The Sandown 500 may not hold its traditional place as the pre-Bathurst warm-up anymore but the iconic Australian event still plays host to Retro Round; the one round of the year where Supercars teams are encouraged to don the corduroy, get out the double denim and bring back the bad hairstyles while honouring the sport’s history.
Starting in 2016 off the back of a few Bathurst 1000’s where teams ran liveries that paid tribute to their respective pasts, Sandown has been the perfect venue to host the retro round as one of Australia’s historic circuits which has been under threat in recent years.
Mainly drawing from the history of the Supercars championship and the Australian Touring Car Championship, this year’s offerings have hit the mark as more teams have jumped at the chance to show off their heritage.
Walkinshaw Andretti United
The former Holden Racing Team has thrown back to their winning ways from 20 year ago by painting the #2 and #22 in the colours of Craig Lowndes and Mark Skaife’s 1999 challengers. Famous for being on their VT Commodores in the year where Lowndes rolled at Calder Park, only to his third and final championship at the end of the season, main sponsor Mobil 1 again features front and centre on the bonnet.
Skaife was able to win at Sandown in 1999, although the event was a sprint round then, with the 500km pre-Bathurst enduro falling to Queensland Raceway. Though 2019 has been a difficult season for the Clayton side, they’ll be hoping that the iconic livery will bring them success in a time of uncertainty as they have two vacant seats in their cars for 2020.
Brad Jones Racing
Albury’s finest are fielding retro colours on all of their cars at this weekend’s Sandown 500 with two harking back to the early days of BJR. The #21 of Macaulay Jones and Dean Canto as well as the #14 of Tim Slade and Ash Walsh will sport the colours of the early BJR cars which were sponsored by Ozemail. Macca’s white machine is reminiscent of father Brad’s Falcons in the early 2000’s, which included a second at Bathurst in 2001 with John Cleland, while the #14 is mostly black, the colours of John Bowe’s cars when the 1995 series champion joined the team.
The Nick Percat/Tim Blanchard #8 car sees the return of Fujitsu as a title sponsor, returning to the sport for the first time since 2013 when they backed the Garry Rogers Motorsport entries. Initially coming into the sport through Britek Motorsport before moving to GRM, this weekend’s BJR livery incorporates hints of previous designs while also falling in line with the #8 car’s rotating roster of liveries this season.
Black and gold. What else do you need? The John Player Special colours are iconic in motorsport worldwide and were made famous by the Frank Gardner-run BMW squad in the 1980’s, featuring on the team’s 635CSi’s and the 1987 championship winning E30 M3 of Jim Richards.
Erebus’ title sponsor Penrite has gotten behind all of their one-off liveries in the recent past, supporting the team which has been punching above their weight in the championship. Though Thomas Randle’s Super2 Ford Falcon has sported the iconic colours over the last two years, his is in reflection of team-owner Rusty French’s Porsche 935 sportscar from the 80’s, supported by title sponsor Skye Sands.
Cross-sport retro liveries will always be cool and Team 18 have well and truly proven that with Mark Winterbottom’s Commodore. While Frosty has been around for a while, Irwin Tools hasn’t featured as much in Australia so the best solution was to look overseas for inspiration.
Copying the NASCAR scheme of Kurt Busch who carried the dark blue and yellow colours to the championship in 2004, the veteran combination of Winterbottom and Steven Richards, who could well be classified as retro themselves, Team 18 are on the rise and will have the opportunity to double down next year as they expand to two cars.
Privateers saluting privateers; what could be better? Embodying the spirit of retro round and of the single-car operation, Tekno have honoured Bob Morris’ 1979 Australian Touring Car Championship victory by putting the iconic colours of the Ron Hodgson Motors A9X Torana on their Commodore.
Though this year has been a rocky one for the relationship between driver Jack Le Brocq and team-owner Jono Webb, for the team to pay tribute to Morris’ championship victory speaks volumes of the achievement against the might of the Holden Dealer Team at its peak.
Modern look livery with an “old school logo” shouldn’t be considered a retro round effort. Look at last year’s scheme against this year’s and you’ll see why some aren’t getting too excited about the look of the #23 Mustang.
Matt Stone Racing
With Sherrin Rentals coming onboard as a title sponsor for the team, first at Bathurst in Super2 and now the main game, it’s good to see the company has made their first appearance on the MSR car in such an important way. Though their sponsorship of David Russell in what became the Super2 series in 2009, the colours on the #35 this weekend reflect on those which Russell had on the car when he won the Sandown support race a decade ago.
It’s a big change from the team’s usual silver and black look, as well as showing hints of the old Benson and Hedges colours.
Undoubtedly the best Ford retro livery this year, though that would be a bigger compliment if there were other contributors. With Chaz Mostert being joined by James Moffat, the team didn’t have to look far for inspiration this year by searching for “Moffat” and “Mustang” on google. 50 years on from James’ father Allan bringing the iconic Coca-Cola backed Trans-Am Mustang to Australia, the majority red and black stripe livery is one of the best in the field, if only it wasn’t for all the other sponsors which make the car look too busy. The scheme ties in well to Tickford’s road car division, currently offering an Allan Moffat edition Mustang in the 1969 colours.
The Sandown 500 has a unique qualifying format with one qualifying session determining the grid for a race between the co-drivers, which in-turn sets the grid for a main driver’s race on Saturday, where the results of Saturday afternoon will transfer to form Sunday’s starting order.
Despite this being the fourth retro round held at Sandown 500, no retro themed car has won the race as yet, perhaps showing that the best prepared teams let their performance do the talking…
TUFF Touring Cars