Feature Mark Walker October 24, 2022 (Comments off) (622)

Surfers Paradise: The Modern Era

PREVIOUSLY on The Race Torque, we looked at the early days of the Gold Coast Street Circuit – click here to catch up on the era from 1991 through 2004.

Here we revisit the closing days of open wheelers on the Surfers Paradise streets, plus the event’s transition into the Gold Coast 600 with Supercars as the headline act.

2005 – The year that Team Australia initially took over the Gold Coast, with a three-car outfit for Canadian Alex Tagliani, plus Aussies Marcus Marshall and Will Power, who made his top-flight debut. Sébastien Bourdais claimed another win for Newman Haas. Craig Lowndes was the man to beat in the V8s, with two wins and a second place, with the other victory going to Greg Murphy. Results of DNF, 26th and 11th completely derailed Marcos Ambrose’s charge for a third successive title.

2006 – Power mania took hold, with the Queenslander claiming the first pole position of his record-breaking career. The race once again didn’t go to plan for the local ace, with the win eventually going to Nelson Philippe, the lone Champ Car success for the Frenchman. Todd Kelly claimed overall honours in the V8s with results of first, second and second, while his brother Rick won the lone race of his championship-winning season, with Tander taking the race two victory.

2007 – Power’s second straight pole position on the Gold Coast was a thorough donging – he gapped the field by 0.639sec in qualifying, but an early tangle in the pits curtailed his run on race day. The victory went the way of Bourdais, the only time in 17 years that there had been a repeat winner of the main open-wheel event. Two wins for Garth Tander were crucial in the final rundown of the season, as he claimed the V8 Supercars crown by only two points at the season’s end. The third race of the event was decided in the favour of Steven Richards.

2008 – With the merging of Champ Car and the IRL, the ’08 season featured several quirks. With Chicagoland enlisted as the season finale, the series headed to Australia for a non-points event to round out the year, and as such, several drivers ventured to their 2009 seats early, including Dario Franchitti, who returned from NASCAR. Power scored another pole, this time with a margin of 0.8221sec, heading an Antipodean qualifying top-three, ahead of Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe. After Power crashed out early, the win went to Briscoe, the only ever win by a local in Indycar competition on these shores. Whincup swept the weekend’s V8 Supercars wins, in a run of seven straight successes that saw him run away with the championship trophy.

2009 – As Indycar focussed on the North American market, the Gold Coast event looked further afield, with the A1GP Series picked to headline the event. However, with that series dissolving at the 11th hour, V8 Supercars stepped up with four 150km long races as a headline act for the meet. Race wins were spread around, with Mark Winterbottom claiming two, with the others going to Garth Tander and Craig Lowndes. This was the final event to run on the full 4.470km long circuit.

2010 – Everything changed forever. Firstly, the track was shortened to 2.96km by bypassing the southern end of the circuit, while the international aspect of the event was retained via the implementation of the Gold Coast 600 format – twin 300km races with two drivers, with each team requiring at least one international star in their driving roster across each two-car team. After Garth Tander and Cameron McConville won the opener, Whincup and Steve Owen were victorious on the Sunday, after Whincup overcame Shane van Gisbergen in a classic finish, above.

2011 – The event was sadly overshadowed by the death the previous weekend of Dan Wheldon, who was down to drive for HRT, with injuries sustained by Will Power in the accident sidelining him from his FPR drive. The international driver trophy for the event was subsequently renamed in Wheldon’s honour. With all entries required to have an international co-driver on board for the first time, Bourdais backed up his open-wheel wins with victory alongside Whincup in the opener, while Winterbottom teamed with Richard Lyons to claim race two. Bourdais was the first driver to be successful in both modern-day Supercars and Indycars, joined this year by Scott McLaughlin.

2012 – The opening race was marred by a series of start-line accidents, with the worst seeing Ricky Taylor barrel roll his GRM Commodore, above. Whincup and Bourdais successfully defended their Saturday crown, while Will Davison won the second race alongside ex-F1 star Mika Salo.

2013 – The criteria to import co-drivers was eliminated with the instigation of the Pirtek Enduro Cup, with the Gold Coast following on from the two-driver races at Sandown and Bathurst. Lowndes paired with Warren Luff to win race one, while David Reynolds registered his first-ever main game race win on Sunday, with co-driver Dean Canto winning the second and final race of his career, following on from a reverse grid success at Barbagallo Raceway in 2006. Also this year, the track was slightly modified to accommodate the G:Link tram line that now runs parallel to the circuit on the run out of the first chicane.

2014 – Van Gisbergen finally broke through on the Surfers Paradise streets in the opener alongside Jonathon Webb, while Whincup and Paul Dumbrell were victorious in race two.

2015 – Van Gisbergen/Webb defended their Saturday crown, while James Courtney made a successful return to the track on Sunday after being sidelined by an accidental helicopter attack earlier in the year at Sydney Motorsport Park, with the win the first of co-driver Jack Perkins’ Supercars career.

2016 – Now at Triple Eight, Van Gisbergen kept his Saturday streak alive, this time pairing with Alex Premat to take the win, with stablemates Whincup and Dumbrell combining to win the second race.

2017 – Ford returned to form on the Gold Coast, with Chaz Mostert teaming with Steve Owen to win the sodden Saturday race, while Sunday was taken out by Scott McLaughlin and Premat, who defected to the DJR Team Penske squad.

2018 – If the rain in 2017 was hard to handle, the epic thunderstorm that hit the Gold Coast on the Sunday of the 2018 event took the cake, with that race abandoned with no-results issued. Earlier, Mostert paired with James Moffat to win the Saturday race.

2019 – The most recent running on the streets of Surfers Paradise saw Triple Eight dominate, with Whincup and Lowndes taking out the Saturday race, followed up by success for van Gisbergen and Tander on Sunday. The biggest storyline of the event was the mammoth qualifying shunt for McLaughlin on Sunday, which sent the Shell driver to hospital for check-ups after coming to grief at the first chicane.

2020/’21 – With the 2020 event an early casualty thanks to the pandemic, the ’21 event was originally down to round out the season, although continued calendar shifts saw that event also canned. Moves to include a night portion of racing have also failed to materialise.

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