Thursday, Oct 17 06:50pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

TOP 10: The biggest Bathurst 1000 controversies in history

The fallout from this year’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 has got the Supercars paddock in a storm once again. 


By this time next week, we should know what will happen to DJR Team Penske and whether Fabian Coulthard and Tony D’Alberto get to keep their sixth-place finish.


It’s not the first time controversy has enamoured The Mountain though. In no particular order, here are the top 10 biggest Bathurst 1000 controversies in history.


2005: Balaclava-gate


If not for a torrid run in 2005, Marcos Ambrose and Warren Luff probably should have been Bathurst 1000 winners. 


By and large, it was mostly their fault the win didn’t go their way. Conjecture over whether Luff wore a balaclava led to a drive-through penalty. Then there were fears Ambrose wasn’t wearing one either.


“Marcos, I’ve just gotta ask the question, are you wearing your balaclava there now?” His engineer Paul Forgie of Stone Brothers Racing said. He replied: “Yes, I am.” 


“100 per cent sure about that?” Forgie asked


“I believe so,” Ambrose said


Indeed, Ambrose wasn’t wearing one. With 40 laps remaining he was brought in to the pit lane to be fitted with one and sent on his way. That took them out of the leading bunch briefly, but their day was later undone at The Cutting in that iconic crash featuring Greg Murphy.


“To have that happen in the race – Marcos getting a drive-through for me not having a balaclava, and him coming in unscheduled to put his on – and be challenging Murph (Greg Murphy) for third, for it to end the way it did was pretty gut-wrenching,” Luff said retrospectively in 2013. 


“I look back and potentially that’s the one that slipped away from us. It was rather disheartening at the time. I look back and laugh, but at the time – it was an interesting team debrief afterwards!”


The long hot days meant many preferred not to run the undergarment. To this day there are still suggestions that some, including teammate Russell Ingall, didn’t wear a balaclava throughout the race.


1987: Fudged Ford Sierras


Peter Brock may be the King of The Mountain, but he didn’t get to properly celebrate the last of his nine famous victories.


At that time, the 1987 Bathurst 1000 was part of the World Touring Car Championship. It brought a truly international flavour to the race with factory-backed efforts from BMW, Alfa Romeo and Ford. 


Even before the race, there was drama. Doubts were cast over the Eggenberger Motorsport entered Ford Sierra RS500 cars as to whether they fit the technical regulations. Meanwhile, the factory Holden squad and lead driver Peter Brock were enamoured in their own controversy over the infamous Energy Polarizer.


It should have been a Bathurst to forget for Brock. His race lasted just 34 laps initially, but then he and co-driver David Parsons were moved over to the second of the HDT entries courtesy of the rules back then, which allowed you to chop and change drive line-ups during the race.

As other cars faltered, Brock hustled his way up to finish third. 


Steve Soper and Pierre Dieudonné were the winners with Klaus Ludwig and Klaus Niedzwiedz two laps behind in second place. However, six months after the race, the pair were disqualified. It was found the cars had modified wheel arches, which allowed them to run a taller tyre. 


Brock was duly handed the win alongside Parsons, Jon Crooke and Peter McLeod having only completed 159 laps. 


Photo: Supercars

1992: “You’re a pack of arseholes”


The Bathurst 1000 in 1992 will be remembered as one of Australia’s darkest days in motorsport.


The well-documented death of Denny Hulme added extreme emotion to what went on to be one of the wildest finishes to a race at Mount Panorama.


The race continued and rain lashed the circuit. In the final stanza of the race it dried up enough to run slick tyres, but the rain returned. 


Much of the field ran around the circuit on slick tyres, including the race leading four-wheel-drive Nissan R32 GT-R driven by Mark Skaife and Jim Richards. 


Cars began crashing all across The Mountain, including Richards who collided with a wall at the top and then slid out of control on the run down Conrod Straight. 


With the red flag drawn out, the race was declared on Lap 143. The Nissan was already an unpopular entry in the race and drew even more vitriol from the fans as it was declared the winner on a countback despite crashing out. 


What followed went down in history as perhaps the most iconic Bathurst 1000 podium ceremony. The crowd booed and jeered as Richards and Skaife were declared winners of the race. 


“I'm just really stunned for words, I can't believe the reception,” Richards said on the podium.


“I thought Australian race fans had a lot more to go than this, this is bloody disgraceful. I'll keep racing but I tell you what, this is going to remain with me for a long time, you're a pack of arseholes.”



2016: Jamie Whincup’s controversial penalty


Without question, if there was one man who could have equalled or bettered Peter Brock’s record at The Mountain by now it would have to be Jamie Whincup.


Wins have gone begging year after year, but one stands out as perhaps the hardest to swallow. 


In the closing stages of the 2016 race, Whincup began to close in on leader Scott McLaughlin. An attempted pass at The Chase saw the pair make contact. McLaughlin skated through the grass while Whincup backed off to try and give the place straight back. But in doing so, Whincup balked Garth Tander, who collided with McLaughlin as he returned to the track. 


Whincup was duly given a 15-second post-race penalty for the incident. He crossed the line first, but didn’t have a big enough margin and fell to 11th overall. Will Davison and Jonathon Webb went on to win in the tightest victory margin in history over Shane van Gisbergen and Alex Premat. 


It was a controversial decision by race control who until that race had allowed drivers the opportunity to redress similar incidents all season. Without question, the penalty guaranteed a winner on the day and through all the subsequent hearings Triple Eight Race Engineer was denied a results reversal.


“... the penalty they gave is completely inconsistent with what we have been given as the way the rules will be enforced this year,” Dane said.


“It is questionable whether Jamie was guilty of any crime when you actually look at the incident with McLaughlin. The stewards have confirmed that the 15 seconds penalty is nothing to do with the aftermath. That wasn’t Jamie’s fault. It was only to do with the incident with McLaughlin.”


Photo: Red Bull Content Pool / VUE Images



Greg Murphy may have the accolade of being a four-time Bathurst 1000 winner, but he also holds the record for the longest in-race penalty. 


A miss-communication between the K-Mart Racing crew and Murphy saw the Kiwi drive away from his pit bay as he was dropped off the jacks with the fuel filler still attached to his Holden Commodore. As a result, the filler burst opened and spilled fuel all over the pit lane. 


Murphy was served with a five-minute stop-and-go penalty, and that’s when the iconic scenes played out. 


The Kiwi stormed out of the car and yelled that famous “five minutes” line before locking himself in the toilet. 


He and co-driver Todd Kelly went on to claim 13th in the race, two laps down. A year later Murphy set his Lap of the Gods. 


2015: David Reynolds Pussy Wagon


Controversies off the track can cause as much furore as those on the track, and none more so than David Reynolds’ “Pussy Wagon” comments in 2015. 


Reynolds attracted the ire of Supercars management when he referred to the Harvey Norman Supergirls entry as the Pussy Wagon. Reynolds was made to apologize and was handed a mammoth $25,000 fine for the comments.


It came at an awkward time for Supercars who were promoting the entry of Simona De Silvestro and Renee Gracie heavily. 


“Reynolds’ comments were disgraceful and completely unacceptable in our sport and he has been fined A$25,000,” then Supercars Championship boss James Warburton said.


“Women are an integral part of our sport, whether they are fans, drivers or team members. And V8 Supercars will continue to support and promote female participation at all levels of our sport.”


Reynolds later spoke about the incident on his Below the Bonnett podcast. He said that many throughout the Supercars paddock were referring to the car as the Pussy Wagon, even those inside the FPR operation. 


Photo: Supercars

1997-’98: Bathurst 2000


It’s not often the controversies can go on for years, but between 1997 and ‘98 there were two Bathurst 1000s. 


In short, contractual, promotional and broadcast issues meant Australia ended up with two editions of the Bathurst 1000; one for the V8 Supercars and another for Super Touring cars.


What might surprise you is that the original Bathurst 1000 ended up being for the Super Touring cars and took place on the traditional early October date. Meanwhile, the Primus 1000 - note the omission of Bathurst in the name - took place in late October. Winners of the races were recognized equally as Bathurst 1000 champions.


Drivers from all over the world converged on the ‘official’ Bathurst 1000 with the likes of Rickard Rydell, Derek Warwick, Julian Bayley, Alain Menu, Matt Neal, John Cleland among the entries. 


The following year saw several New Zealand drivers and teams enter with well-known names like Grant Aitken, Malcolm Udy, Paul Pedersen, Mike Eady, Maurice O’Reilly, Barrie Thomlinson, Aaron Harris and Geoff Short in the entry list. 


In 1999 the Bathurst 1000 was cut. Instead, a 500 km race took place for the Super Touring field with a shorter 300 km race for V8s. In V8 Supercars land their Bathurst 1000 carried on. 


The Super Touring race often gets forgotten about in the history books, but officially it was the Great Race ahead of the V8 Supercars. 


Now, imagine if TCR Australia starts their own Bathurst 1000 next year.


1997: Craig Baird the Bathurst 1000 winner?


Craig Baird could have been a Bathurst 1000 winner in 1997. In what was the first year of the Super Touring era, a fresh-faced Bairdo paired up with Paul Morris in a factory-backed BMW effort.


It was a high stakes race with factory entries by Vauxhall, Volvo, Audi and Renault. But it was the BMW entries by Lyall Williamson of International Motorsport fame who were the class act.


In a race that saw only 12 cars finish, Baird and Morris dominated the race. Morris had been fast all day, but for whatever reason Baird was left in the car for the final stint of the race. Consequently, Baird elapsed his maximum driving time and was later disqualified from the race. 


It ended a possible one-two for the team after Geoff and David Brabham claimed second initially. They were subsequently given the win ahead of the Audi entries driven by Brad Jones/Frank Biela and Cameron McConville/Jean-François Hemroulle.


1976: The wrong result?


In terms of Bathurst 1000 folklore, the legendary 1976 edition is still shrouded in controversy.


To this day debates rage as to whether Bob Morris and John Fitzpatrick won the race. For some, the Holden Dealer Team led by Colin Bond and John Harvey are considered the winners.


The controversy stems from the scoring of the race. It has been claimed that Bond and Harvey were scored incorrectly and in fact won the race by a lap. 


Despite fearing an inaccuracy in the scoring, the team didn’t protest the result supposedly to not steal the thunder of the Ron Hodgson Motors outfit, who at the time was the biggest dealership in Sydney.


The officials and separate scorers disputed the allegations. Harvey went on to win the 1983 edition of the race, but to this day still believes he won that race. 


Officially, Morris and Fitzpatrick are recognized as the winners. 


1996: Craig Lowndes and the beanie


The first of seven Bathurst 1000 crowns for Craig Lowndes came in 1996, but it almost didn’t happen.


Paired with Greg Murphy, the duo took a legendary win for the Holden Racing Team, which began an illustrious career for them both.


Lowndes got lucky though.


“He fell off a motorbike not long before Bathurst,” Paul Gover said on the V8 Sleuth Podcast.


“Somebody rang up and told me about it, let’s call him Kim Jones, and said ‘hey, I hear Lowndes is really not well, he’s fallen off a motorbike.’


“So I rang up the PR guy. I said ‘so I hear Lowndes has got a head cold’ and he said ‘you know, don’t you’ and I said ‘yup, I’m printing it tomorrow.’


“He said ‘if you print it he won’t race at Bathurst.’”


Lowndes was recovering and had paralysis in his arm. He turned up to the race wearing a beanie and claimed he had a cold to keep warm. As it turned out, they went on to win the race. Only then did he reveal the scar to Gover and others in the room at the post-race press conference.