ISOLATION makes you do strange things, and it makes you find strange things. In our study of Australian Touring Car/Supercars Championship numerology, there’s only one car number that has the same number of race wins as the car number.
That number is 12.
Fabian Coulthard’s next race start will be the 600th start for car number 12 in the championship with his last four seasons bringing seven of the 12 wins earned by Car 12.
A relatively unloved number in the previous millennium, number 12’s history in the championship was relatively quiet until the mid-70s.
Its first podium came with a driver more famous for a different number. It was with Kevin Bartlett in the #12 Alfa Romeo GTA finishing third in the single race ATCC of 1966 at Bathurst. He’d later become famous (and infamous!), with number 9, a number we recently featured here on the V8 Sleuth website.
It took almost a decade longer for the #12 to score its first championship race win. Allan Grice was allocated #12 for the first time with immediate dividends, taking victory in his first championship start with the number at Oran Park in 1975. Grice’s Craven Mild L34 Torana took victory by 0.2s over Colin Bond in the Holden Dealer Team L34.
The win extended his championship lead to nine points – 39 to 28 over Bond. It was extra impressive in light of the fact that it was his first full tilt at the title. Unbelievably, it was the only year that Grice ever led the championship.
It went awry at the next round at Surfers Paradise. A protest from the HDT saw the #12 Torana disqualified due to thermostat not being fitted. Scrutineers found the part, but instead of being under the bonnet, the thermostat was in the glovebox!
Racing under appeal for the remaining rounds, the two third place finishes were later removed from the results when the appeal was dismissed, leaving Grice third in the overall standings.
Grice ran a variety of numbers again in 1976, as organisers allocated the numbers independently for each of the rounds. However, he recorded the second championship win for car 12 in the Rothmans 250 at Adelaide International Raceway, finishing 20 seconds ahead of Murray Carter.
1977 saw organisers more co-ordinated, with 12 first being allocated on a regular basis to Ron Dickson’s iconic Pioneer Electronics Falcon, complete with ears painted on the side.
But wins were short on the ground for the remainder of Group C, all of Group A, and through the V8-era until 1999 for Car 12.
The only podium in the period came from Mark Skaife. A four-round campaign in a third Nissan Skyline at the tail of the 1989 championship delivered a third at Winton in wet conditions, a preview of what was to come for the young charge from Gosford.
The lack of results doesn’t mean that #12 wasn’t on the track. Some interesting cars and drivers included Warren Cullen and Jim Keogh’s Commodores, Garry Willmington’s red Jaguar XJ-S, and Ludwig Finaeur, who went from building BMW M3 engines to racing them as a result of his testing pace around Amaroo Park for the JPS team.
A permanent championship allocation came with the start of the V8 era in 1993 – the Bob Jones Ampol Max3 Commodore that ran the number through 1994.
Greg Murphy broke the win drought for #12 at Symmons Plains in 1999 in his Gibson-run Wynn’s Commodore VT. Starting second next to Paul Radisich, he lost out on the start to the Dick Johnson Racing driver. Radisich ran wide at Turn 2, Murphy did not need a second invitation, and led every lap thereafter to take the win.
Murphy then took out the inaugural race on the streets of Canberra the following year with Kmart backing on his Gibson Commodore. Starting 14th on the grid, he won by 9.716 seconds ahead of Jason Bargwanna. Murphy would then switch to another number for the following season that he would make his own: 51.
Car 12 was snapped up by Brad Jones Racing for their second car (the reverse of team boss Jones’ #21) and staying with the team through 2008. The only win at the top level was John Bowe’s win in changeable conditions in the non-championship 100km race at the Australian Grand Prix in 2005.
Bowe and Jones’ third place in the Bathurst 1000 of 2004 was the first podium in The Great Race for Car 12. The only other one to date is the 2017 race with Fabian Coulthard and Tony D’Alberto.
By the way, both Fords are included in our ‘Ford at Bathurst, 1963 to 2018’ book, available here in the V8 Sleuth Bookshop.
The number then spent time with Dean Fiore’s Triple F Racing before landing at its current home with Dick Johnson Racing/DJR Team Penske.
Chaz Mostert arrived on the scene at DJR with the team at one of its lowest ebbs, but somehow managed to win in DJR’s first Car of the Future Falcon at Queensland Raceway in 2013.
Find out more information about this chassis in our new release, 40 years of Dick Johnson Racing/DJR Team Penske 40 Years of Cars 1980-2019, now available in the V8 Sleuth Bookshop.
DJR Team Penske’s downsizing to one car saw #12 rested until 2016, with every appearance by the car number since then having the New Zealander Fabian Coulthard’s surname on the window.
Coulthard has seven wins in car 12, taking his career championship win tally to, you guessed it: 12.
Notably, none of Coulthard’s seven wins in car number 12 have come from pole position, the most recent win coming at Barbagallo last year. Four of those seven victories were DJR Team Penske 1-2 finishes.
Coulthard also has all three championship pole positions ever scored by Car 12 in the ATCC/VASC. They were taken at Adelaide in 2016, Perth in 2017 and Adelaide in 2019.