Dick Johnson and The Infamous Rock

Ford racing legend Dick Johnson was at the centre of one of motorsports greatest controversies in 1980. While leading the Hardie-Ferodo 1000 disaster struck when he encountered a rock on top of the mountain on lap 17, ruining both his car and any hopes he had of race victory. In this article we will recount the incident, the following outpouring of support from the general public and discuss just how the rock ended up on the track.

The 1980 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 started about as well as Johnson could have hoped. With main rival Peter Brock experiencing issues as a result of a collision with a back marker and going a lap down at the start of lap 17, the race was Johnson’s to lose. As any Australian motorsport fan would know, the mountain tends to strike in the strangest of ways, and only a matter of 30 seconds after putting Brock a lap down, Johnson experienced firsthand the ways of the mountain. After passing through the cutting, Johnson rounded the next right to be confronted with a tow truck on one side of the road, and a football sized rock on the other. With nowhere to go, Johnson hit the rock. The impact ripped the front wheel and suspension apart before sending the XD Falcon into the wall at high speed. At such an early stage of the race it’s hard to say it cost Johnson a certain victory, but with the lapped Brock going on to win the great race, it’s not too much of a stretch to say the race was Johnson’s to lose.

Later in the day Johnson was interviewed for TV, where he emotionally explained the incident, stating “I just couldn’t believe my bloody eyes. These galoots up there that just throw boulders... like it was enormous.” He went on to explain that to repair the car and have it back on track would cost him at least $40,000 and that until fences were installed around the track he wouldn’t be returning. The public responded with an outpouring of support, calling into the TV station to donate money towards the rebuilding of Johnson’s car. When all was said and done, $72,000 had been donated by the public, which was matched by Ford Australia leaving the grand total at $144,000. The amount reignited Johnson’s racing career, which still continues today as a key stakeholder in the DJR Team Penske Racing Team, which is currently dominating the 2017 Supercar Championship. Of course Johnson would return to the mountain, recording three wins in the great race, including the very next year in 1981.

But just how did that rock end up in the middle of the Mt Panorama racing circuit? Well the story goes that two hungover men had made their way to the side of the track to watch the racing after a big night on the cans. One of them was lying down with his head resting on one rock and his feet resting on another, using it to hold him in position on the steep bank above the track. While moving his feet, he dislodged the rock, sending it plummeting down the embankment. At this point the two men bolted and were never to be seen again and as for the rock… the rest is history. Johnson has since stated in interviews that he believes this story and even shares in the humour of the situation, having the rock on display in his office for the last 30 years.

What’s your favourite Bathurst memory? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Pikes Peak 2017 Wrap-up

Known as one of the most extreme racing events in the world, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb roared into Colorado once again in June, with highly accomplished drivers and riders making their way from all corners of the globe to have a crack the famous ‘Race to the Clouds’. While in its current paved form, the course isn’t quite as insane as it once were (check out the iconic short film ‘Climb Dance’ to see what old school Pikes Peak was all about), there’s no doubting the task at hand is only suited to the supremely talented and/or the slightly crazy.

Taking the win in 2017 was Romain Dumas, a French Porsche factory driver and former Le Mans 24 hour winner. For Pikes Peak he took the wheel of his Norma MXX RD Limited to take victory for the third time in four years. Despite the impressive victory and a respectable time of 9 minutes and 5 seconds, Romain was left somewhat disappointed in the run and explained that mechanical issues put a stop to having a run at Sebastien Loeb’s incredible record run (8min13sec) in 2013. “It’s difficult to put words to this victory. The primary objective was to win, which is what we did and it’s never easy here. Never. I even questioned whether I’d get to the summit....We got first place, but we wanted so much more that I’m unable to feel completely satisfied today” Said Dumas.

While one-off prototypes are undoubtedly incredible, at Rare Spares we can’t help but cast our eyes through the results to find how the classics went! In a throwback to the old school Pikes Peak days, an Audi Quattro S1E2 drew cheers the whole way up the mountain on its way to a respectable to time of 12 minutes and 18 seconds. The 44 year old Porsche 911 RSR driven by Christopher Lennon found itself inside the top 25 outright and 3rd in the open class with a seriously impressive time of 10 minutes and 50 seconds. Arguably the crowd favourite was R J Gottieb in his amazing sounding ’69 Chevy Camaro who was able to tame the mountain in a tick over 11 minutes to wind up inside the top 35 outright.

Australia’s best hope of victory in the car category came in the form of Tony Quinn, who piloting his 633kw VR38DETT-powered Ford Focus bodied machine came within 3 kilometers of setting a lighting fast time before his brakes gave way. Although disappointed, the failure hasn’t dampened Quinn’s spirits who has stated he will back to take on the mountain again next year. The most impressive Australian result this year belongs to Sydney born Rennie Scaysbrook, who riding a brand new KTM Super Duke 1290 R finished second outright in the bike category. By doing so, Scaysbrook became only the 3rd man in history to break the 10 minute barrier on a motorcycle.

The Pikes Peak Hill climb holds a certain prestige, with competitors and spectators alike respecting that this mountain is a special beast, capable of wreaking havoc on those who take it lightly. Many have stated that the incredible Sebastien Loeb/Peugeot record from 2013 may never be broken, and in fairness no one has come even close yet. However, with a number of incredible custom built hill climb machines popping up across the world, it’s unquestionable that Pikes Peak is sure to retain its incredible reputation long into the future.

Aussie Cars in Computer Games

For many, racing video games are the opportunity to spin laps around the world’s most iconic tracks in cars they could only dream of owning. For others they want the opportunity to do burnouts throughout backstreets in a VS Commodore without having their pride and joy impounded. Fortunately for Australian gamers we’ve had and will continue to have the opportunity to do both! In this article we’ll take a look at some of the more popular video games that have featured Australian made cars over the years.

Dick Johnson V8 Challenge

The Dick Johnson V8 Challenge was the first mainstream, licensed game to feature V8 Supercars and was released in 1999 for PC. Features included four accurately modelled tracks and over 25 V8 Supercars making it quite an immersive experience for a solely Australian racing video game. While graphics don’t stack up well compared to today’s lofty standards, gameplay is impressive, providing a nice throwback to the racing of that era.

Need for Speed 3

Need for Speed 3 heralded the inclusion of the EL Ford Falcon, Ford Falcon GT and VT HSV GTS in the Need for Speed Series. It was a first for the series, as neither of the first 2 editions featured any Australian cars. By today’s standards graphics were average at best; however the game was a massive hit both in Australia and worldwide, with most key video game critics lauding the games ability to capture the intensity of car chases.

Gran Turismo Series

First making an appearance way back in 2002, the AU Falcon V8 Supercar of Glenn Seton and Neil Crompton made its way into Gran Turismo 3, a game which at the time revolutionised the racing genre on consoles. The car could be purchased for 1,500,000 in game credits or was awarded for victory in the Super Speedway Endurance Race. The first Australian car to feature in the ever-popular Gran Turismo series, the ‘Tickford Falcon XR8’ has since featured in all Gran Turismo titles alongside a host of other Australian race and production cars that have slowly been incorporated over the years. Featuring all the trademarks of V8 Supercars of the time, including noticeable over-steer as a result of the over-powered rear-wheel drive configuration, the AU was an accurate representation of touring car racing in Australia.

V8 Supercars 1, 2 and 3

Known as the Toca Racing series overseas, the V8 Supercar game took what Dick Johnson V8 Challenge started and supercharged it. By the time the third installation rolled around it featured 11 Australian V8 supercar tracks such as Mt Panorama, Eastern Creek and Surfers Paradise and the full V8 Supercar field as well as a host of international touring cars and tracks. Receiving positive reviews, the V8 Supercar Series stacked up well against gaming heavyweights Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsports.

Forza Horizon 3

Released in 2016, Forza Horizon 3 brought the fiercely popular series to Australian shores. An open world game, virtual versions of famous Australian cities and landmarks such as the Great Ocean Road, Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise and the Yarra Valley provide gamers with the perfect backdrop to race or cruise to their heart’s content. The car list is as extensive as you’d expect for a Forza title, and making appearances in the game are Australian classics such as the HQ Sandman, XY GTHO Phase III Falcon and VS GTSR as well as modern day rockets the HSV Maloo and FPV Pursuit Ute. Forza Horizon 3 is the most extensive gaming representation of Australian car culture and a must play for any automotive enthusiasts remotely interested in gaming.

Do you have fond memories of spending hours behind the screen spinning laps of Mt Panorama in an Aussie car, or perhaps you’ve enjoyed wreaking havoc on Australian roads in Forza Horizon 3? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about your gaming experiences in the comment section below.

Jason White Wins Sixth Targa Tasmania

Jason White and his co-driver and uncle John White have taken out the 2017 Targa Tasmania for the sixth time, negotiating the notoriously challenging course in their Dodge Viper ACR Extreme. The pair was some 34 seconds faster than second place finisher Michael Prichard and co-driver Gary Mourant (Dodge Viper ACR). The Viper proved to be an impressive machine on the tight Targa course, with the 8.4litre V10 blasting its way around the luscious Tasmanian countryside to become the first American car to take out the prestigious event. However, as impressive as the top two teams were, naturally our attention moves to the classic cars that once again set the tarmac alight.

When you run your eyes down the Top 10 outright finishes, the usual suspects appear; Vipers, Porsche GT3’s, a Nissan GTR and a BMW M3. However, slotted into 9th outright, something a little more surprising; a 1970 Datsun 240Z driven by John Siddins and co-driven by Gina Siddins. Not only was Siddins’ time good enough for an impressive outright finish, it was enough to win the Shannons GT class by over 9 minutes over a score of incredible classics including Craig Haysman’s 1979 Triumph TR7 V8.

Taking out the Shannons Classics class was Peter Ullrich and co-driver Sari Ullrich in their 1963 Jensen CV8 by an impressive 6 minute and 18 second margin over a tight 2nd place battle between an Italian masterpiece and an Australian icon. Eventually, it was David Gilliver and his 1979 Ferrari 308 GTS that were able to take home the chocolates over Richard Woodward and his 1969 Holden Monaro GTS by only 15 seconds.

A category of some interest to us is the TSD Trophy class, in which competitors aim to achieve a set average speed without breaking 130km/h, thus opening up the class to a wide array of vehicles. Taking out the class for the second year in a row were brothers Darryl and Peter Marshall in their Ford Falcon Ute ahead of Christopher Waldock and Christine Kirby in their 2016 Jaguar F-Type as well as Peter Lucas and Angela Coradine and their stunning 1984 Porsche Carrera.

After another successful running, the Targa Tasmania continues to go from strength to strength, and at Rare Spares we look forward to an even bigger year next year!

If you could race in the Targa, what would be your weapon of choice? Head over to the comments section on the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know!

The $312,000 Monaro

A pristine condition 1970 Holden HT GTS350 Monaro has been sold at Lloyds Auctions on the Gold Coast last month for a whopping $312,000. Eclipsing the previous record of $310,000 set in March, this ‘pride of the fleet’ becomes one of the most valuable Monaro’s ever sold at auction. Features include impeccable Platinum Metallic paint, a mere 119,000km on the odometer, a two speed powerglide automatic transmission and of course a 5.7 litre 350 Chevrolet engine. With the sale of this iconic Australian car, we decided to take a look back at the HT GTS350 Monaro and discuss why it holds a special place in the hearts of Australian motoring enthusiasts.

The HT Monaro was introduced in 1969 to much fanfare and whilst the minor design changes including the bonnet scoops and bold bonnet stripes were well received, it was the introduction of the 350 Chevrolet that got the punters excited. Not only was the GTS350 a winner with the public, it left a fair mark on the Australian racing scene as well, where it experienced almost immediate success on the track.

In 1969, in its first year under the management of Harry Firth, Holden Dealer Team GTS350 Monaro’s took out the top and third step of the podium at the Hardie Ferodo 500, piloted by Colin Bond/Tony Roberts and Peter Brock/Des West respectively. The Monaro would also go on to take out the 1970 Surfers Paradise 12 hour race driven once again by Bond and Roberts as well as the 1970 Australian Touring Car Championship driven by Norm Beechey. Beechey’s feat was made even more impressive as a result of an 8th place finish at Calder Park, a DNF at Warwick Farm Raceway and a DNS at Symmons Plains. The Monaro would go on to race a further two years in the ATCC before the ‘supercar scare’ of 1972 rendered the Monaro ineligible for the newly developed Group C production class.

Whilst the HK GTS327 Monaro was a great car and may have been the first to take up the fight to the GT Falcon, it didn’t quite hit the nail on the head in terms of usability. It was the GTS350 which propelled the Monaro to levels at the very least equal to that of the Falcon GT. Power outputs were comparable between the Holden and Ford marquees whilst acceleration and top speed figures were almost identical. The GTS was a second faster to 50mph, however only a shade faster to 100mph (20.1 to 20.6), ensuring the Holden v Ford rivalry raged on.

Significant suspension improvements were made to the GTS350 over the regular GTS models with performance in mind. Stiffer shocks, a heavy duty stabiliser bar and rear radius rods ensured a much sportier ride whilst bearing a significant improvement over the harsh ride of the HK GTS327. The end result was a car suitable for the track whilst also being completely practical for day to day use. Interestingly, the GTS350 in manual guise was the first Holden that could be ordered with rally wheels.

The Monaro will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Holden fans, with the iconic coupe representing some of the most iconic designs in Australian automotive history. At Rare Spares, we love to hear your stories of Australian classic cars; do you own an early model Monaro? Or maybe you have your eye on a particular classic? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook Page and let us know in the comments below.