Rating the retro Supercars Sandown 500 warpaint from best to worst
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It is officially Virgin Australia Supercars Championship endurance season.
As I write this, teams are in the midst of practice one for the Rabble.Club Sandown 500. And, 15 cars out of the 25-car grid will this weekend wear old-school warpaint to honour the event's 'Retro Round' status.
Click here for Driven's wrap-up from today's Sandown 500 practice
It's the second year of retro livery goodness and there are some complete bangers this year. Some are logical liveries that we saw coming a mile off, while others were a total curve-ball. Here's the retro grid, from the average to the fabulous.
13. Tim Slade/Ash Walsh Freightliner Racing Holden Commodore
For the second year in a row, Brad Jones Racing have embraced retro round, with past liveries spread across two of their three cars.
Tim Slade and Ash Walsh's Freightliner Commodore is dressed in a familiar orange this weekend, as a homage to Bob Jane's Holden Monaro GTS350. It's a car that carries strong ties to BJR, as Kim Jones used to help run that car back in the day. Bob Jane was also interestingly enough Brad and Kim Jones' godfather.
However, as strong as the yarn behind the paint might be, or how well it fulfils the retro brief, this livery wasn't really much of a looker in its prime — let alone now. I'm sure many a designer today is thankful for decals that don't have giant squares of white space behind them.
12. Will Davison/Alex Davison Milwaukee 23Red Racing Ford Falcon
Single-car outfit 23Red Racing (formerly Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport) have had an up and down season. With Will Davison behind the wheel and a new Falcon FG-X in the stable, their race pace has improved significantly over last season. But on the flip-side, luck and consistency haven't always been on their side.
For Sandown, Will buddies up with brother Alex Davison, and the pairing's Falcon pays tribute to Milwaukee's past logo and look. It's a pleasant enough looking car, but not referencing any specific car from the past bumps it down a few notches. The Davison family have an incredible history in Australia, and that could've been easily exploited.
11. Simona De Silvestro/Alex Rullo Harvey Norman Nissan Altima
The No. 78 Nissan will wear a red and white ensemble this weekend, as youngster Alex Rullo joins the ever improving De Silvestro. The pair are worth keeping an eye on, based namely on Rullo's very impressive pace in the Super2 Development Series over the course of the year.
The livery itself doesn't necessarily reflect one specific paint-scheme from the past. Rather, it captures the look of what Nissan's factory liveries used to look like in the '60s. It's clean and simple, and stands out next to the more complicated and angular combinations of today.
10. Chaz Mostert/James Moffat Supercheap Auto Tickford Ford Falcon
The idea is certainly there.
Supercheap have dipped into their paint-scheme past a few times now; each time selecting a livery from their time as a relative privateer in the series through the late '90s and early '00s. And this livery — the last before the motoring store parted ways with perennial battler Steve Ellery — was probably the best of the lot.
Unfortunately execution is where things are left wanting. The need to make the primary 'Supercheap' logos bigger and the racing number smaller tip the balance out of favour. The same can be said of the use of black instead of dark, dark gunmetal grey as a secondary colour. So close yet so far.
9. Anton De Pasquale/Will Brown Erebus Motorsport Holden Commodore
Both Erebus Motorsport Commodores pay tribute to an unsung hero of Aussie motorsport; Graeme Bailey. It's a match made in heaven ... both entities are giant killers, and slightly off centre.
The second Erebus Commodore of full-time rookie Anton De Pasquale and enduro rookie Will Brown adopts the scheme from one of Bailey's old Toyota Celicas. It's just a shame that the team couldn't source a primary backer for their young-gun duo.
8. James Golding/Richard Muscat Wilson Security GRM Holden Commodore
Garry Rogers Motorsport went all out last year with two of the best looking retro cars on the grid. They were so popular in fact that the paint schemes were retained for the Bathurst 1000 a month later.
This year, both cars celebrate machines from Rogers' past as a driver. James 'Bieber' Golding and Richard Muscat's No. 34 car references the first 'new' race car that Rogers peddled — the Soundwave Discos Holden VC Commodore Group A. It's a classic livery that's set off by being combined with gold wheels.
The retro Commodore crashed out of the 1981 Bathurst 1000. GRM will be hoping to not repeat the feat this weekend.
7. James Courtney/Jack Perkins & Scott Pye/Warren Luff Walkinshaw Andretti United Holden Commodores
The team formerly known as HRT were down in the dumps after losing Holden as a primary backer a few seasons ago. But things have been on an upswing ever since, with Michael Andretti and Zak Brown coming on board to give the team an international flavour alongside Ryan Walkinshaw. They've also had an improved season of results, particularly with Pye claiming an incredible win in the wet at Melbourne.
For Sandown the team have harked back to Mark Skaife's last livery in 2008 before he retired from the sport. Skaife also won that year's 500km endurance race alongside Garth Tander, though at the time the race took place at Phillip Island rather than at Sandown.
Execution is solid — perhaps looking a little naked without the signature HRT 'helmet and lion' insignia. The white and flouro Commodore will stand out both in person and on television, too. The only question is ... is 10-years-old 'retro'?
6. Scott McLaughlin/Alex Premat & Fabian Coulthard/Tony D'Alberto Shell V-Power Ford Falcons
Yeah, they're just a pair of red cars. But, what a pair.
The twin Falcons of McLaughlin/Premat and Coulthard/D'Alberto have adopted one of Dick Johnson Racing's most identifiable looks this weekend. Both aim to recreate the success of Johnson's Ford Sierras from the Group A days.
What sets these apart from, say, the Slade car at the top of this list, is both the recognition factor and the way that they still look good in this modern era. No square stickers, no odd sizings, and a set of gold rims to boot. Gorgeous.
5. Lee Holdsworth/Jason Bright Preston Hire Racing Holden Commodore
It could be argued that Preston Hire's Holden references both a road car and a race car all at once.
Painted (well, stickered) in the familiar soft hue of Warwick Yellow, the single-car team nod back to one hell of a road car and one hell of a race car; the Holden Monaro GTS. As a road car, it was one of the quickest in the world at the time. And as a race car, it turned out to be a Bathurst champion in 1968 in the hands of privateer effort of Bruce McPhee and Barry Mulholland. It doubled as Holden's first win of many on the mountain.
The livery is more than just an acre of yellow. It also features a few great little details from the Monaro road car, like the shark fins behind the front wheels and GTS logos in all the right places.
4. David Reynolds/Luke Youlden Penrite Erebus Motorsport Holden Commodore
We've already touched on the parallels between Graeme Bailey's giant-killing effort and the Erebus Motorsport outfit, but it's worth repeating that that's part of why the Commodore of defending Bathurst champs David Reynolds and Luke Youlden is so sharp.
Beyond that, it's about the attention to detail on the part of the designers here. Note the adaption of Penrite's logo into period-correct and Chickadee look-a-like font. There's some mild changes here, like switching the blue stripe that used to cross the car to black, but it all works very well together.
3. Garth Tander/Chris Pither Wilson Security Racing Holden Commodore
You're not going to miss the Commodore of Garth Tander and Chris Pither this weekend.
The bright orange Commodore looks eye-searingly vibrant while wearing the colours of another of Garry Rogers' former race cars. In this case, it's meant to represent the Greater Pacific Finance Holden Torana A9X that Rogers' shared with Ian Geoghegan in 1978.
Unlike the Supercheap Auto car from before, little has been done to make the Wilson logo any bigger than it needs to be. It sits happily above the rear wheel, allowing the white sash that carries the huge #33 to take pride of place. Bright orange wheels with silver edges are the icing on the cake.
2. Rick Kelly/Garry Jacobson Castrol Nissan Altima
Is 2002 retro? Maybe, maybe not. Does it matter either way when the result looks this cool? No.
The best looking livery of the regular season (change my mind) is also one of the best looking cars of retro round. Signing Castrol as a sponsor at the beginning of the year meant that an old-school look come Sandown time was a likelihood, and this doesn't disappoint.
2002 was one of the strongest years for the Castrol squad. Back then it was known as Perkins Engineering, and '02 saw them running frequently at the front with Steve Richards and Russell Ingall. Larry Perkins himself peddled hard too, though it proved to be his last year as a full-timer.
And although 16 years have passed since, the simple colour scheme hasn't aged a bit.
1. Tim Blanchard/Dale Wood CoolDrive BJR Holden Commodore
It takes guts to pick a former cigarette paint scheme for your retro round choice these days, but we're eternally thankful that Brad Jones Racing did just that for Tim Blanchard and Dale Wood's No. 21 CoolDrive car.
A bit like the Castrol car, the former Benson & Hedges livery (famous in New Zealand for winning the Wellington Street Race and for being Denny Hulme's last ride) has aged exceptionally well.
What makes it particularly special is that Tim's Dad John Blanchard raced for the B&H BMW M3 squad back in the early '90s when the sport was transitioning from Group A to the Supercars formula we know today. Father John wasn't aware that son Tim was planning to run the livery until he was surprised with a pic of it all rendered up.
“It brings back a lot of memories for me and I’m really proud to see Tim honouring that,” he told Supercars.com.
“I had no idea he was doing it; then I received the mock-up and was completely shocked, it was one of those 'wow' moments.”
“The M3s were awesome cars. The BMWs were hit with a lot of weight penalties that year, so I don’t believe they were able to show their full potential and competitiveness.
“I showed the [Sandown] design to Tony Longhurst and he agreed, it’s awesome. I can’t wait to see it on track this weekend. I think a lot of the older guys will get a real kick out of this one.”