Top 10 Australian Touring Car Rivalries

Top 10 Australian Touring Car Rivalries

It only takes two dogs to make a fight and it’s been that way in motorsport from the start.

Bob Jane punched Allan Moffat after a biff-and-bang on-track encounter at Warwick Farm in the 1970s and Greg Murphy and Marcos Ambrose almost came to blows at Bathurst more than 30 years later.

With 60 years of racing now in the touring car history books, there are plenty of storylines that track through to the current era of Supercars.

Just like Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen, most rivalries have a clear flashpoint, a moment that defined the battle and has become a legend, as the colourful clash of characters has created racing, excitement and memories for generations of fans.

Which are the top 10 among these rivalries? Let’s start from the beginning.

Bob Jane versus Allan Moffat

The original battle for top dog in touring cars was between Ian Geoghegan and Norm Beechey, who repeatedly went head-to-head in the early days of V8 muscle.

But the category’s first big rivalry, filled with drama and conflict, was between its first true professional Allan Moffat and fiery tyre tycoon Bob Jane.

The Mustang-mounted Moffat and Camaro-driving Jane were heavyweight draw-cards for the championship in the early 1970s, and repeatedly came to blows on the track with panel damage on both sides at bullpens like Calder Park outside Melbourne.

In 1972, the pair clashed on-track in consecutive events at Adelaide and Warwick Farm, when both were in Mustangs and Moffat was disqualified for spinning Jane at the left-hander after the esses.

Moffat was told by chief mechanic Mick Webb to leave his helmet on when he returned to the paddock, a smart decision as Moffat reported his race rival was “raining punches at me”.

It was heady stuff that continued as Jane and his Camaro took back-to-back titles against Moffat’s iconic Coca-Cola Mustang.

Allan Moffat versus Peter Brock

The future stars both made their Bathurst debut in 1969 to set up an epic rivalry that began as a Ford-versus-Holden contest, before morphing into Holden-versus-Mazda before their eventual pairing in Brock’s Commodore.

Their decade-long rivalry was the ultimate contrast in style, on and off the track.

Brock was the charming, young all-Aussie hero, and Moffat was the stern, hardworking, Canadian-born villain.

But it was a rivalry with respect, as the pair traded places and wins for more than a decade without any major flare-ups or even swapping paint.

Peter Brock versus Dick Johnson

When Moffat moved to Mazda and a controversial RX-7 sports car in the early 1980s it left an opening as the spearhead for the Ford hordes.

Johnson, who had begun in touring cars with Holden, was happy to step up for the job.

Unlike the ultra-professional Moffat, Johnson arrived on the scene as a privately funded, laconic Queensland battler taking it to the might of Brock and Holden.

It was another great recipe and a rivalry that would make them domestic motorsport’s biggest stars through the next two decades.

Their racing was done without the on-track aggravation of Moffat and Jane, but the battles were fierce – none greater than that which delivered Johnson his maiden ATCC title on home soil at Lakeside in 1981.

Glenn Seton versus John Bowe

The home-grown V8 5-litre formula introduced in 1993 was wrapped around the marketing power of Ford-versus-Holden, but it didn’t stop some powerful in-house rivalries.

Ford initially supported two squads, effectively pitching Dick Johnson Racing and its bearded spearhead John Bowe against owner-driver Glenn Seton as much as against the Holdens stars.

Their Falcon fight peaked in 1995 when, after Bowe had beaten Seton to the ATCC title, the pair clashed while fighting for the lead of the Bathurst 1000 in a conflict that triggered a public war of words.

“We were mortal enemies for many years, but we are now quite good friends,” Bowe said in 2018, a comment that applied to many of the previous opponents.

Mark Skaife versus Craig Lowndes

The Skaife/Lowndes battle was a rivalry with a difference, as their most hard-fought years came when they were teammates at the Holden Racing Team in the late 1990s.

Lowndes had swept the 1996 season as a rookie sensation but, after a year away in Europe, returned to find the combative Skaife sitting in the car that had been driven by his friend and mentor, Peter Brock.

Lowndes had the raw talent but Skaife had the grit and determination, and when the youngster grabbed the ’98 and ’99 titles the canny Skaife was able to manoeuvre a switch of engineers for 2000 that gave him the upper hand and triggered Lowndes’ switch to Ford.

Lowndes in a Falcon against Skaife in a Commodore promised to re-create the Brock-Moffat vibe of the 1970s but, with Lowndes struggling through his early years with Ford, their most intense battles were behind them.

Russell Ingall versus Mark Skaife

This rivalry simmered through the late 1990s and early 2000s where, driving for Larry Perkins’ privateer Holden outfit, Ingall repeatedly got under the skin of factory man Skaife.

In 2003, the shackles completely came off, as Ingall switched to Ford squad Stone Brothers Racing, putting the pair on opposite sides of the red-versus-blue divide.

Their clash at that year’s Eastern Creek championship finale was undoubtedly the flashpoint and the most dramatic moment in the history of touring car racing.

Ingall pushed Skaife off the track, and then he jumped out of his crashed Commodore to wave a fist at Ingall, who responded by swerving towards his rival and then flicking ‘the bird’ to the HRT pit-crew.

Both drivers were sanctioned for their actions, which only added to the theatre, and their combative stint as Fox Sports co-hosts from 2015-2018 added extra fuel to the legend.

Mark Skaife versus Marcos Ambrose

Ambrose was once focussed on Formula One but when his European gamble failed he returned to lead Ford and Stone Brothers Racing against Skaife.

He spent two seasons learning his Supercars craft before dethroning Skaife in 2003, winning back-to-back titles.

Along the way there were several of major scrapes between the pair, including a race each day to be first out of the pitlane.

The most public of the stoushes was the first-corner clash at Wanneroo Park in 2005 and they also made heavy contact on the out-lap at Oran Park on the very first lap of the race weekend.

Marcos Ambrose versus Greg Murphy

Ambrose was happy to tackle anyone and apart from Skaife he also took on the outspoken Murphy, who was always keen to turn the thumbscrews on the Ford star.

They took their dislike beyond the track into one of Supercars’ most intense press conference at the Gold Coast in 2004, after Ambrose had brake-tested Murphy’s K-Mart teammate Rick Kelly after the flag.

“It’s an absolute joke the way Greg carries on … I’m fighting for a championship and I’ve got guys getting in my way,” fumed Ambrose in response to the Kiwi’s scrutiny.

Murphy was well and truly in the way a year later when the pair famously clashed at Bathurst, effectively ending Ambrose’s chances of a title hat-trick, as well as a maiden Great Race win.

Jamie Whincup versus Mark Winterbottom

Having fought it out from karts – where Melbourne-based Whincup battled Sydney-based Winterbottom for national titles – and then Formula Ford, this rivalry was not the work of a moment.

The die for their Supercars battles was cast ahead of 2006, when Winterbottom went to what is now Tickford Racing after Whincup had passed up the seat for a spot alongside Craig Lowndes at Roland Dane’s emerging powerhouse outfit, Triple Eight.

When Ford dumped Triple Eight and the squad switched to Holden for 2010 it raised the stakes and, as Whincup kept adding to his haul of titles the intensity grew – finally boiling over with a clash in the closing stages of the 2012 Sandown 500.

Winterbottom’s breakthrough Bathurst triumph a year later came after surviving a last-lap charge from his rival, before pouncing on a rare Whincup slump in 2015 to nab his single title on an otherwise lopsided ledger.

Scott McLaughlin versus Shane van Gisbergen

This all-Kiwi battle has been the story of recent Supercars seasons, with McLaughlin edging van Gisbergen to the 2018 and 2019 titles after some ferocious on-track battles.

Like all the great rivalries, theirs is a contrast of characters as much as a Ford-versus-Holden battle, with the boyish, media-darling McLaughlin pitted against the introverted Red Bull star, who does his talking and bullying on the track.

While McLaughlin has taken his two titles and a Bathurst win, 2016 champion van Gisbergen has won much of their direct door-to-door combat, including a famous Saturday win on home soil at Pukekohe in 2018.

That was followed by this duo’s most controversial moment; a parc ferme ‘park-in’ that SvG denied was deliberate, but served to spur an aggrieved McLaughlin on to his maiden title.