It was the start to a bittersweet day. I was on a 0500 flight to Sydney to see the final round of the 2008 V8 Supercar Championship. This was going to be the round that would decide the year’s champions in the Formula Ford, V8 Brutes, Fujitsu Series as well as the V8 Supercars. It was also going to be the final time Oran Park was going to host a round of the V8 Supercars/Australian Touring Car series after 38 consecutive years.
The track is going to be demolished to make way for Sydney’s sprawl into the south west. To make the weekend that little more poignant, it was also going to be the competitive farewells of two drivers I’ve spent a lot of time watching- Mark Skaife (from the Nissan GT-R days) and Paul Morris (from the BMW 320i days).
Several points need to noted here:
1) The first time I watched a round of the Australian Touring Car Championship was the Oran Park round held on the 21st of June 1992. I randomly turned on the old TV on that Sunday afternoon and the 16-year long attraction is still going strong.
2) It was the final round of that year’s season.
3) It was won by the champion of that year, Mark Skaife.
4) The winning car was the Nissan GT-R (which dominated the 1991 Bathurst 1000 on the way to becoming one of my favourite touring cars of all time).
Enough of the history lesson, lets look as some pretty pictures- that’s the port of Brisbane.
Sydney was really hazy. The entire flight down was a little too cloudy for decent photos of the ground.
I jumped into a rent-a-Corolla and spent the next hour or so winding my way out of Sydney and to the South West, where Oran Park was. The most striking building at the facility once you get there is the race control tower.
I gave the track a miss and headed straight to the pits to see what was going on what I had missed up to that point.
As always I nosed around the pits of my teams. First cab off the rank was Stone Brothers Racing. James Courtney had the prettiest car, but his results this year were lacklustre.
And talking about my teams, Triple Eight Race Engineering were next and Jamie Whincup had his girls flicking out the brochures like clay pigeons.
Jamie’s car was being prepped up for the three sudden death qualifying sessions coming up later that day. The champion was virtually his given that his nearest competitor, Frosty Winterbottom had to win everything to have a chance of keeping up.
I then heard the rumble of a whole heap of cars towards the holding yard. There was a collection of Group C, Group A and early V8 Supercars about to go out for a few demonstration laps. Leading them out was going to be the new R35 Nissan GT-R.
Speaking of GT-Rs, the Skyline that won the 1992 event was on hand as well. It was the first time I had seen her in the flesh.
This is Peter Brock’s 1980 Australian Touring Car Championship winning VC Commodore.
This is an old HRT VL SS Group A. I’m not sure if it is the 1990 Bathurst winner. The decals seem to indicate that, but Crompton wasn’t a part of the winning combo.
Skaife’s 1990 HR31 Skyline.
Walking back up to the pits, I bumped into Brad Jones.
The old cars’ demo went for a few laps and before long, they were back into the pits.
Seeing that NRMA was the co-sponsor for the event, I figured that their girls should get a run…
Speaking of striking structures, the main grandstand looks like a prop out of Star Wars.
Ah, and the other co-sponsor for the event was Bigpond- wouldn’t want their girls to miss out…
Walking further along the merchandise alley, I came across a little slice of Tennessee.
OK, there were two slices of the place…
Right around the corner was the Ford Performance Principality. Out the front was a mock up of what the FG V8 Supercar for 2009 was to look like. I’m pretty sure that the wheelbase had not been altered though.
This is more like it. The 2008 WRC Focus was on show too. This car was only a mock up, but it does show you how sexy your XR5 could look.
These girls were on hand to clean one’s engine.
I rounded off my first cut of the merchandise alley by bumping into the rest of the Bigpond girls.
The Minis had come back from their challenge and there was plenty of panel rubbin’.
I then went down to the scrutineering area to see what the kit looked like. The cars are weighed on this thingey.
The ’92Skyline had just come back from a few checks.
A butt that men would go to war for…
from a sexy Oriental, to a tubby Aussie- the 1978 A9X Torana’s drop tank was rather large.
Eyes you can stare into all day.
The VL with her skirt up.
The JPS 635CSi.
The highly strung 2.3L 4-cylinder bomb in a E30 JPS M3.
Glenn Seton’s 1997 Australian Touring Car Championship winning EL Falcon.
Coming on to lunch time, the Aportos girls reminded me that I was hungry.
The historics then had their turn. I’m not quite sure who won, but Jimmy Richards and John Bowe were kicking about in the Falcon Sprint and Mustang to add some interest.
I then trekked to the Aussie Racers paddock where there was this mangled mess.
There was a pretty big turnout fur quali.
The Formula Fords were next on the card.
Walking down from the hill, I came across an elf line up.
I headed back up the hill to the Ford tent. I wanted a better shots of the cars as the majority of the crowd began to find their way trackside. Doesn’t the FG just look right?
We’re gonna need plenty of Amorall to protect a Falcon with an interior that big.
With a line up like this, I’m sure some crime is about to be committed…
One last look at Mark Skaife’s car as it sat in the pits awaiting the qualifying session.
A Jim Beam team meeting.
Jamie’s girls givin’ me their best dirty look.
The old Shell petrol station.
I walked back up the hill for the end of qualifying through the Jim Bim tent, and the girls had somehow teleported themselves from the pits. I have no idea how they got there so fast.
Skaife on his last ever qualifying lap of Oran Park.
As qualifying came to a close, I trekked back to the paddocks. Here we have Brighty’s Fujitsu girls.
As I headed towards the support category paddock, I came across the old Geoghegan Charger.
The V8 Brutes were just around the corner and a lot of them required panel work.
The Gulf Western girl was waving the development series flag.
Danielle, the one on the left, better have won the hottest pit babe sash!
There’s only one thing the HRT truck is good for.
And that’s to provide a contrasting backdrop for the blue elf girls to blow kisses off.
Dean Canto’s Howard Racing car was quick all year and was second in the standing going into the final round.
The inside of the Stone Brothers Racing car piloted by Johnno Webb in the Fujitsu Series taken shortly before their first race.
Frosty was fast in qualifying but not good enough to beat Tander’s time.
Whincup couldn’t get pole position.
The drive to the bridge is spectacular. Some cars hit it sideways.
Steve Owen finished on 7 cylinders, but with enough points to win the 2008 Fujitsu Series title.
Will Davison and Junior Johnson before they were carted away for the firs race. This was going to be Will’s last race for DJR as he’s been drafted into HRT to replace Skaife for 2009.
Who wouldn’t be happy after a trip to the Bottle-O?
The stack of tyres being prepared for Shane Van Gisbergen.
Steve Owen getting interviewed after finishing the first of the Fujitsu Series races with just enough points to win the 2008 title.
Skaifey was starting well back. He’s been super competitive at this track over the year, but his lack of speed was becoming obvious.
What do you think Will Davison was concentrating on?
Ready for a start.
The first round of pit stops- Frosty Winterbottom and Rick Kelly came in early. A pitlane collision messed up Frosty’s steering.
Tander was the early leader. He fought back the advantage he’d given up at the start to lead initially, but Whincup sailed by him as the race went on.
Whincup and Ingall made their way through traffic after their pit stops. Mark Winterbottom in the #5 FPR had to win to have any chance on catching Whincup, but a messed up first race ended his championship hopes.
Lowndesy mowing down Stephen Richards into the last corner before the front straight. Richards was celebrating 120 starts in the championship, hence the bizarre number on his car.
With about 2 laps to go, Lowndesy passed Rusty for 2nd spot.
Jamie slipped and slid his way to victory in the first race (as part of a Triple Eight Race Engineering 1-2), guaranteeing him the 2008 V8 Supercar crown and the title of Australian Touring Car Champion.
Congrats Triple Eight!
It felt so good to have a Ford champion after having to put up with two lean years.
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