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…

Is the Channel 9 Camaro your favourite Aussie Motorsport classic? Or maybe you're a GTHO or Torana sort of person? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and tell us about your favourite cars to hit the Australian motorsport scene!

Phillip Island Classic Preview

Movies, songs, popular culture, motor sport. What do they have in common? Yup, it’s obvious, they all have something to do with time, specifically “the past”. But why should motor sport be involved in what happened, not what’s coming?

The Victorian Historic Racing Register doesn’t really care because they know that the Phillip Island Classic, to be held over the ninth to the eleventh of March 2018, pulls people to the picturesque Phillip Island race circuit in droves.

There’s something a bit extra special about this meeting. Along with a strong presence of members of the Group S racing family, the weekend will commemorate fifty years of Formula 5000 racing and with over thirty five sparkling examples of these thunderous machines expected. Legendary Australian touring car driver John Bowe will be in attendance and on the Sunday will showcase a 1974 March ex F1 car. He’ll be with fellow racer and noted collector Guido Belgiorno-Nettis in a Ferrari F1 car formerly raced by Italian driver Michele’ Alboreto. Both will be racing these historic machines against two younger drivers that have years of experience between them already, Tom Tweedie and Tim Berryman.

The categories include the smaller and fascinating Formula Ford and Formula Vee, Groups Q and R, and pre WW2 cars in the Group J and some Group K, with post WW2 cars in Group K also. WW2 itself will be represented, in a motor racing sense, with the inclusion of Group L, a category for cars built between 1941 and 1960. These cars are those built especially for competition, be they factory backed or one-offs. There’s a sub-category in the Ls, known as “square riggers”. These are primarily MG TCs sans mud guards, windscreens, and headlights.

But people don’t attend historic motorsport events such as this to just and merely goggle over the eye watering range of cars on track and on display. There are the personalities in attendance such as the aforementioned JB. This weekend will also have five patrons there.

Better known as “KB”, one of Australia’s most loved drivers, Kevin Bartlett, a two time winner of the Australian Drivers’ Championship and a Bathurst 1000 winner, will be on deck.

Alfredo “Alfie” Constanzo, an Italian born, Australian raised, driver, a four time Australian GP competitor and four time Australian Drivers’ Championship winner, is there.

Alan Hamilton, who won the Australian Sports Car Driver award twice ,and along with Alfie is a four time winner of the Gold Star Championship, is slated to appear.

Two time New Zealand Grand Prix winner John McCormack, who also won the Australian Drivers’ Championship three times, is scheduled to be there.

And New Zealand’s MBE awarded driver Ken Smith, won the New Zealand Grand Prix in 1976, 1990 and in 2004 and raced Formula Ford, Formula 5000, Formula Pacific, Formula Mondial and Toyota Racing Series. Ken has competed over 59 consecutive seasons on the motor racing circuit. He has won the Gold Star Drivers Award five times, Formula 5000 Revival three times, the Penang Grand Prix three times, the Selanger twice and the Malaysian Grand Prix once. In 1995 Ken was inducted into the New Zealand motorsport Hall of Fame.

Australian cars of note will be there. An Australian Grand Prix winning (Frank) Matich A50 and an MR8 Elfin 5000 campaigned in the US by Garrie Cooper and Vern Schuppan will be on track.

Rare Spares ambassador for eleven years, JB says of the event, “it’s the second best race track in Australia and there’ll be 550 classic cars at this weekend’s Classic.” John drove three cars in 2017 and for 2018 says: “I’ll be driving something that’s very rare, an Allard J2X from 1952 owned by Carroll Shelby that had raced in the American sports car scene.” This will be the first time this car has competed in Australia.

John acknowledged the support of his good friend Joe Calleja, current owner of the Allard, including the opportunity to drive his 1969 Group N Mustang.

Of Rare Spares JB said:” Without Rare Spares there would not behalf of the Aussie classic cars on the road that there is now.” John mentioned a recent club meeting he attended along with his great mate Dick Johnson and just how many cars were there that had used Rare Spares.

John’s relationship with the Phillip Island Classic goes back to 2000, and he’s driven a range of cars and 2000 first event, covering range of cars including a Le Mans style car to a 1970’s Porsche. John invites all Rare Spares attendees and fellow car enthusiasts to come and say hi!

Are you heading down to the Phillip Island Classic? Or have you been in years past? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook Page and tell us your experiences in the comments section below.

Ute Racing in Australia, What’s Next?

Over the past 2 decades, the V8 Utes became a staple on the travelling Supercars roadshow, with drivers jumping behind the wheel of modified production XR8 Falcon and SS Commodore Utes as a support card to the main events. The racing was fierce, fast and often akin to a dodgem car race as carnage often ensued! The category was used as a proving ground for young talent with well-known racers such as Warren Luff, Grant Denyer, Cameron McConville and Nathan Pretty cut their teeth against a host of series regulars like Ryal Harris, Craig Dontas and Kim Jane.

After well over 300 races, the category came to an end at the closing of the 2017 season, making way for the new SuperUtes category in 2018. To say the reception for the new format has been mixed is an understatement, as understandably many are upset at the prospect of aussie V8 powered utes being replaced by diesel powered duel cabs. In this blog, we’ll take a quick look at everything we know about the new category and make a few predictions on how the racing will unfold at round 1 at the Adelaide 500 this weekend.

Based on the popular ute segment that is dominating Australian new car sales, the category is open to the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara, Holden Colorado, Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50 with all bar the Navara slated to be on the grid in Adelaide.

The utes will require a minimum weight of 1800kgs, rear-wheel drive, turbo-diesel power and a control gearbox, rear axle assembly and ECU. Riding considerably lower than their production counterparts and producing power around 340bhp (250kw) and 500 ft/lbs of torque the utes will be lapping the circuit at a fairly brisk pace!

Past series champion Ryal Harris, popular competitor Craig Dontas and 2016 Dakar Winner Toby Price headline the driver taking to the new series with the latter competing in select events that don’t interfere with his international desert motorcycle racing commitments.

The big question all spectators are asking is “will it be exciting?” and with only short clips from testing gracing the Supercars website no one really knows. The utes are not alarmingly fast, nor do they sound particularly great, however all will be forgiven if the racing is good! Come quarter past two on Saturday afternoon all will be answered.

As for our predictions? It’s hard to bet against Ryal Harris although everything Toby Price touches he seems to be able to drive/ride the wheels off it. We anticipate the first of (hopefully) many battle royal’s in Australia’s newest racing category.

What do you think of the new SuperUte series? Who do you think will take the chocolates this weekend? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.

A look at John Bowe’s On-Track achievements

Rare Spares Brand Ambassador and Australian Motorsport icon, John Bowe, was recently inducted into the Australian Motorsport Hall of Fame, joining names such as Brock, Webber and Brabham on the illustrious list. Throughout his hugely successful career, Bowe’s resume stacks up against some of the greatest in the history of the sport. In this article, we’ll take a quick look back at a few of the highlights on Australian shores throughout his career (so far!).

Back-to-Back Australian Drivers Championships

In the mid 80’s Bowe went on a tear through the 1984 & 1985 Australian Drivers Championships behind the wheel of a Cosworth powered Ralt RT4, winning 9 of a possible 12 races across the two year span. The two championships really kickstarted a career that would result in him becoming the only person in history to win the Australian Drivers Championship, Australian Sports Car Championship and Australian Touring Car Championship.

Bathurst victories with Dick Johnson

Bowe joined forces with Dick Johnson to take victory on the mountain on two occasions. First in 1989 behind the wheel of the light switch powered Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth, and the second occasion in 1994 in the Ford EB Falcon. The Sierra was so hit and miss that the DJR cars were almost guaranteed of victory provided they made it to the finish line. The duo qualified on pole and led almost every single lap around the mountain to earn Bowe’s first Bathurst victory. In 1994 the team came from 10th on the grid to victory after Johnson had a mishap during Saturday’s Top Ten Shootout – a very impressive performance!

1995 Australian Touring Car Championship

The 1995 ATCC driver lineup reads as a ‘who’s who’ of Australia’s most talented racing drivers with names such as Brock, Seton, Perkins, Johnson, Skaife, Crompton and Richards gracing the starter’s flag each weekend. None were a match for Bowe and his Shell Racing DJR EF Falcon, who went on to win four events to win the title by an impressive 27 points over Glenn Seton at years end.

2014 Bathurst 12 Hour Victory

In 2014 John Bowe joined forces with Craig Lowndes, Mika Salo and Peter Edwards to win what as at the time the fastest Bathurst 12 Hour yet. Behind the wheel of their Ferrari 458 GT3 the team completed 296 laps to beat out a number of highly touted local and international teams. The win came in Bowe’s 29th consecutive year racing at the famed circuit.

What do you consider John Bowe’s greatest motorsport achievement? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.