The best ATCC/V8 Supercar drivers to never win a championship
There have been 24 Australian Touring Car Champions, these talented drivers aren't among them
24 drivers have been crowned Australian Touring Car Champion since it’s 1960 inception. These four drivers aren’t among them, but they were all certainly talented enough. Unfortunately for them, you need more than just talent.
Jason Bright made a promising start to his career. In his first full-time Australian Touring Car Championship season he and Steven Richards won the 1998 Bathurst 1000 with Stone Brothers Racing. That year he also finished ninth in the championship with a best result of third at Calder Park. In 2000, after two years at SBR, Bright went to America to race Indy Lights. He finished an impressive sixth in his only Indy Lights season, despite missing one round and.two retirements. Returning to Australia, Bright had some good results, but kept changing teams every two years. From 2001 to 2006 he drove for the Holden Racing Team, Paul Weel Racing and Ford Performance Racing. This, coupled with a decision to start his own team, Britek, in 2007, is what cost Bright the championship. Owner-drivers have struggled to win championships, particularly in the last 20 years, as the championship became far more professional. Bright has enjoyed 20 race wins, 88 podiums and 17 pole positions. He has more of all three than 2006 champion Rick Kelly. Kelly, who is still racing, has only achieved, 13 wins, 58 podiums and 11 poles since 2002..
Larry Perkins won the Bathurst 1000 six times, is a European F3 champion, an Australian F2 champion, and the only driver on this list to have raced in Formula 1. But the never managed to win an ATCC title. Perkins contested the ATCC for his own team from 1987 to 2002. The first five of those years were run under FIA Group A regulations, which made life very hard for Holden teams like Perkins Engineering. Perkins’ best championship result during this period was sixth in 1987. When the Ford Sierra and and Nissan Skyline hit their full potential, the best Perkins could manage was 10th in 1992. That still made him the highest placed Holden driver. His teammate, Peter Brock, was next in 11th. Between 1994 to 1998, under the new 5.0L V8 formula, Perkins finished fourth in the standings three times and fifth twice. His three fourth place championship finishes came despite having just four ATCC race wins from 160 starts. Perkins just never quite had the car to win a championship with. Nobody was better at preparing a car for Bathurst. His results at Mt Panorama with Brock and later Russell Ingall are proof of that, but the Commodores built by Perkins Engineering always lacked the outright pace of those from Walkinshaw. In a HRT car, Larry might have been a champion.
In 1996, Greg Murphy and Craig Lowndes won the Bathurst 1000 in a HRT Commodore with finished third in the Australian Super Touring Championship with Brad Jones Racing. 1996 would be the first of four Bathurst 1000 victories for Murphy. Murphy joined HRT as a full time driver in 1997. He won his debut race at Calder Park. Another five wins and nine podiums saw him finish fourth in the 1997 championship. When Lowndes returned from Europe, Murphy was dropped by HRT for 1998. He returned to Supercars in 1999 with Gibson Motorsport, finishing sixth in the 1999 and 2000 championships. Murphy went back to Walkinshaw in 2001 with the K-mart Racing team. It was in 2003 that Murphy set the Bathurst touring car lap record during the top 10 shootout. It was the first ever sub-2:07 lap in a V8 Supercar, and became known as the Lap of the Gods. Unfortunately for Murphy, Walkinshaw always favoured HRT over K-mart Racing, so he often had to make do with inferior equipment to Mark Skaife and Todd Kelly in the sister garage. Between 2005 and his 2012 retirement, Murphy moved from PWR to Tasman Motorsports to Kelly Racing. Although was never fortunate enough to have the car to win the championship.
Tony Longhurst has won plenty of Australian titles.He was the 1994 Australian Super Touring Champion, 1988 and 2001 Bathurst 1000 winner, 2009 Bathurst 12 Hour winner and 1986. 87, 89, 90 and 91 AMSCAR Champion. The Australian Touring Car Championship is one thing he never managed to win. The best he managed there was third, which he achieved twice in 1991 and 1992. The two drivers ahead of him in both years were Gibson Motorsport drivers Mark Skaife and Jim Richards.The Tony Longhurst Racing-prepared Schnitzer BMW M3 Evolutions were simply no match for the all conquering Nissan Skyline GT-R R32. Nothing was. Longhurst was more or less a victim of his own circumstances. His Super Touring championship is a testament to what he could do when given more competitive equipment. Longhurst spent the final years of his full time ATCC career in his own privateer Ford Falcon, but lacked the means to compete with bigger factory-backed teams. He sold his team at the end of 1998, but continued driving for SBR and then Rod Nash Racing,. He retired from full-time driving at the end of the 2000 season, having won everything except an ATCC championship.
Longhurst (left) was denied the 1991 championship by Richards (right)