Top 5 Australian Touring Car Drivers

Motorsport in Australia is, it’s fair to say, in a state of flux right now. There are new cars, new championships, and new drivers. It’d also be fair to say that the new crop of drivers would all want to be seen, be remembered, in the same category as those regarded as Australia’s best and legendary touring car heroes. Although the Australian Touring Car Championship effectively lives on in name only, as the award for the winner of the Supercars championship, it’s still an honour to be listed as a winner.

In no particular order, here are the five drivers we reckon will be remembered.

Peter Brock.

Any list of Australian motorsport drivers that doesn’t include Victorian born Peter Geoffrey Brock A.M. isn’t worth considering. Brocky, Peter Perfect, “God”, PB won a record nine Bathurst 1000 races, Sandown nine times, the Australian Touring Car Championship three times, and engendered an aftermarket car company that is synonymous with motorsport.

Brock was known for racing with Holden, but also saw his name on the side of BMW cars, Ford cars, Volvo, Porsche, and Peugeot. He even lent his name to a brief flirtation with Russian car company, Lada.

PB made his Bathurst racing debut in 1969, muscling Holden’s HT 350 Monaro GTS around Mount Panorama alongside Des West, with the 24 year old partnering West to a third position that year, an impressive debut. 

Brock raced in a number of categories including Formula 2, the Australian Super Touring Championship, and Le Mans. His record of 37 wins from 212 starts in the ATCC and V8 Supercars would stand until 2007. He also scored 57 ATCC pole positions and won from pole 22 times.

PB would have turned 74 on February 26, 2019. 

Jamie Whincup

36 year old Whincup has the dubious distinction of somehow being the most polarising driver in Supercars. Irrespective of how he’s perceived, there is no doubt that he has talent, talent that has given him a record seven (V8) Supercars crowns, four Bathurst 1000 wins, and a Bathurst 12 Hour hat in 2017.

Whincup has raced in Australia’s two main brands in the Supercars, being Holden and Ford. In 2016 he became just the second driver, alongside long term team mate Craig Lowndes, to have won 100 Supercars and ATCC races. Throw in 73 pole positions for good measure.

What’s impressive about Whincup’s record is simple: he didn’t start in V8 Supercars until 2002.

Craig Lowndes

Like pizza and garlic bread, you can’t have Whincup without Lowndes, Craig Lowndes. He’s retired from full time racing and leaves behind a fantastic CV. 42 pole positions, 3 championships, over 100 race wins and almost nose to nose as his former team mate in that respect. There are over 250 event starts in those numbers too.

With a background in small open wheeler racing and including a win in the Australian Formula Ford Championship, Lowndes started his V8 Supercars career alongside Brad Jones in the 1994 Sandown 500 and clocked up his first ATCC in 1996.

Mark Skaife

There’s a birthday coming up for our number four driver. Gosford born Mark Stephen Skaife was born on April 3, 1967, and cements himself in Australian Touring Car Championship history with 90 race wins. Factor in 41 pole positions, 220 event starts and 479 races for 87 podiums, international exposure, and clinically oriented driving style and it’s clear that Skaife is in the upper echelons.

1990 was the year Skaife started as a full time driver and 1991 saw three ATCC wins under his tyres. It was also the year that he, Jim Richards, and “Godzilla” worked together to win the Bathurst 1000 and inspire many to boo at the podium presentation. Skaife would finish his full time career as a driver with five championships to his name.

Dick Johnson

Our fifth grid position goes to Dick Johnson. DJ may have finished with a few less pole positions than others (28), a few less race wins (30), and a few less event starts (202), but the burly, genial, Queenslander did finish with five ATCC crowns, equal to Skaife and 1960s legend, Leo Geoghegan.

Much like Brock, the Johnson name is synonymous with one brand, yet Johnson started his career with the red lion against his name. FJ, EH, and Torana, including one previously raced by P.G. Brock. Johnson moved to Ford in 1977 and became a household name in 1980 thanks to a football sized piece of rock at Mount Panorama.

2001 and Johnson was inducted into the Supercars Hall of Fame. With 3 Bathurst wins to his name as well, along with co-running the DJR-Penske team, Richard Johnson gives us our top five ATCC drivers. Say happy birthday to Dick on April 26.

Who are your top five ATCC drivers? It’s a question sure to raise debate so we’d love to get your thoughts via our blog and social media pages. 

 

 

 

 

Best Australian Motorsport Liveries

Imagine, if you will, sitting in the grandstand at your favourite motorsport circuit, and watching a field of cars, all black, racing. Or all white. Or all blue…you get the picture. Yes, it may sound great but gees, it looks pretty boring seeing unidentifiable cars circulating.

Graphic designers and teams spend a lot of time designing the look of a car in order to do two main things: make the car look visually appealring, and to promote the sponsors of the team racing the car.

Sometimes though, it’s not the range of colours applied that have a car stand out, it’s how they’ve been applied. Here’s a few to consider.

Craig Lowndes AU Falcon

Holden, Ford, Holden. Craig Lowndes has stamped himself as a legend, however it was his 2001 AU Falcon that quickly captured attention. With a body scheme of black and silver, the rounded AU Falcon made itself a a car that took easily to being a team and sponsor billboard. But it was the lurid green appliqué to the headlights, a colour that somehow burned its way through any lighting conditions, that had eyes on it. The rest of the car was a mix of simple and elegant curves, with a large silver and black Ford logo on its rear flanks, a rare occasion of not seeing the Blue Oval in blue. 

Kevin Bartlett Channel 9 Camaro

“KB” is a lovely and genial bloke. Always with a ready smile and an anecdote from his extensive racing career in the back pocket, Bartlett took a metaphorical back seat to one particular vehicle.

Rule changes were under way for Aussie tin top racing in the latter part of the 1970s, and some American muscle found its way to the tarmac. Bartlett was handed the keys to a 1978 Camaro, and it would be painted in a simple combination of yellow icons over a blue base.

It was an immediate success in garnering attention; the massive front air dam had a television network’s name prominently displayed  in the centre, their logo in broad swathes on the right and left hand sides, and the station identifier on the landing pad sized bonnet. Front and rear bumpers had generous applications of yellow to provide some horizontal relief. Eye catching? Most certainly.

John Bowe Touring Car Masters LX Torana

A more modern entrant but with history on its sides (literally) is the LX Torana as campaigned by Rrare Spares brand ambassador, John Bowe, in the Touring Car Masters category.

The initial scheme is simple. A banana yellow base has acres of a light blue on the sides and a strong front to rear presence. That in itself looks fine, but it’s the subtle splashes of red, along with the careful placement of the numerous sponsors that somehow manage to be readable in a crowded canvas, that have Bowe’s “Torrie” in the list.

Dick Johnson Tru-Blu/Greens-Tuf Falcons

Sometimes a monochrome canvas can be hugely effective in standing out. Dick Johnson, a legend in Australian motorsport, kept things “simple” with his XD and XE Falcons.

Using the ethos of “KISS”, or Keep It Simple, Stupid, Johnson painted his XD Falcon in one shade of blue, and his XE in green. No fancy pants extra colours for the bumpers, or bonnet, or roof. They were kept free for the placement of the sponsors on the vast, flat, surfaces of the blocky Falcon’s bodywork. The basic design of the XD and XE made for excellent opportunities to place sponsors in strategically and highly visual locations, with the huge doors and bonnet seeing the main sponsors in pride of place.

It’s perhaps the Greens-Tuf car that has more of a place in history. The car hit a rock that had been accidentally dislodged by a spectator during the 1980 Bathurst 1000, with the end result seeing the bright green machine, complete with faux Ch7 logo on its flanks, reduced to a smoking shell.

Mark Skaife HRT Commodore

Evolution is a slow progress. But side by side a change in look can be plotted, and one line of change came to fruition on Holden’s Commodore in the early noughties. Again it was a duo of colours that made the car stand out.

The VY Commodore was a somewhat jarring mix of a rounded, organic, middle section, bracketed by a nose and rear that had defined angles. It was the smooth rear door section that lent itself best to Holden Racing Team’s logo; a combination of Holden’s lion and HRT’s helmeted race driver with an almost satanic glare inferred.

The slope to the bonnet allowed designers to front and centre a reverse colour image of the famous Holden lion as a visual counterpoint to the white outlines of the flank’s images. And, as we all know, a red car goes faster.

 

Rare Spares would love to know what you think is the best livery on a race car, be it a Mini from the 1960s, a Charger from the 1970s, or even a Formula Ford seen on track in 2018.

Drop us a line on our social media pages and keep in touch via our blog site.

1979 Bathurst Re-cap

In the lead up to this year’s Bathurst 1000, Rare Spares are taking a look back at some of the most memorable Bathurst’s in history. We kicked things off with a look at the 1992 Bathurst 1000, which you can read about here. In this second installment, we will be re-capping the 1979 Hardie Ferodo 1000, an event that typifies the legend of the late great, Peter Brock.

Peter Brock, 34 at the time with three Bathurst victories under his belt, was partnered with New Zealander Jim Richards and the all-conquering A9X Torana. Coming off a second place finish in the 1979 Australian Touring Car Championship, Brock and co-driver Richards were undoubtedly favourites for the big race.

After dominating practice, qualifying and the Hardies Heroes Top Ten Shootout to the tune of a 2 second victory, Brock started the race from the front of the grid. With the likes of Larry Perkins, Allan Grice, Allan Moffat, Dick Johnson and Bob Morris fronting the starter some were predicting it mightn’t be the walk in the park that many thought was a guaranteed. Well any doubters were silenced almost immediately with Brock pulling out to a 5 second lead within the first lap.

Brock dominated the first 2 hours of proceedings before pitting for fuel and allowing Richards to jump behind the wheel of the mighty Torana. The domination continued throughout Richards’ stint, who performed the role of a model co-driver by running fast, clean laps before handing the car back over to Brock to bring it home. The final stint of the race has gone down in racing folklore. Brock continued to run rings around the field, eventually taking the chequered flag some six laps ahead of the competition, even managing to break the circuit lap record on the final lap of the race! 

The Torana domination wasn’t confined to the top step of the podium either, with the next seven, yes you read that correctly, seven positions also occupied by Toranas! After the race Brock described the race as “An absolute dream run for us. From the word go the car was really on the ball and we drove it fast all day. We didn’t have to slow down for any reason.”

Of course, Brocky would go on to win five more Bathurst’s and the 24hour race in 2003, making him the most successful racer at the mountain, it is this race though that is remembered as one of his best.

Which year at Bathurst should we re-cap next? Do you have a favourite Bathurst memory? 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 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.