WhichCar
Powered by
  • WheelsWheels
  • MOTORMOTOR
  • 4X4 Australia4X4 Australia
  • Street MachineStreet Machine
  • Trade Unique CarsTrade Unique Cars

The best (and worst) attempts at the Bathurst 1000 by international drivers

By Cameron Kirby, 16 Aug 2019 Features

The best (and worst) attempts at the Bathurst 1000 by international drivers

There is a reason that only a single international driver pairing has ever won The Great Race

News that IndyCar stars Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe will be coming to Australia in October to compete in the greatest touring car race in the world got us thinking - what other International drivers that have attempted the Bathurst 1000 have actually won?

There’s no denying the talent of the latest overseas imports, with Rossi winning the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie in 2016, and both as front runners in the American open-wheel racing series.

However, it’s not easy for international drivers to adapt to Australia’s unique high-power, low-grip Supercars, and the technically challenging and mentally daunting Mount Panorama circuit.

Here’s a few that have attempted it in the past, with mixed results.

Note: For the purpose of this article, we aren’t including New Zealanders as internationals, as they have a long and storied history with The Great Race.

The Good

An endurance legend makes the perfect debut

If we are talking about successful international assaults on the Bathurst 1000, at the top of the pile has to be Jacky Ickx’s attempt alongside Alan Moffat in 1977.

Ickx was an eight-time grand prix winner, and at the time a four-time 24 Hour of Le Mans victor – he would later go on to add another two wins to that tally. Needless to say he was a big deal in global motorsport, so his partnership with Moffat in a Ford XC Falcon hardtop was highly anticipated.

The hype was earned, with the duo winning in the now famous (or infamous depending on who you support) side-by-side formation finish.

It’s the first, and only, time the winning driver pairing for the Bathurst 1000 didn’t include someone born in Australia or New Zealand.

Rauno Aaltonen was the first international to win the 1000, back when it was a 500-mile event in 1966 alongside Bob Holden in a Mini Cooper S, while Moffatt had won previously to pairing with Ickx, most famously winning back-to-back in ’70 and ’71 driving solo. However, the Canadian-born driver was embedded in the ATCC championship full-time, and wasn’t an interloper like Ickx.

Ekstrom almost wins it all

One of the most successful modern international coups at Bathurst was the 2013 wildcard of Mattias Ekstrom and Andy Priaulx in a Triple Eight Racing wildcard entry.

Priaulx was a three-time World Touring Car Champion and ’04 European Touring Car Champion, but it was Ekstrom that grabbed headlines with his storming drive.

The two-time DTM champ had not seen Mount Panorama or raced a Supercar before the 2013 event - unlike his teammate - but that didn’t stop the Swede from qualifying an impressive 18th, in a 28-car field filled with full-time Supercars drivers.

With gun engineer Ludo Lacroix taking care of car setup, the wildcard entry started the race with a trimmed out rear wing which meant it had the edge in straight-line speed down both Mountain and Conrod straight.

Ekstrom manhandled the Xbox-sponsored VF Commodore masterfully over the top of the Mountain with minimal aero, after his final stint he handed the car back to Priaulx in the lead of the race, and in serious contention for victory.

A lock-up from Ekstrom’s teammate saw those hopes dashed, but the duo still finished an impressive 10th.

The Bad

Brock vs the lads from BTCC

The year 2004 was to be the 32nd and last Bathurst 1000 for the most successful driver in its history, Peter Brock. It was meant to be a final opportunity for fans to wave farewell to their hero.

However, it wasn’t to be, with Brock never taking part in the race thanks to his international teammate Jason Plato, and fellow British Touring Car competitor John Cleland.

Early in the race, Plato travelled through the gravel trap at the final turn, brushing the wall., meaning he had to limp the #05 Commodore back to the pits for an entire lap. However, as he crawled through The Chase, on the racing line, he was struck by Cleland in a Brad Jones Racing BA Falcon.

Both cars were out of the race on the spot, and the BTCC drivers became enemy number one for Aussie fans for the rest of the afternoon.

Two F1 heroes struggle from the green light

Pairing Australia’s first Formula 1 world champion with arguably the greatest grand prix driver to never win a title and putting them in a Holden Torana for the 1976 Bathurst 1000 seemed like a recipe destined for greatness.

Oh, how wrong it all went.

Jack Brabham had been convinced to come out of retirement for the event, sharing a car with his former on-track sparring partner Stirling Moss, who was also coming out of retirement for the event.

Things went awry almost immediately, with the Torana’s gears jamming on the grid, resulting in the car being hit from behind by another competitor. Several hours of repairs meant the duo could return to the track, but luck was against them as the engine gave up the ghost while Moss was at the wheel, forcing the legends to retire.