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GALLERY: #TBT THE BATHURST WILDCARDS

WITH the return of Wildcards to the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 in 2019, we look the history of recent Mount Panorama specials.

WORDS & IMAGES: Mark Walker

The 2009 edition of the Great Race marked the first time since 2004 that entries outside of the regular championship runners were accepted into the Bathurst 1000.

Since then there have been many interesting attempts, some with big fanfares, others with solid results after 161 laps.

So come with us on a walk down memory lane, ahead of this year’s event, which after a two year hiatus will see multiple wildcards return to action.

2009

Damian Assaillit/Brad Lowe – MW Motorsport

Qualifying: 26

Race: 22

With all six wildcard drivers making their Bathurst debuts, it was the MW Motorsport duo of Damian Assaillit and Brad Lowe who were the only pairing of the three to make the chequered flag, albeit 10 laps adrift of the leaders in 22nd.

Interestingly, only Assaillit and Douglas would return in future Bathurt 1000s.

Photo credit: Rob Turrisi

Sam Walter/Taz Douglas – Greg Murphy Racing

Qualifying: 31

Race: DNF

The event kicked off with an inauspicious start for the Greg Murphy Racing combination of Sam Walter and Taz Douglas, with the above incident on Saturday morning on Mountain Straight.

For his part in the confusion, Mark Winterbottom was fined $15,000, while Walter suffered a broken toe.

Race day would see Walter come to grief at the same portion of the circuit after 84 circuits.

David Sieders/Andrew Fisher – Sieders Racing Team

Qualifying: 30

Race: DNF

It was also a tough initiation for the Jesus Racing ex-Triple 8 Falcon of David Sieders and Andrew Fisher, which found the Reid Park fence during Friday practice.

Come race day, engine issues would sideline the car by Hell Corner on lap 30.

Photo credit: Rob Turrisi

2010

Geoff Emery/Marcus Zukanovic/Rod Salmon

Qualifying: 29

Race: 24

After driving the car at Phillip Island 500, Marcus Zukanovic was initially replaced by Rod Salmon for Bathurst.

Salmon struggled for pace before crashing on Thursday morning, with Zukanovic subsequently finding himself back in the car for the remainder of the weekend.

The outfit went on to qualify 29th in the 31 car field, before finishing 24th in the race, some five laps back from the leaders.

Damien Assaillit/Ant Pedersen – MW Motorsport

Qualifying: 30

Race: 26

For Ant Pedersen, the 2010 Great Race marked his Bathurst debut, while for Assaillit, it was his final attempt at the 1000.

Subsequent to being disqualified from qualifying, the pair were the last registered finisher in 26th, some eight laps behind the race winners.

2011

Grant Denyer/Cameron Waters – Kelly Racing

Qualifying: 29

Race: DNF

When reality TV came to Bathurst.

Fresh from claiming the Australian Formula Ford Championship, Cameron Waters also chalked up a win in the Shannons Supercar Showdown, with his prize being a drive in the Bathurst 1000 alongside Channel 7 personality Grant Denyer.

In starting the race, Waters became its youngest ever participant, at the age of 17 years, 2 months and 6 days, knocking Paul Dumbrell from the record book.

The car survived a practice spin at McPhillamy Park on a wet track, before qualifying 29th.

Race day would be curtailed following an accident after 95 circuits.

2012

Cameron Waters/Jesse Dixon – Kelly Racing/Minda Motorsport

Qualifying: 29

Race: 20

Following a monster truck stunt gone wrong, Denyer was replaced late in the Shannons Insurance machine by Waters, who lined up alongside competition winner Jesse Dixon.

Aged 18 and 19, the duo became the youngest combination to ever attempt the race.

After qualifying at the tail of the 29 car field, the pair went on to finish in 20th, the first car off the lead lap.

Interestingly for the Kelly Racing side of the equation, the number 23 would later adorn the sides of Michael Caruso’s Nissan Altima, while associate sponsor Carsales.com.au went on to back Todd Kelly.

2013

Andy Priaulx/Mattias Ekström – Triple Eight Race Engineering

Qualifying: 18

Race: 10

Perhaps the strongest showing ever by a wildcard in the modern era – this Triple 8 entered, Xbox One backed, Ludo Lacroix engineered, Andy Priaulx/Mattias Ekström driven Holden Commodore, was a genuine chance at winning the race.

A glimpse of the car’s pace came in the Friday morning co-driver only session, when Ekström registered the third fastest time.

Qualifying netted the team 18th on the grid, with the pair of international aces working through the field on race day, leading a total of 17 circuits between laps 104 to 134.

Unfortunately, strategy went against the team, with a final stop for fuel on lap 139 relegating the team to a 10th place finish.

2014

Andre Heimgartner/Ant Pedersen – Super Black Racing

Qualifying: 23

Race: 11

While Dragon Motor Racing was also originally down to make a start, the lone wildcard in 2014 belonged to Andre Heimgartner and Ant Pedersen in the Super Black Racing Falcon out of the Prodrive Racing stables, with the entry a prelude to their full championship assault the following year.

After qualifying 23rd in the 26 car field, an incredible 161 laps ensued, with the Kiwis running as high as second.

The team were set to finish sixth, until a roll of the dice on fuel strategy failed to pay off late, with the car pitting on the penultimate circuit, before being classified 11th.

2015

Aaren Russell/Drew Russell – Novocastrian Motorsport

Qualifying: 24

Race: 17

Dragon Motor Racing made it onto the grid in a roundabout way in 2015, with one of their cars making the start under the Novocastrian Motorsport banner for brothers Aaren and Drew Russell.

After qualifying 24th, the pair ran as high as third in the mid-race pit stop shuffle, before fading to 17th at the chequered flag, edging out the Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell car on the lead lap.

Renee Gracie/Simona de Silvestro – Prodrive Racing Australia

Qualifying: 25

Race: 21

The second Prodrive prepared wildcard in as many years, the Harvey Norman Supergirls entry made plenty of headlines pre-event, with Dunlop Series racer Renee Gracie joined by Indycar and Formula E driver Simona de Silvestro.

More headlines were created pre-race when Prodrive stablemate David Reynolds blurted out his “pussy wagon” quip in the Thursday press conference, earning a $25,000 fine.

After qualifying 25th, Gracie found the Forrest’s Elbow wall early, before finishing 21st, some 40 laps off the race winner.

2016

Simona de Silvestro/Renee Gracie – Nissan Motorsport

Qualifying: 26

Race: 14

The Harvey Norman Supergirls returned for a second year, although the program had moved to an Altima out of the Nissan Motorsport camp.

The start for de Silvestro came following the announcement of her three year deal with the category to be a full-time competitor, starting in 2017.

After de Silvestro beached the car in the Chase during qualifying, the pair had a clean run on race day to finish 14th, two laps off the race winners.