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When the Rat ruled the Gold Coast streets

ONLY one driver has steered a Supercar to victory on the Gold Coast in five successive races: Paul Radisich.

Surfers Paradise proved a happy hunting ground for the Rat in his time leading the Dick Johnson Racing charge.

He took a cleansweep of the 1999 round there before winning two of the first three races in 2000, all during the era of V8 Supercars supporting Indy in a non-championship capacity.

To this day, Radisich is the third-most winningest Supercar driver at the Gold Coast, only behind Jamie Whincup (nine) and Garth Tander (eight).

“Remembering back, it was a great challenge, it was a track where you felt really satisfied when you got the best out of the lap time,” Radisich reflected to V8 Sleuth.

“It was 110 percent concentration and 110 percent commitment.

“It was probably the early days of street racing. It’s sort of something I had always grown up with, with the Wellington street race and a lot of a Super Vee races in America which were street races.

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“I always enjoyed them, just that extra bit of challenge and I guess it suited my driving style.

“There was no such thing as local knowledge because you couldn’t run on the tracks – maybe that helped a little bit too because nobody had any practice or testing.

“What you had was what you had, so you sort of had to pick the car up and hustle it to get it around there.”

Radisich in the #18 Shell Ford Falcon EL. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

Although the original 4.47km circuit is no longer in use, the Gold Coast will make its long-awaited return to Supercars this month on October 28-30.

On the Saturday of the event, Triple Eight Race Engineering will bring up its 600th Supercars Championship start.

Radisich and Dean Canto were Triple Eight’s foundation primary drivers, inherited from Briggs Motor Sport which it purchased ahead of the 2003 Sandown 500.

Triple Eight had already established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the British Touring Car Championship – a scene Radisich was familiar with from his six seasons there during the ‘90s – and was looking to shake things up Down Under.

By the end of its 600th race, it may well have sealed a 10th drivers’ championship – Shane van Gisbergen merely needing to finish the race 24th.

The Brisbane outfit has chalked up 238 race wins – equivalent to almost 40 percent of its starts – and 476 podiums to date.

Their first two top three finishes were collected by Radisich, at Pukekohe and Eastern Creek in 2004.

“I was there when it began, I sort of helped Roland (Dane) put the nuts and bolts together with Briggs,” Radisich said.

“I mean, I knew what Triple Eight had done in the UK and what they were capable of, but they have outstripped that a thousand to one.

“To see the team grow from the very beginning to what it turned out to be, it is a feather in Roland’s cap because he’s the one that drove it and he’s the one that has pushed the team forward.

“It’s nice I guess to be a foundation member of what it has turned out to be.”

DJR meanwhile celebrated its 1000th Supercars Championship race earlier this month at the Repco Bathurst 1000.

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