Aussie Motorsport Classic: The Channel 9 Camaro

October 3, 1982. Reid Park, Mount Panorama, Bathurst. Lap 27. Kevin Bartlett. Camaro. A time, location and car that are forever etched into Australian motorsport history.

KB is up with the leaders in the famous Bathurst 1000 when one of a batch of fourteen wheels the team had bought for the Camaro fails. It’s the rear left. Instantly, the tyre deflates, pitching the Channel 9 branded car’s rear into the concrete safety wall. The left front bounces off as the nose swings around and it’s just on a right hand curve on an uphill run.

Unsettled, there’s momentum enough to cause the Camaro to roll over to the right, landing on its roof. The car skids to the other side of the track and quickly a trackside official is there to assist a shaken Bartlett out of the inverted Camaro. He’s ok, points at the clearly ruined wheel and tyre, and walks into the crowd.

In context, it was a miracle that Bartlett and the Channel 9 sponsored car were in the race at all. In practice just a couple of days before, co-driver Colin Bond was at the wheel when a ball joint nut on the front left wishbone came adrift. The front left suspension collapsed and flung the corner into the wall. The location? Almost exactly where the wheel would fail two days later.

As KB says: “it was a miracle that my crew and the TAFE smash repair team had it back together in time for qualifying.” However, there’s more to the story in getting the car on track in the first place.

Bartlett bought the car, a brand new 1978 built machine, from an American dealership and imported the car into Australia. The intent was to race it in what was then the Group C regulations. Once the car landed, Bartlett says, a lot of work was needed to get the car down to the weight as stipulated. The leaf spring suspension was replaced with fibreglass units, super strong Kevlar for the front guards and spoilers, but CAMS insisted that the car use drum brakes at the rear, instead of the optional disc brakes.

In case you’re wondering why the car looks different to a 1978 model, it’s because CAMS also said the car had to run with bodywork from the ’74 to ’77 models. Bartlett still shakes his head in disbelief. But there was a hidden benefit as it turned out. The earlier bumpers were aluminium, not steel…

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A Look at Australia’s best Hillclimbs

Hill climbs are about as old as five minutes after the first time a bloke strapped on a horse, saw a slope, and thought “my nag can get up that”. Then the car came along and nothing changed except the bit the human was attached to.

What’s a hillclimb? Hillclimb is a speed event, where one car and driver runs over a defined uphill winding course, from a standing start, against the clock.  In competition, cars are classified into categories so as to have cars of like potential performance competing against each other.

Australia has a pretty strong history when it comes to hillclimb events and although there’s a few roads around that would be great as a hillclimb, such as Brown Mountain near Bega, there’s other, more established, runs around the country.

 

New South Wales

It should go without saying that perhaps the Mt Panorama racetrack is also home to hillclimbing. Run in reverse direction (clockwise) to traditional motorsport when heading up towards The Esses (750m), or normal direction using Mountain Straight (1300m), it’s an opportunity for competitors to hillclimb Australia’s best known racing circuit.

 

Queensland

Perhaps the best known hillclimb track in the north eastern corner of Australia is the Mount Cotton site. Owned and operated by the MG Car Club of Queensland it’s been in operation since 1968. A 50th anniversary run was held on the 18th of February and featured legendary Australian racing driver Dick Johnson unveiling a commemorative plaque.

 

Victoria

There’s a number of hillclimbs to choose from here, with hillclimbvic.com.au a great place to visit to find out more. Bryant Park, in Yallourn, just north-west of Traralgon, is run by the Gippsland Car Club. It’s a tight, twisty, 1300 metre long track and has hosted the Australian Hillclimb Championship three times. The Rob Roy Hillclimb in Christmas Hills is another spectacular burst through the hills. Now owned by the MG Car Club of Victoria, Rob Roy was the host of the very first Australian Hillclimb Championship way back in 1938!

 

Western Australia

North of Perth is the former Wanneroo Park Raceway, now known as Barbagallo Raceway. It’s home to the 1350m Jack’s Hill Hillclimb and is run by the Vintage Sports Car Club of W.A. 2017 saw Marcel Every race his Formula Toyota to a time of 50.01 seconds, in a car that he bought from third place getter, the appropriately named Ray Ferrari. Although not the tallest of climbs the amount of turns make this a challenging piece of road.

 

South Australia

There’s the Barossa Valley in South Australia, famed for its wine and there’s the Collingrove Hillclimb track. Located approximately sixty kilometers north west, of Adelaide in Angaston, Collingrove has been running since 1952 and is owned and operated by the Sporting Car Club of South Australia.

Drivers such as Norm Beechey have competed here. There’s nine turns along the shortish 750 metres of tarmac, yet rises an amazing 70 metres, The quickest time was set in 2014 by Brett Hayward, with a mere 25.15 seconds under the tyres.

Collingrove hosted the Australian Hillclimb Championship in 2017.

 

Tasmania

The North West Car Club hosts the Barrington Hillclimb. Complete with 31 bends over a 2.3 kilometre distance it’s a relatively new entry to the hillclimb runs for Australia.

Have you ever competed in a hillclimb event? We’d love to see the cars you’ve competed in! Upload a photo of your hillclimbing weapon into the comments section below this blog on the Rare Spares Facebook Page.