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.

Group S At The 2018 Bathurst 12 Hour

The Bathurst 12 Hour as an event continues to grow in both size and stature. After moving away from a production car based race, in a contentious decision at the time, to a GT based program, the success of that decision has been validated. However, man does not live on GT alone so there were a number of support categories including the Group S cars. Under the current regulations, Group S covers a period from the 1940s through to the end of the 1970s.

Groups S itself is an umbrella that covers three sub-categories; Group Sa, Sb, and Sc. Sa is for the more elderly cars, starting from early 1941 through to the end of December 1960. It’s this category that appeals to the drivers of British cars such as the MG-A, Sunbeam Alpine, or the “Bugeye” Sprite.

Sb cars cover a slightly more compressed timeframe, being January 1961 through to December 31 1969. There’s a vast appeal here to many marques, so Corvette Stingrays, Alfa Romeo GTVs, Porsche 911s, Shelby Cobras, and more will feature.

Group Sc rounds off with an inclusion of cars from January 1970 through to December 1977 (although we’ll see cars from 1979 racing) and Porsche stars here with the ever green 911. There’s the occasional De Tomaso Pantera, Datsun 260Z, and Triumph TR6.

Naturally, being historic car racing, there’s categories within categories, with engine capacity classes being applied. Group Sa has: Saa, Sab, and Sac, covering up to 1300cc, between 1300cc and 1800cc, and over 1800cc

Sb covers a larger range. Sba and Sbb are the same as Group Sa, with Sbc ranging from 1800cc to 3000cc, whilst Sbd is from 3001cc.

Sca is slightly different, covering up to 2000cc, then Scb just 2001cc to 2600cc, then Scc 2601cc to 3500cc before finalizing with Scd from 3501cc and up.

2018 has a pretty full calendar for these venerable machines with fourteen race weekends; March 2018 has the annual Philip Island Classic whilst mid April has the inaugural Shannon’s Nationals at the new South Australia Tailem Bend circuit. There’ll be visits to Morgan Park in Queensland, Winton in northern Victoria, and December sees the final round for the year at Sydney Motorsport Park for the fabulous Tasman Revival meeting.

The Group S cars are a production based category and the cars themselves do not have to have a specific racing history, unlike the Groups A and C cars which MUST be the original racing car. The www.groupsracing.org.au website says: “Group S cars are not historic racing cars; they are historic production sports cars, modified within the limits of Group S eligibility criteria.” 

Group S ran three races at Mt Panorama during the B12 event. Race 1 was Friday February 2 and was shortened to five from the scheduled seven laps. It was a fifty five car field that featured vehicles from all three sub categories with twelve different marques and it was a fifty one car field that finished the five laps.

Ian Ross in his 1966 Shelby GT350 managed to beach his classic machine at the Chase in lap one which resulted in a safety car being called out for three laps. Of the fifty one that finished race 1, sixteen were Porsche 911 and one of those, piloted by Geoff Morgan in the Sc class, took the chequered flag. In fact, the first three cars were Scc followed by two Scd. The quickest Sa car was in the Sac category, Zack McAfee in his tidy 1956 Austin Healey.

Unfortunately for Morgan race 2 was a fizzer on the final lap as his car’s distributor failed. This handed the win to fellow 911 pilot and Morgan’s good friend, Wayne Seabrook. There was a measure of carnage at the rear of field on the first lap with Colin Goldsmith’s immaculate 1959 Austin Healy being punted by a spinning Steve Constantinidis is his 1972 Corvette.

Race three was curtailed to five laps in a time critical finish. Seabrook again took the chequered flag. Doug Barbour in his 911 finished with a flourish by spinning on the final lap and managing to still snare fourth.

A sidebar here is just how quick and nimble some of the smaller engine cars were. Race three had Damien Meyer in a 1275cc MG Midget from 1970 finish in thirteenth position, ahead of cars such as a DeTomaso Pantera with its 351 Ford engine and a 928 Porsche with a 4.5L block. That was a great follow up to his 17th in race 1

Did you catch the classic car action at the Bathurst 12 hour? What did you think? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section 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.

Future Classics – 5 Australian cars with investment potential

It seems to be every couple of weeks we hear of a mint condition A9X Torana, Monaro or GT-HO hitting the market for a monumental price, and they don’t seem to be having many issues finding a new home. So, with the Australian car manufacturing industry officially closed for business, which cars of more recent years will replace the classics of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s in another 50 years’ time? Well, in this article we take a look back at the cars produced in Australia since the turn of the century, and create a very short list of cars that might just be considered a classic in the future.

Ford Falcon FGX XR8 Sprint

The FGX XR8 Sprint was the most powerful Falcon ever produced, thanks to a 10 second overboost feature that elevated power specs from 335kw/570nm to a mammoth 400Kw/650Nm in short bursts. It was a final farewell for a model that had a long and illustrious history on both public roads and the race track. The final Falcon was a fantastic representation of what the Australian car manufacturing industry was capable of; not only was the car blisteringly fast, it was comfortable, looked good inside and out and rivalled many of its European counterparts in refinement. It will hardly be a surprise when the value of this car increases over time.

Holden CV8Z Monaro

The CV8Z Monaro was the final offering of the reincarnated Holden Monaro in the 2000s. It featured a beefed up 5.7 litre LS1 producing an impressive (for the time) 260kw. While the car was essentially a coupe version of the SS Commodore, the more compact appearance made the Monaro appear a considerably more sporty option than its full sized brother. Prices are already rising on good condition CV8Z’s, with the 6-speed manuals the pick of the transmissions.

HSV GTSR Maloo

The HSV GTSR Maloo is the fastest V8 Ute in the world, and as such will hold a special place in the heart of local car enthusiasts for many years to come. Truly one of a kind, the supercharged V8 ute features a host of goodies including 20inch forged alloy wheels, oversized brakes, bi modal exhaust, an impressive suspension setup and a torque vectoring differential. All these goodies result in a ute that stands out from the pack, creating a monster that looks just as home on the worksite as it does cutting laps at a track day. A cult favourite among young males, the Maloo will remain a desirable purchase for the foreseeable future.

Ford Tickford TS50 T3

In general, the AU Falcon was not a terribly attractive car, and thus nor was it a terribly popular car, so by the time the BA come along most were happy to see the back of the oddly proportioned AU. The shining light, however, of the AU range was undoubtedly the Tickford enhanced range of TE50, TS50 and to a lesser extent TL50 Falcons. The pick of the bunch was the TS50 T3, which featured a hand built 5.6 litre V8, lowered suspension, and an all at the same time outlandish but understated body kit. While power may have been down compared to its direct competition – the HSV Clubsport; an absurd amount of torque ensured that in real world situations, the TS50 could bat well above its average. While the AU may not be popular across the board, among die hard Ford fans, it doesn’t get a lot better than this!

HSV W1 GTRS

How could we end this list with anything other than the W1? Less than a year since it was announced, all 300 have been snapped up and the prices are blowing out on the open market, with some selling for around a hundred grand over their $169,000 asking price! With the Corvette ZR1 derived LS9 and performance mods everywhere you look, this car is a true track monster, producing an enormous 474Kw and 814Nm. Expect to see a number of these HSV’s tucked away under wraps, only to surface many decades from now with a truly ridiculous price tag.

Do you have any cars that you think should be on this list? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.

Buyer Beware - Asbestos in Imported Classic Cars

Thinking of importing a much loved car (or motorcycle) from overseas? It might be worth taking a bit of time to weigh up the risks associated with such an investment before pulling the trigger. In 2017 Australian Border Force intercepted roughly 50 cars and motorcycles that contained traces of the potentially toxic substance, asbestos. Among those a host of classics, including a Jaguar E-Type, a Shelby GT350 Mustang, a Rolls Royce and a Bentley S3.

While the cost of importing these classic cars in the first place is hardly a cheap affair, the real costs begin to add up once asbestos has been found. In Australia, since 2003 a total ban has been placed on the toxic substance and individual importers face fines of up to $3000 per offence. Removal of the asbestos effected parts is then the sole responsibility of the individual with costs for some reportedly blowing out to north of $20,000!

The most common affected areas are brake pads, clutch linings and gaskets on specifically older makes and models of cars and motorcycles, so your new Right Hand Drive converted F150 Raptor is unlikely to face any issues. Imports are chosen at random for in depth asbestos testing, with microscopic analysis performed by an occupational hygienist.

Australian Authorities are suggesting a thorough inspection of the vehicle before it leaves its country of origin to ensure nothing makes it through to Australian shores where it is almost certain to catch the attention of customs.

So do your research on asbestos and save yourself a heap of time, effort and money before you import a classic car from overseas.

Do you have your eye on an international classic? Or do you have your own import horror story to report? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.