Romeo GTV 2000 carrying #26 as well as the Bryan Byrt Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III!

Barry Seton also used the number on his Ford Capri in 1976, while the following year Phil Brock tackled Sandown’s Hang Ten 400 in a #26 Holden Torana A9X as part of Bill Patterson Racing’s three-car line-up with brother Peter and South African racer Basil van Rooyen.

Phil Brock rounds Dandenong Rd Corner during the 1977 Hang Ten 400. Pic: an1images.com / Ian Smith

1977 also delivered #26 its only championship race win.

Allan Grice claimed pole position for the season-ending Ready Plan Insurance 500K at Phillip Island and drove his Craven Mild Holden Torana A9X to victory – one he was only awarded after the race amid a lap-scoring controversy.

Officials initially waved the chequered flag first at Peter Janson, but a re-check of lap counting determined that Grice was the true winner as he’d completed a total of 107 laps – one more than the scheduled distance!

In a twist of fate, Grice had also worn the #26 for his first ‘Great Race’ start in the 1968 Hardie-Ferodo 500 aboard a Fiat 124 Sport with renowned journalist and writer Bill Tuckey.

Bond campaigned #26 in 1985, while teammate Alan Jones used the #27 that he’d carried to victory in the Formula 1 World Championship. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

Colin Bond gave the #26 its second and most recent championship pole position in 1985, qualifying fastest for the Amaroo Park round of that year’s ATCC in his Alfa Romeo GTV6.

Speedway hero Garry Rush also has championship starts to his name aboard a car wearing #26.

He shared Tony Noske’s Kalari-backed VK Commodore during 1987, driving in a pair of ATCC rounds and combining with the fellow oval track racer to finish ninth in that year’s James Hardie 1000.

Rush aboard the #26 on his way to 12th place in the Oran Park ATCC race. Pic: an1images.com / Dale Rodgers

Noske continued to use the number on both a newer model Commodore plus a Peter Brock-run Ford Sierra in the following years.

Don Watson was next to use the number in 1994; tragically, he was killed in a crash during the lead-up to that year’s Tooheys 1000.

Sydney privateers Peter Doulman and John Cotter were the next to use the #26, most famously on their Gatorade-backed Commodore – complete with its distinctive green ‘bubbles’ livery.

Doulman (here at Winton in 1999) and Cotter shared the #26 entry from 1996 to 2000. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

Although #26 hasn’t been used full-time in the ‘main game’ in recent years, it has been very successful in the Super2 Series.

Matthew White’s MW Motorsport squad claimed a pair of second-tier titles carrying the #26, the first with Jonathon Webb in 2009 and another with Dale Wood in 2013, while Garry Jacobson and current Kelly Grove Racing pilot Andre Heimgartner also took race wins with the number.

Wood leaps over the kerbs at Sydney Olympic Park in 2013 on the weekend he wrapped up the Dunlop Series title. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

Success in the Bathurst 1000 has eluded the #26 with no wins, podiums or even top-five finishes among its record.

In fact, its best finish also dates back to 1977: seventh place for Doug Chivas and 1969 winner Tony Roberts in what represented each’s final start in the Great Race.

A photo of the pair’s L34-spec Torana is among the hundreds that appear in our book Racing the Lion: An Illustrated History of Holden in Australian Motorsport.

The 400-page hardcover book pays tribute to the marque’s rich competition history, which spans over seven decades.

It’s now in stock in the V8 Sleuth Bookshop – click HERE to order!

Former Formula 1 racer and long-time Motorsport Australia official Tim Schenken used the #26 in his only Bathurst 1000 start.

His race ended spectacularly: the Alfa Romeo he shared with Paul Bernasconi blew a tyre and rolled at McPhillamy Park with 10 laps to go.

The number also has history with the Holden Dealer Team, which used #26 for its second car in 1979.

John Harvey carried it to second place behind team leader Brock at the Hang Ten 400, but the team’s second A9X was an early retirement at Bathurst after co-driver Ron Harrop crashed heavily at Griffin’s Bend.

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.