Classic Bathurst Recap - 1989

Changes were in the wind in the 1989 Bathurst 1000. Sponsored by beer giant Tooheys, the event continued its growth in stature internationally, and internally. Teams expanded from one car to two, and a return to the past was made, in the form of a standing start.

The all-conquering Ford Sierra RS500 was back and in bigger numbers. Enough were here that one of Australia’s favourite sons and a Holden icon had made the jump into the Blue Oval camp. The King of the Mountain would also be involved in an incident that, although technically within the rules, wasn’t seen as being of a sporting nature.

The Sierras attracted big names from overseas. Briton Andy Rouse came in to drive alongside Peter Brock. Ruedi Eggenberger returned to run the Allan Moffat operation, with a brand new car for Klaus Niedzwiedz, Moffat and Frank Biela. Alain Ferté flew in to drive a Glenn Seton car. Toyota was here, with the six cylinder Supra. John Smith and Drew Price, while Nissan had Anders Olofsson.

This year’s race was also an advance in television coverage, with the Tooheys Top ten shootout broadcast in full for the first time. The fastest ten cars from qualifying on Friday were sent out on the Saturday to determine the positions. Of the top ten final results, all but one were Sierras, with Nissan and Jim Richards claiming seventh.

Peter Brock would be given pole and it would be the only pole position of his career that wasn’t in a Commodore powered by a V8. It would also be a frustrating result for the Holden faithful as there were no Red Lion cars to be seen in that ten. There is also a little bit of history here, with all cars in the top ten being powered by a turbocharged engine, a feat not seen before or since.

The controversy around Brock and his car was simple, in essence. A fire suppressant system in the cars used a gas called Halon. A nozzle in the engine bay after the top ten run was found in scrutineering to have been pointed towards the engine’s turbo intercooler. The theory was that the gas had been discharged, lowering the temperature and boosting the engine output. Although later deemed to be not illegal, Brock was fined five thousand dollars.

A return to the standing start procedure also raised eyebrows. With a set start time of 10:00am, a formation lap had been performed and cars lined up on the grid. However it appeared that some were a little early and the subsequent wait may have contributed to a number of cars suffering engine failures during the race.

Race start and Brock lead the field, with old mate and sparring partner Dick Johnson, (with co-driver being Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe) in hot pursuit. There would be drama for Andrew Miedecke inside the first lap, with his #6 Sierra stuck in fifth gear thanks to a broken gear selector. This came on top of the #8 sister car, driven by Andrew Bagnall, crashing during the top ten shootout, however with only light damage allowing the car to start as the tenth car.

Coming down Conrod Straight, Johnson’s Sierra would pass Brock to take the lead, where throughout the next 160 laps it would remain.

The race would see a number of cars fail to finish due to mechanical problems. Brock himself would pit his Sierra, complaining of a loose rear wheel. The Tony Longhurst and Giancarlo Brancatelli Sierras would retire with Brancatelli’s car losing a wheel, and Longhurst out after his Benson and Hedges #25 car blew a head gasket. Longhurst would move into the #20 car and along with Alan Jones and Denny Hulme completed the race in fifth.

Glenn Seton’s Sierra had found oil on the track at Skyline. Seton’s #30 Peter Jackson sponsored car slammed into the tyre barrier backwards. Seton was ok and the car was able to be driven to the pits for repair where he, John Goss, and Tony Noske would later pilot the car to 20th. The #35 car would not complete the race.

Debris from Seton’s vehicle had an unfortunate knock-on effect for Brad Jones. Brake lines are an effective piece of equipment in a car when they’re in one piece. Jones’ car would have theirs cut by the debris, leaving Jones to find that out at speed coming into the Chase. He and co-drive Paul Radisich benched the car and would lose eight laps, finishing 9th.

The Sierras were showing signs of stress with the #18 Shell Ultra Hi car, driven by the UK pairing Jeff Allam and Robb Gravett, suffering electrical issues. Allan Moffat’s second car would be parked after just thirty laps, whilst John Mann and Murray Carter’s Sierra lasted just ten.

However the Skylines and Commodores were showing no such signs. Alan grice and Peter Janson would find themselves in the top five thanks to smart fuel pit strategy however some gremlins got into the transmission, dropping them to tenth at race finish. Brock’s rear wheel issue looked to have been fixed and the team would be back in the top three half way through the race. But again a problem occurred, this time with a recalcitrant wheel nut needing to be cut off. The hub was discovered to be so worn a new one could not be fitted and the team was out.

Bowe and Johnson had cemented their lead but in the closing laps the turbo boost pressure was falling. Bowe nursed the car along enough to hold the lead, watching the second Moffat Sierra, driven by Niedzwiedz and Frank Biela eventually fall off enough for Bowe to pit for a final fuel stop and get the car across the line for the win a full minute ahead of Biela.

Third would go to Jim Richards and a young Mark Skaife, in the Nissan Skyline HR31 GTS-R, with a team driver swap having Anders Olofsson bring home the second car in fourth.

Of fifty six cars entered, twenty nine would not see the chequered flag for the Tooheys Bathurst 1000 in 1989.

The Ford Barra Engine. A Modern Classic?

Grandpa’s axe. It’s a term usually employed to describe something that’s been around for decades and is almost unbreakable. And when it does break it’s repaired in a low tech way. Simplicity rules, you see.

Ford’s venerable straight six engine was Australia’s automotive equivalent of that axe from grandpa’s shed. Covering a range of capacities including the famous 4.1L or 250cid, its no nonsense, take what it was given, unburstable design, has it as a favourite in Australia’s car loving hearts.

The straight six that Australia saw was born in America. Available in various capacities there, including a 200cid six that was seen in the original US Mustang, Ford’s Australian arm unveiled the 250cid straight six in 1970. Its basic design was strong, simple, just like grandpa’s axe. A 2V suffix was given to the engine, denoting that the carbie had two venturi and would breathe deeper than the single carbied versions. Available from the XY through to XB Falcon, it was good for 116kW and 325Nm, a hefty increase over the standard 200cid’s 96kW/257Nm delivery.

Barra itself is a contraction of Barramundi. That’s not just a tenacious fish, it was the code name for the engine during development. It was applied not only to the straight six but also to the three valve 5.4L V8 version. The six was built from 2002 and was found in various Ford products such as the Falcon and Territory until Ford Australia ceased manufacturing in 2016.

The V8s, in Barra then Boss and Coyote form, were there until the FG-X model of the Falcon and derivatives wrapped in 2016. The Barra V8 ceased with the BF Fairlane which was available from 2005 to 2007, and became the last Fairlane model produced here.

 

The straight six was engineered into several different versions including a LPG fed engine. But many “revheads” would say the six’s finest hour was when it was built with a turbocharger and bolted into the XR6, F6, and suchlike. With “normal” engines pumping out an original 182kW, 190kW, and 195kW, with 380Nm, 383Nm, and 391Nm, the turbo took the power and torque to world class levels.

There was an initial offering, of 240kW and 450Nm, with that twist available from 2000 to 4500 rpm. Along came the 245kW and 480Nm version before the Barra 270T, with Garrett GT3576R turbo, and Barra 310T showed what clever Australian engineering could deliver.

Found in the BA, the BF, and then the FG, the big six may have actually undersold its capabilities. Rumours abound that in order to continue sales of the V8, the power and torque figures were deliberately quoted as being less than what they actually produced, with 360kW and 700Nm being whispered as the true figures.

Ford’s best six came in the form of the Barra 325T. This, sadly, was a deliberately limited run and sold in the limited edition FG-X XR6 Sprint. With ten pre-production vehicles, five hundred for Australia, and just fifty for New Zealand, it was a special engine in a special car. Power was quoted as 325kW @ 6000rpm, and 576Nm at a driver friendly 2750rpm. The engines also had an overboost feature for the turbo, which allowed an extra ten percent of boost to be added for up to ten seconds.

Combined with larger injectors at 82mm, a fifty percent bigger intercooler, and a carbon fibre air intake (a first for Ford Australia) with better airflow, Ford Australia said the overboost would deliver 370kW and 650Nm of torque.

Although the V8s sold well and were amongst the first in the world to feature what Ford called the VCT Modular design, they simply didn’t grab the attention as well as the six. Power outputs for the three valve V8s were reflected in the names, being Barra 220 (472Nm) and Barra 230 500Nm).

The grandpa’s axe straight six’s heritage and strength have it in the part of automotive history marked “To Be Revered Because Of Its Legendary Status.” Long live the Barra.