Gone But Not Forgotten – Australian Tracks of Yesteryear

Australia plays host to a number of internationally renowned motorsports events each and every year with Philip Island, Mount Panorama and Albert Park the most notable circuits on the motorsports calendar. But what about the tracks of yesteryear, the tracks that once held events which spectators would flock to in droves? What happened to these tracks and what lays in their place now? We will look to answer a few of these questions in this week’s blog. Oran Park Oran Park closed down in 2010 to make way for a housing development after almost 50 years of racing. The course held a reputation within both the car and motorcycle world as a tight, fast and unforgiving circuit which punished even the slightest mistake. The last Supercar race took place at the venue in 2008, in what also served as Mark Skaife’s final full time race event, Rick Kelly went to win the final race of the weekend while Garth Tander took the round win. Unfortunately, as a result of the housing development there’s not really anything left of the track at Oran Park, with only the street names such as Moffat St, Seton St and Peter Brock Drive to represent the racing of yesteryear.   Surfers Paradise Raceway Racing in Surfers Paradise began long before the days of champ cars, the Indy 300, A1 Grand Prix and Supercars as we know them today. Way back in 1966, Gold Coast Businessman Keith Williams (of Sea World fame) decided to build a co-existing race track and drag strip in Surfers Paradise. The popular track hosted weekly drags as well as the ATCC, Tasman Series and even the 1975 Australian Grand Prix with drivers such as Peter Brock, Dick Johnson, Allan Moffat and Bob Jane racing at the track regularly. As with Oran Park, Surfers Paradise Raceway was demolished to give way to the ever-expanding urban sprawl. Of course racing still continues in the form of Supercars on the iconic Surfers Paradise Street Circuit, so not all racing has been lost in the city.   Catalina Park   Opening in 1960, ‘The Gully’ as it was commonly known was one of the nation’s more treacherous racing circuits including rock walls, cliffs and a narrow track right in the heart of the blue mountains. As a result of its mountainous location, fog issues ensured that many race days encountered scheduling issues. While racing stopped at the venue in 1970, the track was utilised for one lap dashes with single cars up until the 1990’s. In 2002 the site was declared an Aboriginal place. Lobethal Considered by some to be Australia’s Spa-Francorchamps, Lobethal was a fast, flowing street circuit in South Australia. The almost 14km course ran through the towns of Charleston and Lobethal, with scores of spectators basing themselves at the local pubs to watch the racing. The 1939 Australian Grand Prix was raced on the Lobethal circuit, with racers completing 17 laps in the scorching Australian summer – a number of cars were unable to complete the race. The final race meeting was held in 1948, before closed-street racing was banned altogether by the South Australian government. Have you driven or raced around any of these circuits? Or do you have a favourite Australian circuit that’s no longer with us? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook Page and let us know in the comments section below.

Demolition Derby – Taking a look at the Winton TCM Crash

Back in May at the Winton SuperSprint, motorsport fans witnessed one of the bigger crashes in the history of the Touring Car Masters series. At Rare Spares, we love watching our favourite cars of yesteryear wind back the clock and hit the track in earnest. However, we can’t help but cringe a little when we see these beauties on the back of a truck being towed back to the pits in a crumpled mess! But, it is motorsport and we all know the risks when hitting the track, so in this article we’ll take a quick look at the incident, who was involved and what has gone into getting these masterpieces back on the track. Qualifying at Winton couldn’t have gone much better for Jason Gomersall who was able to place his Big Mate A9X Torana on pole for race 2, declaring it his greatest achievement in motorsport. The team was understandably stoked with the achievement, beating out racing legend John Bowe by mere two-one hundredths of a second. Unfortunately for Gomersall, the weekend became unforgettable for all the wrong reasons less than 24 hours later. Gomersall was off to a cracking start to the race, clearing his competition and heading into turn 2 with the track to himself. From here it all went pear shaped though, losing the rear end of the beautiful Torana he span in front of the oncoming field. What came next can be best described as complete and utter chaos. Gomersall span into the path of Eddie Abelnica and his XB Falcon before being collected by Mark King’s Camaro leaving both cars with very heavy front end damage. The ensuing pack had nowhere to go, with a number of cars finding each other or the surrounding walls. John Bowe was also caught up in the incident, resulting in a few broken ribs and a short stint in hospital. When all was said and done, seven cars were involved in the incident and the race was suspended. With a short turnaround to the Darwin round, many teams faced an uphill battle to get their cars back in racing condition. Gomersall’s Torana sustained extensive damage to the front cross member, steering rack and radiator, however the engine was largely undamaged and the rest of the car from the firewall back was almost unscathed. Incredibly the A9X was back racing in Darwin finishing in P4 for the weekend. Mark King’s Camaro wasn’t quite as lucky, however it’s well on its way to hitting the track again. In the meantime King has been behind the wheel of an incredible looking 1972 GTS Monaro. The TCM series continues in 2017 with rounds remaining at the marquee Supercar events held at Sandown, Bathurst and Newcastle, make sure you don’t miss any of the action! Do you own a TCM worthy classic car? 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.

Roaring Heart – The Aussie Powered Alfa

In 1986 Paul Helstead and Formula 1 engineer Barry Lock set about building one of Australia’s first supercars; a rear-wheel drive Alfa Romeo Sprint. The initial plan was to pair the Sprint body with a mid-mounted 2.5 litre Alfa Romeo V6, coupled with a ZF 5-speed transmission and Brembo brakes. This hot coupe was to be named ‘Giocattolo’, which translates in Italian to ‘toy’. Shortly after testing began, the Giocattolo team was to face issues in guaranteeing a steady supply of engines from Alfa Romeo, thus the search began for a replacement power source. Halstead and Lock were to eventually decide on the Holden Walkinshaw 5.0 litre V8 Group A engine as the new power plant. Producing 220Kw/500Nm, the new engine package was a rocket, capable of powering the Giocattolo to 0-100kph in just 5.4 seconds, whilst having an electronically limited top speed of 250kph. As a result of the upgraded tires, brakes, transmission and a high tech Formula 1 style rear suspension setup, the Giocatollo possessed handling characteristics not dissimilar to a road registered go-kart on steroids. The interior of the Sprint was also modified in the Giocattollo build process. The standard seats were replaced with leather Recaro’s, a Momo steering wheel was added and the dash was modified to fit the extra gauges. Other interesting features were the new centre console with integrated handbrake lever, power windows, air conditioning and even central locking. As a result of the $80,000AU price tag, the Giocattolo did not sell particularly well, with only 15 of the Italian-Australian supercars were built, including 3 prototypes. In 1989 the Giocattollo closed its doors after 3 years of production, finding that it was not the right time for such a car in the Australian market. Of the 15 built, car number 007 was destroyed in an accident in 2001, whilst one other is unaccounted for. Car number 007 was originally owned by the Brisbane Bears Australian Rules Football Club and was painted in the club’s colours; with a gold exterior and maroon interior. Car number 011 is also believed to have been owned by Lindsay Fox at one point in time, whilst the Queensland Police were even considering using Giocattolo as their pursuit car! All known remaining cars are reported to be in great condition and have been known to change hands for well over the original $80,000 price tag. What is your favourite uniquely Australian car? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Falcon Farewell – Saying Goodbye to the Aussie Icon

When Ford introduced the XK Falcon to the Australian market back in 1960, not many would have predicted the impact that the ‘Falcon’ name would have on the Australian motoring landscape. Production of the Falcon came to an end in 2016, although along the 56 year journey Ford was able to produce a number of iconic Australian cars. Here we take a look at six Falcons that will forever be remembered by Australian motoring enthusiasts. 1965 XP Flacon The original XK is remembered as a car that unfortunately wasn’t built with local conditions in mind, resulting in the model receiving a poor reputation amongst consumers. Ford went back to the drawing board; with build quality issues being quickly remedied and by 1964, the XP Falcon was the car that kick started over five decades of manufacturing of the Falcon in Australia. In order to overcome durability issues faced in the original Falcon, Ford conducted 70,000km of around the clock on-road testing at their You-Yang’s facility. The end result of this arduous testing was a car that proved to be capable of handling everything Australia’s harsh conditions could throw at it. 1971 XY GT-HO Phase III  Arguably Australia’s most iconic car, the XY GT-HO Phase III was originally built in order to homologate the XY Falcon for racing. Only 300 units were built. The 351 cubic inch that lay underneath the bonnet was a true fire breather, non-standard heads and valves with an increased compression ratio of 11.5:1 coupled with a 780 Holley carby. It was capable of a top speed of 142mph and 14.4 seconds down a quarter mile which propelled it to the fastest four door sedan in the world at the time. The HO also came couple with  These days a very good example of one of these cars would set you back a bit south of $500,000. 1973 XA GT RPO83 In 1972 the XA Falcon range was introduced, with arguably one of the biggest body styling changes since the introduction of the Falcon it certainly made an impression in the car park. With the Supercar Scare and the cancelling of the Phase 4 program hope was not completely lost for a hero car beyond the GT staple.1973 gave rise to Regular Production 83, a performance package option with 250 units scheduled 259 were eventually built. The package included a big 780 Holley carby and extractors along with some other rumoured extras. Not all were fitted with the same equipment supposedly and this has led to many theories as to what was factory and what wasn’t on the limited run cars. They now demand a substantial premium with a recent Lime Glaze RP083 Sedan said to have sold for $240,000. 1980 XD ESP 1979 brought another body styling transitioning from the XC range which marked the introduction of side intrusion bars and the forever iconic blue oval grille and bootlid badges. The XD was more reminiscent of the XY styles with sharper body lines and was heavily influences by the European Granada Mk2. With the departure of the GT name in 1976 the public now were deemed ready for another substantial sports package, the European Sports Pack (ESP) option in 1980. Option 54 – ESP, included “Scheel” fornt seats, Red lit instruments/clock, Bilstein shockers, dual rear radius rods and Bathurst Globe rims. Ever since the introduction of the ESP they have been a sought after vehicle with XD and XE ESP’s demanding between $15,000 and $45,000 in most cases depending whether they were 6 cylinder’s or fitted with the highly desirable factory T code 351ci engine. 2002 BA XR6 Turbo In 2002, the BA XR6 Turbo brought upon a step outside of the Falcon’s recent conservative comfort zone. This turbo charged engine package option utilized the new Barra I6 4.0L with a Garrrett GT40 Turbo, it was able to produce a lively 240Kw/450Nm whilst giving its 8-cylinder counterpart some serious competition. The new look BA design with the XR6 Turbo offering went a long way to erasing the memories of the largely unpopular AU range.  2014 FGX XR8 Sprint The 2014 FGX XR8 Sprint will go down in the history books as the most powerful Falcon ever produced. The brochure will tell you that the XR8 Sprint produces 335Kw/570Nm, although as a result of its ‘transient over-boost’ feature, maximum power figures will read closer to a whopping 400Kw/650Nm. The FGX brought in a number of cosmetic changes compared to the outgoing FG, although the interior stayed much the same. Whilst some may deride the fact the interior is a little plain, and that the car is lacking a few common technical features, it still remains that the consumer had access to unbelievable power figures at a very competitive price point. The Ford Falcon will forever hold a special place in Australian motoring enthusiast’s hearts, and with a number of other Falcons arguably being capable of making this list, we’d love to hear which have been your favourite Falcon’s over on the Rare Spares Facebook page and in the comments section below.

2016 Motorsport Season Wrap Up

When it comes to the automotive world, it definitely goes without saying that we at Rare Spares are suckers for Motorsport. Whether it be the iconic Supercars (formally V8 Supercars) or the Touring Car Masters, we can’t get enough of fast and furious four wheeled action. Here we will take a look back at some of the series my exciting moments and how they finished up. Last year the Supercar series went through, some big changes, one of which was dropping the V8 name from the series to make way for turbo charged vehicles. However, the year was not without incident. Who could forgot the Red Bull poster boys Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen fighting at the front throughout the season, until the second last round in New Zealand where one punted the other, sending Van Gisbergen sliding off the road. This Supercars season also saw the first full-time female racer in decades enter the series. Simona De Silvestro was a former Indy Car racer and with her impressive wild card entry in the 2015 Bathurst, she was locked into a three year deal in the Australian category. Some other big moments saw HRT move to Triple Eight with Holden choosing the team over Walkinshaw Racing, ahead of the development of their new 2nd generation Supercar. The biggest story would have to go to the events that took place at the Bathurst 1000. Will Davison and Jonathon Webb were named the Bathurst champions after a dramatic end to the race in October. Whincup was stripped of his first place result due to a 15 second time penalty that was applied post-race. The series ended up being taken out by Van Gisbergen after an extraordinary display of skill and ability throughout the year. The Touring Car Masters also provided nothing short of a thrilling series once again, with high horse power and classic metal never failing to impress. One of the most memorable moments would go to the man Glenn Seton taking out the title for the first Trans-Tasman challenge. The Touring Car Masters and Central Muscle Cars went head to head at Mount Panorama for an incredibly exciting race which saw the Thunder Road Racing Team Australia driver claim his third TCM race win at Bathurst and fourth of the season. The series also provided some valiant efforts with Eddie Abelnica ending a 64 race streak without a Touring Car Masters race victory, thanks to a brilliant performance at the stunning Phillip Island GP Circuit. Abelnica powered his Melbourne’s Cheapest Cars XB Falcon hardtop to the win from fourth on the grid, passing Glenn Seton, Jason Gomersall and John Bowe in an outstanding display of steering. The Touring Car Master season title went to none other than Rare Spares ambassador, John Bowe, after he recorded his eighth race win of the year with an 80 point lead ahead of second place winner, Eddie Abelnica. With such an exciting season of Motorsport behind us, we are lucky to have such a vibrant and passionate automotive scene and with 2017 in full swing, we cannot wait to see what this year will bring!