ONE Bathurst 1000 victory instantly makes any race car worth much more than before it started the race, such is the importance and prestige of ‘The Great Race’ at Mount Panorama.
But two wins in consecutive years puts any race car in rarified air and, it’s within that realm where Mark Skaife’s ‘Golden Child’ Holden Racing Team Commodore sits.
The winner of the 2001 and 2002 Bathurst 1000 races, this car remains one of just two individual chassis to claim multiple victories in the Mountain classic.
The other is the Holden Dealer Team VH Commodore taken to victory by Peter Brock and Larry Perkins in 1982 that was became the team’s second car in 1983 that again came home a winner in the hands of John Harvey, Brock and Perkins.
But why was Skaife’s car known as the ‘Golden Child’?
“The name came from Craig Kelly – he was the CEO at the Holden Racing Team at the time,” says Skaife.
“I had a view of that car, given the success of it was so great and the condition of the car was so great – it had never been crashed or never had a new chassis rail (replaced) in it and had an incredible record of achievement.
“I was almost to the point of pedantic about what happened to that car and that no one touched it or hurt it. So Craig dubbed it the ‘Golden Child’ because it was a car in our workshop that had preference over every other car.”
The car’s racing career began at the 2001 Queensland 500 but it hit the headlines a month or so later when Skaife and Tony Longhurst took it to victory at Bathurst.
The car – a VX model Commodore – became Skaife’s regular race car for the rest of 2001 and all bar one round in 2002, both years clinching the overall driver’s championship for the factory ace.
He and Jim Richards teamed up to win Bathurst in 2002, giving the duo their first Mountain win together since 1992 and Richards’ infamous podium speech.
The change to ‘Project Blueprint’ regulations in V8 Supercars for 2003 meant the ‘Golden Child’ was converted from a VX to VY model. Despite being a huge architectural change, Skaife rolled out to win the Adelaide 500, running this famous car through to the midpoint of the season when a brand new VY Commodore made its debut.
The two-time Bathurst 1000 winning car then became the team’s spare chassis for the remainder of 2003 and into 2004.
It was put back into active racing service following Jason Plato’s massive accident at Bathurst in the #05 car he was sharing with Peter Brock, which couldn’t be repaired in time for the next round on the Gold Coast in just a fortnight’s time.
In Skaife’s hands (having received special dispensation due to the car still using an 18-degree Chevrolet engine, which teams weren’t allowed to switch back to once they’d moved to the new Holden Motor Sport unit), the car dubbed ‘Golden Child’ qualified on pole on its return to racing, though Skaife later spun out of the lead while being chased by Marcos Ambrose.
Skaife debuted a new Commodore at Symmons Plains, sending 045 back to the workshop to retire from active duty, instead used for pit stop practice by the HRT crew.
It was placed back into its 2003 Clipsal 500 Adelaide-winning VY livery for Skaife’s departure from the Holden Racing Team at the end of 2008 and he retained ownership of this piece of Bathurst history for the best part of the next decade.
In recent times he decided to sell the ‘Golden Child’ to a passionate collector, who retains the HRT Commodore in his own private collection.