Best V8 bridesmaids: the 10 best drivers who haven't won a Supercars title
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As the Supercars Championship sits sidelined, it gives us a good chance to reflect on the category's history.
History is just as much about those on the fringes of victory as it is about the legends and icons. Today we look back at the 10 greatest drivers that never won a Supercars title. Some cases are a tsunami of 'what ifs', while others are simply cases of bad luck or grand distraction.
10. Todd Kelly (best result: 4th, 2005)
When the older of the two Kelly brothers joined Kmart Racing in 2001, he had already been pegged as a star of the future. He had become one of the youngest drivers to compete at Bathurst, having run in 1998 as a rookie. In the same year, he had finished second in the Australia's Formula Holden series (pipped by some kid named Scott Dixon).
Indeed, Kelly's racing career was a colourful and long one, with stints as a factory driver for both Holden and Nissan. A Bathurst 1000 victory in 2005 is a career highlight; complemented by a fourth, a fifth, and three sixth-place championship finishes.
Kelly's departure from HRT at the end of 2007 to start his own team with his brother Rick helped kick off an empire that continues in the sport today. And, the history books show HRT's following years featured more troughs than peaks. In that sense, whether Kelly deserved a better tilt at a title is up for debate.
9. Paul Morris (best result: 17th, 2001)
It's safe to say that the record books don't exactly support the argument that Paul Morris should go on this list. But, those books lack a lot of context.
For a period of time in the '90s, he was one of Aussie motorsport's leading prospects. After a few impressive ATCC seasons in an underpowered E30 BMW M3, he became one of the best drivers in the world aboard a super touring car.
A certain 2.0-litre Bathurst 1000 win in 1997 was taken away post race after it was deemed teammate Craig Baird had exceeded his lap limit. And the following year he did Indy Lights in the US.
Running his own ship in the Australian Super Touring Series, he thrashed various factory-supported efforts. But, things were much more competitve in Supercars. A lone race and round victory at Calder Park in 2001 was his only one as an owner-driver, while an eventual Bathurst 1000 win came in 2014 following the mountain's most bizarre race in history.
Morris clearly had bags of natural ability, to the point where one wonders how much better his results would have been had he been drafted into a big-name team instead of going solo with more team ownership distraction.
8. Steven Richards (best result: 5th, 2004)
It's amazing to think that Steven Richards, a five-time Bathurst 1000 winner, never really fought at the death for a Supercars title. It was the 2004 season where he came closest; battling an in-form Stone Brothers Racing duo, a determined Greg Murphy and Jason Bright.
While he's one of the most winningest drivers at Mount Panorama, Richards was more well known for clean consistency in his championship campaigns. That 2004 season, for example, featured zero wins and six podiums.
Like Morris, Richards was also temporarily ushered away from the series by international opportunities. He was a test driver in the BTCC for Nissan, which subsequently saw him surrender a season with Garry Rogers Motorsport. It's unclear how things may have unfolded without the overseas exploits playing a part.
7. David Reynolds (best result: 3rd, 2015)
"He's dead to me bro. Dead to me."
David Reynolds' 2015 Supercars season featured a pair of race wins and a strong mid-season surge of consistency that saw him race into championship contention against Tickford Racing teammate Mark Winterbottom.
But nobody really remembers those things from that season. Instead, they remember Reynolds' clash with Shane van Gisbergen at Phillip Island; a frustration-laden incident on the run to 'Hay Shed' that ended a 16-race streak of top 10s and top fives and ultimately ended any chance of a surprise championship charge. It also led to one of the most memorable post-race interviews in recent memory.
Reynolds is one of the best drivers of the current crop, which is proven by the way he's helped turned Erebus Motorsport into a regular race-winning threat. A 10 year contract with them could mean more shots at the title.
6. Paul Radisich (best result: 4th, 2000)
It's not that 'The Rat' was a frequent fixture in championship winner discussions. In nine full-time seasons he only cracked the top five in the points once. No, Paul Radisich's tenure in the V8s is more about what ifs and a driver with raw talent that fell through the cracks. He landed in Australia with incredible credentials. Not only was he a World Touring Car Cup champ, he had also become a regular BTCC race winner for Ford (in the years that it fielded a Mondeo capable of getting out of its own way).
And the signs were very positive in those first two years. Radisich almost (read, should've) won Bathurst in 1999, and then had a slick 2000 season featuring a round win at Sandown and a second at Mount Panorama. The trajectory was there for the Kiwi to become a new power boy for Ford's new future. Only, he backed the wrong horse.
Dick Johnson Racing suffered one of its worst seasons in history in 2002. The cars were slugs where they'd previously been unstoppable. While Stone Brothers Racing were onto a winner with Marcos Ambrose, Radisich skipped from DJR to Briggs Motorsport. UK outfit Triple Eight bought the team at the end of 2003, and it should've reaped returns for Radisich.
But after spending most of 2004 driving a fragile car full of guinnea pig components, Radisich was swapped for Craig Lowndes (someone he'd beaten in the points) and the rest was history.
5. Will Davison (best result: 2nd, 2009)
Yes, he finished second on debut for the Holden Racing Team in 2009. But I'd rather talk about Will Davison's 2012.
Heading into the season, most of the paddock's teams were saving resources for the following season and the advent of new Car of the Future regulations in 2013. It meant that there were only two teams likely to threaten for the championship; Tickford Racing and Triple Eight.
The two teams and four drivers split every single race win of the season, making it one of the least diverse seasons in the history of the series. Davison finished fourth and last of the group in the standings. But, for a while it looked like Melbournite would be the one to beat, by a good margin. He won six of the first 11 races, finishing off the podium only twice. It was looking like a cakewalk. But then, he went five months without winning anything. And, despite getting pole, Bathurst proved to be a total disaster. Fourth was the best he could get.
A few seasons as a journeyman with other teams followed, and like a boomerang Davison now finds himself back at Tickford as the squad veteran. A title isn't an impossible prospect, but would require the team to make quantum leaps.
4. Jason Bright (best result: 3rd, 2001/2004)
Speaking of journeymen, Jason Bright drove for nine different teams in his time in Supercars. Including a team of his own.
After making Stone Brothers co-driver Scott Pruett look second rate at Bathurst in 1997, Bright became one of the youngest Great Race winners in history a year later. In an alternate history, he would've continued with the Stone dynasty into the team's championship winning years through 2003-2005. But, he didn't.
Instead he tried to crack the American racing world, before returning to run at HRT alongside Mark Skaife. Skaife, the guy that had been crowned champion the previous year, was at the top of his game leaving Bright little chance to beat him in the standings (although he did beat almost everyone else). That desire to lead a team is likely what spurred on his moves to Paul Weel Racing, Ford Performance Racing, and ultimately to start his own operation; Britek Motorsport.
There's no denying it; every team that Bright raced for improved in its results owing in part to his abilities with car set-up. PWR went from humble 'Team Brock' underpinnings to race winners, FPR went from cellar dwellers to Sandown champions, Brad Jones Racing wound up breaking its 11-year race winning duck. One wonders just how much he would have accomplished had he never left the Stones. I suspect it would've been a lot.
3. Larry Perkins (best result: 4th, 1994/1995/1998)
Considering the incredible legacy of 'Larrikin Larry' - six Bathurst wins, the creation of an iconic team, the brief period in Formula 1 - it's remarkable to think he would never win an Australian touring-car title.
Competitive across three different decades, spending most of that time running as an owner/operator, you get the feeling Perkins never necessarily gave the championship a proper hearty shake. He was a gifted racer, but perhaps an even better engineer and team owner. And this can probably be traced all the way back to his departure from the Holden Dealer Team in the mid-1980s.
The distractions that team ownership brings onto a driver is something we've touched on a bunch of times here, but Perkins raced with the added pressure for longer than anyone else here on this list. 1994 is probably the Perkins season people remember best, although even then it was moreso for his dices with fellow legend Peter Brock.
2. Chaz Mostert (best result: 5th, 2017/2019)
It took Chaz Mostert just five events to gift Dick Johnson Racing its first race win in three years when he arrived at the embattled squad in mid-2013. The jovial, likable Victorian has always been considered a driver with strong natural ability in a race car, and that shows in how much of a quick learner he is.
There are very few dips in his racing career before Supercars, only gradually increasing peaks. Eleventh, fourth, and first are his Formula Ford championship results, 27th, sixth, and third his Dunlop Super2 results. And a similar rise was on the cards in his first three seasons of Supercars, too. He finished 17th in that season with DJR (despite missing a bunch of races at the start of the year), and then followed that with seventh in 2014 (underlined by a magnificent win at Bathurst). Then came 2015.
Most correctly remember that season as being one of Tickford Racing Falcon dominance, but falsely attribute all that credit at championship winner Mark Winterbottom. It's easily forgotten that, heading into Bathurst, it was Mostert that had all the momentum and almost just as many championship points. Six straight podiums (three of them wins) had him all over 'Frosty', and any doubt that Winterbottom was on a results decline are confirmed by the fact he didn't win a single race for the rest of the year.
But, after what remains one of the most sickening crashes in Bathurst history, Mostert wasn't able to truly capitalise; a badly broken leg putting him out of the series for the rest of the year. The following four seasons with Tickford were relatively lean with just five wins spread across them (as many as he claimed in 2015 alone), leading to the surprise shift to Walkinshaw Andretti United for 2020. If anyone can bring that team into title contention, it's him.
1. Greg Murphy (best result: 2nd, 2002/2003)
Greg Murphy's career, a little like Bright's, is packed with an enormous amount of 'what ifs'.
The four Bathurst wins of course take centre stage when looking back at the Kiwi's career, as does his exceptional form at Pukekohe. But it's easy to forget that he was right up there with Mark Skaife when it came to rattling the cage of Marcos Ambrose during his championship years in 2003 and 2004.
Against the might of Skaife and HRT at its peak, Murph didn't really stand a chance of title glory in 2002. The following year however was much more intersting. Remember, Murphy spent most of the season racing an out-of-date Holden VX Commodore instead of the new-generation VY Commodore. It wasn't until Oran Park in August that he finally got the VY upgrade, which led to a seven-race streak of podiums. Admittedly, three of those events were at tracks Murph is known to excel at (Bathurst, Gold Coast, and Pukekohe), but it still leaves a big what-if over what history would show if he started the season in a VY.
The biggest question of all though is probably his time at HRT. Murphy took over the reigns at the iconic Holden team when Craig Lowndes ventured to Europe to try and forge a path to Formula 1. Had Lowndes stayed in Europe, Murphy would have occupied a seat that went on to win the following two championships. Alas, Lowndes was back by the end of the year.