2017 Motorsport Year in Review

2017 has been a year to remember in motorsports worldwide, with champions crowned, rising stars established and the rest going back to the drawing board hoping for a more successful 2018. At Rare Spares we’ve been glued to our TV sets throughout the year keeping track of all the major forms of racing around the globe. From TCM to Formula 1, in this article we’ll take a quick look at the categories that caught our eyes in 2017.

Touring Car Masters

Touring Car Masters produced another classic racing season as Steve Johnson stormed his way through the second half of the season to take out the Pro class. John Bowe and Adam Bressington rounded out the podium, while a huge crash at Winton captured headlines when a no less than 12 cars were caught up in a pile up at the second corner. The TCM category is going from strength to strength attracting a number of ex pro’s providing the ultimate challenge to the amateur participants.

Supercars Australia Championship

What a season for Supercars, Jamie Whincup took the title for the seventh time, with the fight between himself and Scott McLaughlin coming down to the very last lap of the season. The eventual margin of victory was 21 points after McLaughlin was penalised 25 seconds for squeezing a hard charging Craig Lowndes into the wall on the last lap of the season. David Reynolds and Luke Youlden were popular Bathurst 1000 winners while Chaz Mostert and Steve Owen took out the Enduro Cup. The category’s first female driver Simona Di Silvestro finished in 24th place, but produced a few moments that suggest 2018 could be an exciting year for the Swiss native.

Bathurst 12 Hour

Taking place way back in February, the Bathurst 12 hour was won by Marinello Racing with Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup and Toni Vilander behind the wheel. Shane Van Gisbergen and his Scott Taylor Motorsports teammates put up an incredible fight before SVG put the incredible AMG into the wall while trying to chase down his Red Bull Racing teammate Jamie Whincup. The 2018 edition is fast approaching, and catching our eyes is the inclusion of a classic car event at this year’s 12 hour. Group S cars will be taking to the grid, with everything from Austin Healy’s, MG’s and Porsche’s taking part in a support race.

Formula 1

British superstar Lewis Hamilton claimed his fourth World Championship and Mercedes claimed their fourth constructer’s championship in a row. Ferrari regained some level of form in 2017 as Sebastian Vettel held the points lead for much of the first half of the season. Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo was left frustrated due to the lack of pace and reliability in Red Bull’s 2017 power units, meaning only one win was recorded for the popular West Australian.

NASCAR & IndyCar

Martin Truex Jnr took out the premier class of NASCAR in 2017, winning the final event in Miami to round out the ‘playoff’ series with a lead of 5 points over Kyle Busch. IndyCar headlines were dominated by Fernando Alonso in 2017 as he began his quest to conquer motorsports ‘Triple Crown’ (Monaco GP, Indy 500 & Le Mans). Alonso impressed in his first IndyCar outing at the Indy 500 and even led the prestigious race at one point before an all too familiar Honda engine failure left the Spaniard stranded. Takuma Sato won the event while Josef Newgarden went on to take out the title.

What was your favourite motorsport moment in 2017? Or maybe you have some predictions for 2018? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

How did the Falcon and Commodore get their names?

The Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore are undoubtedly the two cars that will be remembered most fondly in the hearts of Australians as the years pass. But just how did the Falcon and Commodore get their names? In most cases, the names of modern cars are the result of hundreds of hours spent by marketers in boardrooms trying to conjure up a name that they believe resonates with the target audience. But in the case of the Falcon and the Commodore, there is a little bit more to the story! Read on to find out about the origins of the names of these two great cars.

The Ford Falcon

Unbeknownst to some, the Falcon has a history long before it ever hit the shores of Australia with some experts believing the name goes as far back as 1935 when Edsel Ford used the name plate on an early luxurious motor vehicle. It didn’t hang around long though, and by 1938 the Falcon had been rebranded as Mercury, which of course went on to become the long-lived ‘luxury’ division of the Ford Motor Company.

The Falcon then reappeared in 1955 as a Chrysler concept vehicle, which was built with the intention of going head to head with the Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet’s Corvette. After only 2 or 3 were built, the idea was shelved once the costings of developing a low volume, high priced vehicle didn’t quite stack up. Now from here is where the story goes one of two directions depending on which side you believe. The first story goes that in 1958, both Chrysler and Ford had internally named their new small car the ‘Falcon’. In the auto industry all names need to be registered with the Automotive Manufacturers Association, and in a case of true coincidence Ford managed to register their ‘Falcon’ a matter of only 20 minutes ahead Chrysler, ensuring the name was Ford’s. Controversy ensued and Chrysler was left searching for a new name.

On the contrary, the other much less exciting story is that Henry Ford II called up Chrysler boss Tex Colbert and asked for permission to use the Falcon name. Colbert was happy to allow the name be used as Chrysler had their eye on another name… The Valiant.

Two years the later the Falcon made its way to Australian shores and after a few early hiccups became one half of Australia’s much publicised Holden v Ford rivalry.

The Holden Commodore

As some of you may know, the Holden Commodore didn’t actually start its life on Australian shores. Some 60 years ago, Opel were building a car called the ‘Rekord’. In 1967 a slightly upspec-ed Rekord was rebranded as the Opel Commodore and marketed as a faster and better looking alternative to the dating Rekord. While the naming process isn’t as interesting or long winded as the Falcon, the Commodore was named after the naval officer rank.

After 10 years of Commodore production the name was brought to Australia and utilised under the Holden banner. The original model, the VB Commodore shared its likeness with both the Opel Commodore C and the Rekord Series E. Right through until 2007 the Holden Commodore drew on a design used by the Opel Omega and Opel Senator before being replaced by the first truly Australian designed Commodore – the VE. So while in 2018 the Commodore will be replace by an Opel, remember it’s not the first time that Australia has been graced with a European designed Holden.

What other car makes and models should we look at the origins of? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

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.

Aussie Cars that never were

When we think about Aussie cars, our minds drift towards the Commodore, the Falcon, or the Territory. However, what about those Aussie cars that didn’t quite go as far in the public domain as these classics? Australia has produced some awesome cars that didn’t quite reach the lofty heights laid out in planning. In this article we will take a look at three Aussie cars that didn’t sell in the intended quantities, but still hold a special place in Australian automotive history.

Ilinga AF-2

The Ilinga (aboriginal word meaning ‘distant horizon’) AF-2 was designed by Tony Farrell in partnership with Victorian businessman Daryl Davies. The intention for the Ilinga was to be a high-performance luxury coupe utilising aluminium body panels over a steel chassis, using a modified Leyland/Rover 4.4 litre V8 to provide the power. Before running into financial difficulties, two prototypes were built and orders were taken, however the 1970’s oil crisis ensured the closing of Leyland Australia, meaning the Ilinga had lost its engine supplier. One of the prototypes lives in the carpark entrance of the Melbourne Museum, whilst the other is nowhere to be found!

 

Giocattolo

Born in 1986, the Giacattolo was the brainchild of Paul Helstead and F1 engineer Barry Lock. With plans to build Australia’s first Supercar, Helstead and Lock took an Alfa Romeo Sprint and dropped a 5 litre Walkinshaw Holden Group A V8. Producing 220kw and 500Nm, the car was a rocket, capable of powering the Giocattolo from 0-100 in under 5.5 seconds while having an electronically limited top speed of 260kph. With upgraded tyres, brakes, transmission and a supremely high tech suspension package, the Giocatollo was akin to a Go-Kart on steroids. The $80,000 price tag however was a bridge too far for consumers, and production ceased after only 3 years and 15 units were built. To take a look at the article we put together on the Italian/Australian pocket rocket earlier in 2017, click here.

Joss JT1/JP1/Vanguard

With more comeback tours than John Farnham, what started out as the Joss JT1 was supposed to be Australia’s answer to iconic supercars such as the Enzo Ferrari and Lamborghini Murcielago. It has never eventuated unfortunately, as numerous attempts to get the project off the ground including renames to JP1 and eventually Vanguard have fallen flat. Featuring a 6.8 litre V8, the 940kg supercar was fast enough to achieve 0-100kph in less than 3 seconds and run the quarter mile in a tick under 12 seconds in stock trim. Only 1 Joss has been built to date and the outlook looks bleak, however we’ve been in this position before only for Joss to announce that the project has been fired into life again! So who knows, maybe there’s still hope for the Joss JT1/JP1/Vanguard?

Have you spotted any of these low production Aussie cars on the road? Or maybe you’re the proud owner of one of the very few remaining Giacattolo’s? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

The Fastest Aussie Ever

On the clear morning of 27th March, 1994 at Lake Gairdner in South Australia the natural serenity was interrupted by a deafening roar. A 36,000hp Mirage jet fighter engine kind of roar. Except that this engine wasn’t strapped to the back of said Mirage, it was perhaps crazily applied to a wheeled vehicle, set on achieving the World Land Speed record and named the Aussie Invader II.

The story of Aussie Invader II began over 10 years earlier, the inspiration coming from committed Australian speedster Rosco McGlashan, OAM. Rosco’s obsession with speed started at an early age and after following Donald Campbell’s Speed Record attempts, Rosco was determined to go faster than Donald and committed himself to the goal.

From drag racing to rocket powered world record go karts to jet dragsters, Rosco really has the ‘need for speed’ as they say!

The 10 year project to build Aussie Invader II involved a 25 strong team of professionals. From manufacturing processes, to design, aerodynamics, jet propulsion, safety and electronics, Aussie Invader II was a huge undertaking.

Aiming to beat the Australian Land Speed Record of 403mph (set by Campbell), the first outing in 1993 of Aussie Invader II was successful, the car reaching 450mph, however bad weather meant that officially timed runs couldn’t be completed.

Back on the dry, flat Lake Gairdner in 1994 and with improvements to the vehicle, it was time to open the afterburner and set a record. How does a lazy 801.8km/h (498.2mph) followed by an 801.3km/h on the way back to make it official sound? That’s pretty damn quick if you ask us!

Not content on smashing the Australian Land Speed Record, Rosco announced to his team that he wanted to push harder and aim for the outright World Land Speed Record the same day, despite weather conditions deteriorating in front of them. After their jaws came back off the floor, the team prepared the car and nervously watched on as Rosco opened the throttle.

The Mirage fighter engine certainly had the potential in it and Rosco quickly found himself heading southbound and accelerating up to 933km/h (580mph) before it all went wrong. The special wheels broke through the salt surface, pitching the machine sideways as it tramlined across the timing markers, only 200 metres from the measured mile. Sadly, Aussie Invader II was a write off. Fortunately Rosco was still in one piece.

Unperturbed, Rosco and the team rebuilt and debuted Aussie Invader 3 in 1996 at Lake Gairdner for a crack at Richard Noble’s new 633mp/h World Land Speed Record. Despite a higher peak speed of 638mph, the British record would remain due to adverse weather conditions that prevented a committed, official back to back run.

In 1997 the Thrust SSC, developed by Richard Noble stepped up the game, breaking the speed of sound and rewriting the record books. This speed record has not been broken in the 20 years since that feat, which is quite impressive in its own right.

As for Rosco, the obsession continues, and despite being the ‘Fastest Aussie Ever’ with the Australian Land Speed Record, he is not resting on those laurels. Rosco is currently building the Aussie Invader 5R, with the aim of that elusive World Record. The engine? a 62,000 lbs thrust liquid oxygen and bio-kerosene motor. Sounds explosive! We can’t wait to see how the project shapes up.