Classic Bathurst Recap - 1989

Changes were in the wind in the 1989 Bathurst 1000. Sponsored by beer giant Tooheys, the event continued its growth in stature internationally, and internally. Teams expanded from one car to two, and a return to the past was made, in the form of a standing start.

The all-conquering Ford Sierra RS500 was back and in bigger numbers. Enough were here that one of Australia’s favourite sons and a Holden icon had made the jump into the Blue Oval camp. The King of the Mountain would also be involved in an incident that, although technically within the rules, wasn’t seen as being of a sporting nature.

The Sierras attracted big names from overseas. Briton Andy Rouse came in to drive alongside Peter Brock. Ruedi Eggenberger returned to run the Allan Moffat operation, with a brand new car for Klaus Niedzwiedz, Moffat and Frank Biela. Alain Ferté flew in to drive a Glenn Seton car. Toyota was here, with the six cylinder Supra. John Smith and Drew Price, while Nissan had Anders Olofsson.

This year’s race was also an advance in television coverage, with the Tooheys Top ten shootout broadcast in full for the first time. The fastest ten cars from qualifying on Friday were sent out on the Saturday to determine the positions. Of the top ten final results, all but one were Sierras, with Nissan and Jim Richards claiming seventh.

Peter Brock would be given pole and it would be the only pole position of his career that wasn’t in a Commodore powered by a V8. It would also be a frustrating result for the Holden faithful as there were no Red Lion cars to be seen in that ten. There is also a little bit of history here, with all cars in the top ten being powered by a turbocharged engine, a feat not seen before or since.

The controversy around Brock and his car was simple, in essence. A fire suppressant system in the cars used a gas called Halon. A nozzle in the engine bay after the top ten run was found in scrutineering to have been pointed towards the engine’s turbo intercooler. The theory was that the gas had been discharged, lowering the temperature and boosting the engine output. Although later deemed to be not illegal, Brock was fined five thousand dollars.

A return to the standing start procedure also raised eyebrows. With a set start time of 10:00am, a formation lap had been performed and cars lined up on the grid. However it appeared that some were a little early and the subsequent wait may have contributed to a number of cars suffering engine failures during the race.

Race start and Brock lead the field, with old mate and sparring partner Dick Johnson, (with co-driver being Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe) in hot pursuit. There would be drama for Andrew Miedecke inside the first lap, with his #6 Sierra stuck in fifth gear thanks to a broken gear selector. This came on top of the #8 sister car, driven by Andrew Bagnall, crashing during the top ten shootout, however with only light damage allowing the car to start as the tenth car.

Coming down Conrod Straight, Johnson’s Sierra would pass Brock to take the lead, where throughout the next 160 laps it would remain.

The race would see a number of cars fail to finish due to mechanical problems. Brock himself would pit his Sierra, complaining of a loose rear wheel. The Tony Longhurst and Giancarlo Brancatelli Sierras would retire with Brancatelli’s car losing a wheel, and Longhurst out after his Benson and Hedges #25 car blew a head gasket. Longhurst would move into the #20 car and along with Alan Jones and Denny Hulme completed the race in fifth.

Glenn Seton’s Sierra had found oil on the track at Skyline. Seton’s #30 Peter Jackson sponsored car slammed into the tyre barrier backwards. Seton was ok and the car was able to be driven to the pits for repair where he, John Goss, and Tony Noske would later pilot the car to 20th. The #35 car would not complete the race.

Debris from Seton’s vehicle had an unfortunate knock-on effect for Brad Jones. Brake lines are an effective piece of equipment in a car when they’re in one piece. Jones’ car would have theirs cut by the debris, leaving Jones to find that out at speed coming into the Chase. He and co-drive Paul Radisich benched the car and would lose eight laps, finishing 9th.

The Sierras were showing signs of stress with the #18 Shell Ultra Hi car, driven by the UK pairing Jeff Allam and Robb Gravett, suffering electrical issues. Allan Moffat’s second car would be parked after just thirty laps, whilst John Mann and Murray Carter’s Sierra lasted just ten.

However the Skylines and Commodores were showing no such signs. Alan grice and Peter Janson would find themselves in the top five thanks to smart fuel pit strategy however some gremlins got into the transmission, dropping them to tenth at race finish. Brock’s rear wheel issue looked to have been fixed and the team would be back in the top three half way through the race. But again a problem occurred, this time with a recalcitrant wheel nut needing to be cut off. The hub was discovered to be so worn a new one could not be fitted and the team was out.

Bowe and Johnson had cemented their lead but in the closing laps the turbo boost pressure was falling. Bowe nursed the car along enough to hold the lead, watching the second Moffat Sierra, driven by Niedzwiedz and Frank Biela eventually fall off enough for Bowe to pit for a final fuel stop and get the car across the line for the win a full minute ahead of Biela.

Third would go to Jim Richards and a young Mark Skaife, in the Nissan Skyline HR31 GTS-R, with a team driver swap having Anders Olofsson bring home the second car in fourth.

Of fifty six cars entered, twenty nine would not see the chequered flag for the Tooheys Bathurst 1000 in 1989.

Classic Bathurst Recap - 2006

The Bathurst 1000 of 2006 will be forever etched in history as the one “The King of the Mountain” watched from up high and saw his protégé’ Craig Lowndes, alongside a champion in the making, Jamie Whincup, hold the first ever Peter Brock Trophy over the pit lane crowd.

It was the second win for CL, as he’s known, and the first for Whincup after his second place the year before.

Thirty one cars would be entered in this year’s “Great Race”, with an almost even split of Holden and Ford branded vehicles. Ford would field fifteen BA Falcons, the first model after the ill-fated AU Falcon, whilst Holden showcased sixteen VZ Commodores, the final iteration of a design essentially a decade old.

Qualifying was tight and intense, resulting in the top eight cars being separated by under a second, and the top eighteen cars separated by under two seconds.

Again it was almost an even split for the then top two locally made cars, with four Falcons and six Commodores. Of the top five though, just one blue oval branded car would be there, with a former Holden driver, Jason Bright, in second. Provisonal pole had gone to Holden driver Mark Skaife in a blistering 2:06.9764, just a tenth ahead of Bright’s Falcon.

The Top Ten Shootout would see Skaife carry that form onwards, with a 2:07.4221, a full three tenths quicker than Bright. Rick Kelly, New Zealand born Jason Richards and Greg Murphy, all in Commodores, would round out the top five. Eventual race winner Lowndes, driving the Ford BA Falcon, would be beaten to fifth by a mere four one thousandths of a second.

The race itself was held on Sunday October 8. In 2006 it was the ninth race weekend of the then V8 Supercars Championship. It would also prove to be the longest race since 2002. With all 161 laps completed it finished just seven seconds shy of seven hours and a full twenty two minutes longer than the previous year.

A race start incident proved to be crucial in the final results. Pole sitter Skaife went from hero to zero within a half minute, with a clutch failure leaving him battling to get his Commodore moving to race speed. Although he had cleared the first corner he had got as far as the first rise on the road to the top of the mountain, and with heavy traffic behind him an unfortunate Jack Perkins was blindsided, ploughing his Commodore into Skaife’s and forcing him into the wall.

This allowed the second grid spot driver, Jason Bright and his co-driver Mark Winterbottom, to take the lead. However a brake lockup had Bright require a tyre change with just fifteen laps completed. More woe befell the duo with Winterbottom garaging the car on lap 28. A full fourteen cars would fail to finish the 2006 race, with Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe, alongside his mate and co-driver Brad Jones, finishing eleventh.

The race was punctuated by a number of safety car interventions, including one of over twenty minutes after the veteran Kiwi born Paul Radisich, on lap 71, had his Commodore spear into a retaining wall at the Chase. The impact rolled the car onto its side and left Radisich in need of trackside marshal intervention to remove him from his stricken vehicle. Just six laps would be held in that fourth hour of the race.

As seems traditional with the Bathurst 1000, a late race incident played a part in the final standings. Jason Richards also lost control and hit a wall. Laps remaining were just ten. Rick Kelly and Craig Lowndes were dealing with a six second buffer prior to the final safety car call to deal with the Richards car. A fired up Lowndes would lay down the race’s quickest lap on the 158th circuit of the 6.213 kilometres worth of tarmac, and would greet the chequered flag a bare half second ahead of a determined Kelly.

In tumultuous and emotional scenes on the presentation balcony, Lowndes would be in tears as he acknowledged his late friend and mentor, Peter Brock.

Is 2006 your favourite Bathurst 1000? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and tell us your memories of the weekend in the comments section below this article.

Touring Car Masters 2018 - Previewing the final rounds

The Australian historic racing car category, the Touring Car Masters, is definably Australia’s premium historic racing cars group. The guidelines are comparatively simple: have three driver categories and have cars of a pre-1976 era. Trackside watchers will see Chevrolet Camaros, BOSS Mustangs, and entrants from Australia’s own automotive vaults of history, the Valiant Chargers, Ford Falcon GTs, and Holden Monaros.

The driver regulations cover ProMaster for professional drivers, ProAm for part time “let’s have fun” drivers, and ProSports. This is something different in allowing a car to be entered by different contestants in order to try and gain extra points for the car in a championship sense.

There are some BIG names in the TCM as they’re known; Phil “Split-pin” Brock, Glenn “The Babyfaced Assassin” Seton, Andrew Miedecke, Jim Richards, Steve Johnson, and Rare Spares Ambassador John Bowe.

The category itself is now in its twelfth year having being born in 2007. The 2018 season has eight rounds and is part of the Supercars overall presence. This year kicked off in Adelaide and has completed five rounds so far. There’s three more rounds to go and all three will be part of the Supercars enduros: Sandown for September 14-16, Bathurst over the weekend of October 4-7, and then the final round in Newcastle for the November 23-25 weekend.

In the overall standings its John Bowe on top, having won three of the five rounds thus far. Steve Johnson is tapping on his rear bumper, with 959 points, just 18 shy of Bowe’s 977. Former V8 Ute drivers Adam Bressington and Jason Gomersall are in third and fourth, with all four in the ProMasters driver group. Fifth overall goes to Cameron Tilley, well known for his driving exploits in a Falcon GT-HO. Cam also leads the ProAm driver standings, with respected Production Touring Cars pilot Jim Pollicina leading the ProSports.

Unless both Bowe and Johnson have shockers over the next three rounds, allowing Bressington, Gomersall, and Tilley a sniff of top two success, the gap they have over the third placed Bressington, currently on 837 and 97 ahead of Gomersall on 744, it’s likely either of these heroes from the DJR historic stable will claim the top step of the podium at the end of the 2018 season. Former Mustang driver Bowe has been driving a Holden Torana once owned by fellow racer Charlie O’Brien in the 2018 season, a car featuring a permanent tribute to the late Jason Richards. Johnson has taken over the wheel of the car Bowe raced and sold a couple of years ago to his good mate Tony Warner. The car is unsurprisingly known as “Mustang Sally”.

Of the 2018 season so far Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe has a few words. “The cars are sensationally difficult to drive. In some cases there’s over 700 horsepower and only 15 x 8 inch wheels and tyres! No wonder they need a bit of caution.”

John has stated that he feels the category’s driving standards may need some scrutiny, “These old classics are way more expensive to fix than modern cars. There’s no doubting that the TCM is popular with the spectators and TV audiences but no one enjoys seeing these cars wrecked.” John himself has been on the receiving end of some of the driving standards he feels needs scrutiny, which makes his 2018 results all the more remarkable.

What’s your thoughts on the Touring Car Masters? Let us know on our Facebook page in the comment section below this article!

Rare Spares – Commodore Goes International.

27. August 2018 10:07 by Rare Spares in General, Rare Spares  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

It’s almost an ice to Eskimos and coal to Newcastle situation. Holden, the isolated arm of General Motors, was once a huge exporter of Aussie built cars, and that includes the Commodore.

It was built here in Australia and sold in the U.S. under the Pontiac G8 and Chevrolet SS labels, with the latter bringing a wry smile to those that decried the Chev badge on a Commodore in Australia. Finally, a Commodore that left the factory with the bowtie badge fitted!

The cars were largely the same as those seen “down under” with the obvious noticeable exception being the switch to left hand drive. The Pontiac G8, based on the Holden VE Commodore, was sold there over the 2008-2009 model years. Pontiac as a brand was discontinued by GM in 2009 however, leaving Holden and GM in a bind as to what could be supplied.

The G8 featured a larger and more muscular looking twin nostril front end than the VE Commodore and a redesigned lower front bumper section. The G8 was initially released as the G8 with a 3.6L V6 before the GT and GXP, packing a 6.0L and 6.2L V8 respectively. The GXP was loaded with the sporty FE3 suspension package, leather interior, and a six speed manual transmission that was originally slated to be in the GT. The GT itself featured cosmetics such as a quad exhaust rear end and clear tail light lenses, an 11 speaker sound system from Blaupunkt in Germany, and offered options such as 19 inch wheels.

Holden had a history with Pontiac going back to the early noughties. The GTO, a rebadged and rebodied Monaro made its debut there in 2004. Unfortunately, the GTO didn’t sell well in the American market – they didn’t take to the Australian built GTO like they had in the past for the American built versions. The Commodore also sold as the Chevrolet Lumina SS in the Middle East and the Vauxhall Monaro in the UK, it was powered by the 5.7L/350cid V8 found in the Corvette of the day. Pontiac’s history was evident with the familiar large twin nostril design before an addition in 2005 had an extra pair on intakes fitted to the bonnet. The final model in 2006 came with a 300kW 6.0L engine.

Holden also shipped the ute and Caprice to the U.S. The Caprice formed the basis for a vehicle used in various police forces whilst the ute was marketed as a sports truck, the G8 ST. The Caprice was so popular with the American police force that an exclusive PPV (Police Patrol Vehicle) version as built. It featured a unique column shift automatic transmission – which was not used on any other model in the range. It was not available to the public, and could only be ordered for Police use.

The export program was quite successful for Holden, with revenue of $1.3billion reported in 2006. Despite the success for Holden in Australia, General Motors in the USA decided to park the Pontiac brand, after more than 80 years history with the nameplate. The demise of Pontiac also left Holden in Australia with a lot of spare parts that were no longer required. To utilise the Pontiac spares, Holden introduced an optional no-cost package on the series 2 VE Commodore SSV featuring the Pontiac G8 style nose and style.

After Pontiac was benched, GM re-introduced the Commodore as the Chevrolet SS. This was based on Holden’s VF platform. Sold from late 2013 until the program was cancelled in 2017, just shy of 12,900 cars were sold.

The SS sold in the U.S.  powered by the LS3 V8 that punched out 309kW and 563Nm. Standard transmission was a paddle shift fitted six speed auto. Holden’s engineering team had stiffened the chassis, rejigged the suspension settings, and improved the safety factor by re-engineering the steels used. The redesigned chassis rails combined with electronic items such as Blind Spot Detection, Lane Departure Warning, and a better electrical system.

What are your thoughts on the export program? Did you buy one of the Commodores that was released with the Pontiac body add-ons? Let us know via the comments section or on our Facebook page.

The Holden Monaro 427C - Australia's Homegrown GT Monster

The Australian automotive industry is an oddity in the global scheme of things. A small buying population, the most brands per head of population, and innovations not seen elsewhere, make it virtually unique.

Although we weren’t the first to build a car with a hardtop and two doors, we certainly made some great ones. Ford, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and Holden all have cars that are memorable and one that stands out was the Monaro 427C. 

Designed, engineered, and built in Australia, this car was intended to be a track weapon and race in the Bathurst 24 Hour. The first of these races was set to run in late 2002, meaning the development of the car, slated to run in 2003, had to be brought forward. 

The heartbeat of the 427C was its US sourced 7.0L or 427cid V8. With the Holden Racing Team turning down the offer of developing the machine, Garry Rogers Motorsport (GRM) took the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R engine, a Monaro body, and the responsibility of running the 427C as a race car. 

The car would later be a controversial one; the race would attract cars from outside Australia such as Lamborghini’s Diablo GTR, Ferrari’s 360 N-GT, and the monstrous Chrysler Viper ACR. All of these cars would race with the same engine they would come off the production line with. However, the Monaro at the time came with Chev’s fabled 350cid or 5.7L V8, and therefore would be ineligible to run. However, the organiser of the race, which would come under the umbrella of a racing group called Procar, allowed the Monaro to be run with the bigger engine to be seen as more competitive with capacities such as the 8.0L V10 in the Viper.

As the race was going to be run under the then current GT regulations, GRM had to design a body kit to suit both the regulations and the aerodynamics of the VX Commodore based two door. Using the V8 Supercars design as a basis, GRM fitted a wider rear wing that sat below the car’s roofline, as per the regulations. A similar front air dam was fitted to the front, and underneath the 427C utilized a number of components that could be found on a Supercar. 

A technically minded casual observer would see a Hollinger six speed manual transmission, wheels of 18 x 11 and 18 x 13 inches, MacPherson strut front suspension and a trailing arm rear, bolted to coil springs and thick anti-roll bars. The engine was said to be good for 600 ponies (447kW) and would be bolted into the front of a car weighing 1,400 kilograms. 

All up the Monaro 427C would be 4789mm in length, run a front and rear track of 1559mm/1577mm, and roll on a wheelbase of 2788mm. The aero package provided plenty of down-force and made for a stable on track racer. 

Raced at the 2002 Bathurst 24 Hour by a team of four drivers, being Garth Tander, Nathan Pretty, Steven Richards, and Cameron McConville, the car was also being touted as being available as a road car. The race car itself would prove to be strong, durable, and a race winner. Although despite suffering a flat tyre and a collision with another car, the car would ultimately win in its debut race by 24 laps.

As a road car, it was potentially to be powered by a 433kW version of the 427cid engine. But, as a business case, the numbers simply didn’t add up and would result in a mooted buy price of $215,000 being out of reach of its intended market. Just two road going cars, and just four race cars, would be built.

The Monaro 427C would go on to compete in the Australian Nations Cup Championship in 2003, and the Bathurst 24 Hour race in the same year. A second race car had been built by then. Driven by Peter Brock, Jason Bright, Todd Kelly, and Greg Murphy, the car would win by just 0.3035 of a second. Tander, driving the 2002 winning vehicle, was thwarted in a last sector charge by a yellow flag thanks to a car close to the racing line.

The 427C would race in 2004 and see a third chassis completed, before the Nations Cup category collapsed due to fiscal issues. With regulations reverting to GT Championship rules in 2005, the Monaro 427C was deemed ineligible. Of the race cars, one is with a private collector, one is in the Bathurst Motor Museum, and little if anything is known of the locations of the others.