TOP 25 Bathurst bridesmaids
AMC presents the Bathurst classic’s most notable runners-up – the ‘nearly men’ who just came up short.
No less than 42 drivers have finished second in the Bathurst 500/1000 without scoring that much-coveted win. Here we present the most notable among them. Our line-up is a curious mix of hard luck stories and sensational surprise results – the disappointed and the delighted! Inspiration for exploring this Top 25 topic came from stories featured this issue, most notably the Geoghegan brothers’ experience in 1967 when their XR GT received the chequered flag first only to be stripped of the victory a few hours later. This proved to the closest Leo got to winning The Great Race. Then there’s this issue’s Muscle Man Bob Forbes, who, in the wet of 1974, opted to preserve second place (and his life!) rather than risk crashing out in the pursuit of victory. AMC presents the drivers who went oh-so-close to pulling off a Bathurst win. The nearly men!
1963 Fred Morgan
Real estate agent Fred Morgan and co-driver Ralph Sach posted Holden’s first Bathurst ‘podium’ in finishing runners-up in the 1963 Armstrong 500. The EH Holden S4 they drove was Morgan’s work car, which explains the roof-mounted two-way radio aerial seen in images taken during practice. Officials made Morgan remove the aerial for the race. Surely the best ever result for a realtor in the Octoberclassic.
1967 Leo Geoghegan
For all Leo achieved in motorsport, it was a major source of frustration for him that a Great Race victory proved elusive. Particularly, as he received the chequered flag first in the 1967 Gallaher 500 only to be put back to second when lapscorers worked out they erroneously awarded the Geoghegan brothers’ white XR an extra lap during the race. Between that year and 1973 he finished in the top five on five occasions.
1968 Jim Palmer & Phil West
Before the Harry Firth-run Holden Dealer Team there was the David McKay-operated Holden Dealer Racing Team. This was a short-lived entity born for Bathurst ‘68 and buried soon after when it failed to beat Bruce McPhee’s privateer Monaro GTS 327. But the HDRT wasn’t a complete failure as New Zealander Jim Palmer (in his only Bathurst start) and Aussie Phil West finished second in the first big stoush between Holden and Ford.
1971 Phil Barnes & Bob Skelton
Finishing second to Allan Moffat’s works GT-HO Phase III in the 1971 HardieFerodo 500 is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you finish ahead of a dozen other Falcons. That was the achievement of Byrt Ford pairing Barnes/ Skelton, sweetened by posting the fastest speed down Conrod.That same purple Phase III repeated the result the following year in thehands of John French, who would have to wait nine more years for his Bathurstvictory.
1973 Doug Chivas
Will forever be remembered for having to push the Torana GTR XU-1 he shared with Peter Brock up pitlane after running out of fuel while leading. The pair ultimately finished second toAllan Moffat and Pete Geoghegan. The pain of his pitlane penance was matched only by having the answer endless questions about this memorable moment thereafter. A pity, as Chivas’ Bathurst record included two third places (’67 and ’72) and two fourths (’68 and ’70).
1974 Bob Forbes & Wayne Negus
As outlined last issue, Forbes’ L34 led the soggy ’74 Bathurst race but had to make an extra pitstop compared to the winning Goss Falcon to fit wets. Once he caught up to the race leader again, Forbes “decided I couldn’t overtake him safely. It was just pissing down!” He settled for second once he spotted the destroyed Rod McRae Torana and has no regrets. “We had the best day of our lives once we found out Rod was alright.”
1975 Frank Gardner
An uncanny feel for his equipment meant Gardner was motorsport’s supreme development driver. That should have translated to nursing fragile Group C era cars to victory at Bathurst, but it didn’t pan out that way. He came closest in partnering runner-up Bob Morris in ’75, but vacated the Ron Hodgson co-driver role for ’76 when he threw his lot in with Allan Grice. Bad timing: Morris and new co-driver John Fitzpatrick won that race.
1977 Alan Hamilton
If Colin Bond had defied team orders and overtaken Allan Moffat for a 1977 Bathurst 2-1, then Bondy’s co-driver that day would be a Bathurst winner. Had Moffat defied team orders in 1969 and not pitted to replace the Goodyear tyres that didn’t need replacing, then Moff’s co-driver that day would probably be a Bathurst winner. Had Bathurst organisers mandated two drivers per car in 1970 and ’71, then Moffat’s co-driver...
1979 Captain Peter Janson
The privateer ranks often provided the Great Race’s best characters. None more so than the deerstalker-wearing and Cherry Ripe-throwing Melbourne-socialite Peter Janson. The Captain was no lightweight behind the wheel either, posting consecutive second-place finishes in 1979 and 1980 with Larry Perkins – his polar opposite! Only the might of Brock and the HDT finished ahead of this unlikely duo both those years.
1982 Alan Browne
The Re-Car team boss was one canny operator. Browne may have only been a weekend warrior, but his five Bathurst campaigns between 1979 and 1984 enlisted some of the best in the racing game and the results, beyond his debut year, reflected his street smarts: fourth in 1980 with Brian Sampson; fifth in ’81 with Tony Edmondson; second in ’82 with Gricey and fifth in ’84 with Barry Lawrence.
1985 Roberto Ravaglia and Johnny Cecotto
Italian Roberto Ravaglia and Venezuelan Johnny Cecotto lobbed at Bathurst 1985 to drive a Bob Jane-entered, BMW factory-run 635CSi and, with Teutonic efficiency, finished second. For blokey-blokes on Mount Panorama – well, those still conscious by Sunday arvo – with no appreciation for European touring car royalty, they were merely foreigners for Brocky to beat! ‘Bob Ravioli’ and ‘Johnny Chooklotto’ both returned to the Mount but lady luck was not on their side.
1987, 2003 & 2004 Glenn Seton
If anyone was cursed at Bathurst it was surely Glenn Seton, despite finishing runner-up in 1987. Most notably, his Falcon conked out in ’95 while leading with just nine laps remaining. He rolled it back into a driveway near Griffin’s Bend and courageously spoke to Seven’s Garry Wilkinson via Racecam. He had come agonisingly close to winning the race, 30 years after his father Barry, admitting it was “just heart-breaking”. Second again in ’03 and ’04 would be as close as he would get.
1989 Klaus Niedzwiedz
The German led Allan Moffat’s ANZ Sierra attack in 1988, with the white car leading comfortably late race when the turbo went ‘pop’. Moffat redoubled his efforts for 1989, again flying Niedzwiedz in, but the best Klaus could collect was second behind the Johnson/Bowe at the peak of the Shell Sierras’ powers. It was little consolation for the heartbreak of the previous year, which followed being excluded from second in ’87 when Klaus was part of the Texaco fiasco.
1990 & 2000 Paul Radisich
The Rat finished second for DJR in both 1990 and 2000, but the one that really got away was the 1999 FAI 1000. As team leader he was streeting the field with just 20 laps left when he tangled with lapped traffic. Most thought he was charging a little too hard with the race seemingly in his grasp. His AU Falcon’s fragile front-splitter gave way, damaging the radiator and cooking the engine. Radisich was left stranded trackside to watch the closing laps, consoling himself by feeding a horse.
1994, 1997 & 2001 Brad Jones
Brad Jones saved Craig Lowndes’s bacon in 1994 by keeping the HRT Commodore VP they shared in contention until ‘The Kid’ found his feet... and subsequently stardom by duelling late race with leader John Bowe. Jones would often be in contention at Bathurst, but the cards never quite fell his way. His finest hour was 2001 when his OzEmail AU Falcon kept Skaife and Longhurst honest. Jones holds the record for the most Bathurst podiums without a victory – six.
1995 Alan Jones
Runner- up in ’95 with Allan Grice stands as the 1980 World Champion’s best result at Bathurst in 19 attempts between 1981 and 2002. AJ mostly drove for the best funded teams in the business and often gave the race a good hard shake. Yet, despite showing astonishing speed at times, he didn’t quite crack it for a win. The campaign that best sums up Jonesy’s efforts was 1996’s Pack Leader Racing tilt that ended in flames after leading in the wet.
1999 Cameron McConville
The cleancut McConville was the first of a run of Formula Ford champions to be given a go by the big touring car teams at Bathurst. Sadly, his 1993 debut, with DJR, came unstuck through The Esses. It was a hit that put his career back several years, but he proved everreliable thereafter as a lead driver or in a ‘best supporting role’. His finest moments came as Lowndes’s co-driver in 1999 at HRT and a decade later partnering Jason Richards.
2001 John Cleland
The mob up top of Mount Panorama fell in love with Scotsman John Cleland when he gave them ‘the bird’ during an early campaign. The wise-cracking and often sharp-tongued Cleland proved a favourite with local teams too, becoming the most capped international in the race’s history with a dozen starts between 1993 and 2005. He found a regular home at Brad Jones Racing in the noughties and it was as Brad’s speedy back-up that Cleland had his finest hour – second in 2001.
2005, 2008 & 2009 Jason Richards
Anyone who had the pleasure of meeting the late Jason Richards will tell you they never met a warmer, more upbeat human being than the cheerful New Zealander. If anyone deserved to experience the joy of a Bathurst victory it was he. Not only was he a good bloke and team player, he was bloody quick, too. Richards came oh-so-close on three occasions in the noughties, partnering Greg Murphy, Cameron McConville and Jamie Whincup in Commodores.
2007 James Courtney
Whether it’s been with the Stone Brothers, DJR or the HRT – and regardless of what’s happened during the rest of the season – Courtney has always been a force to be reckoned with at Bathurst. His hgihwater mark, if you’ll excuse the pun, came in 2007 in those frantic final wet laps. This will go down in race history as the time the weather gods decided ashower would spice things up. Courtney charged to the front and crossed theline in second.
2007 David Besnard
Besnard was on course to win Bathurst at his first attempt, in the Caltex AU Falcon in 2000 in the wet... until lead driverTony Longhurst crashed 10 laps from home. Another wet event, in 2007, saw the car he shared with James Courtney scramble to second place. However, heartbreak was never far away from the Sydneysider over the 12 years of his Supercars career, including a massive walloping at Griffin’s Bend first lap out of the pits in 2011.
2010 & 2015 Steve Owen
Like Steven Richards, Owen is one of the first Bathurst co-drivers to lock down a top seat each year. Unlike Richards, Owen is yet to score a Great Race win that his considerable talent suggests should be his. He always seems to be in right team but not the right team car. Nonetheless, he’s twice been runner-up – with Jamie Whincup and Mark Winterbottom – andwill again drive for a crack operation in 2017, PRA, as trusty sidekick toChaz Mostert.
2012 David Reynolds
‘Crazy Dave’ drove the race of his life at Bathurst 2012 to finish second to Triple Eight’s Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell in a car wearing the livery and number of the 1967-winning XR Falcon. Defying Split Enz, history so very nearly repeated itself. The quirky and personable Reynolds continues to be a frontrunner in Supercar competition today, although it would be a major surprise if the Erebus team put together a Bathurst-winning package.
2014 James Moffat
When your surname is Moffat there’s a certain pressure of expectation you have to live with. Moffat Jnr and co-driver Taz Douglas came from the clouds in 2014 to finish second, giving Nissan its best result at Bathurst since the brand’s early 1990s heyday. Interestingly, his famous father Allan only finished runner-up once, in 1983 in a Mazda RX7 sharing with Yoshimi Katayama, which was also the Japanese driver’s best result at Bathurst.
2016 Shane van Gisbergen
SVG is the man on this list most likely to be a Bathurst winner in the fullness of time... or as soon as October this year. The Giz had the race shot to bits in 2015, only for his Tekno Autosports Commodore to fail to fire back up after stalling when exiting its pitbox. The prodigiously talented New Zealander has been earmarked for greatness ever since appearing on the scene as a 17-year-old in 2007. Yes, he’s been around for a decade now.