John Bowe 2017 Touring Car Masters season review

Rare Spares Brand Ambassador and our long-time friend John Bowe has just wrapped up his 2017 Touring Car Masters campaign at the Newcastle 500 over the weekend. In what was a hard fought series Bowe and his Torana SL/R 5000 spent many rounds at the front of the pack and even led the series coming in to the final round. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, as he could do little to stop the hard charging Steve Johnson on the tight streets of Newcastle’s East End. In this week’s blog, we’ll take a quick look at Bowe’s incredible season.

The 2017 TCM season kicked off way back in March at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide, and for Bowe the season started with a bang. Bowe was challenged early in both races 1 & 2 before recording victory in both, while a 6th in race 3 was enough to guarantee him the round victory. Round 2 at Winton saw one of the biggest accidents in the category’s history and unfortunately Bowe was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Race 1 went swimmingly for the number 18 Torana as Bowe worked from 23rd on the grid to take the win, a monumental effort around the short Victorian circuit.

Race 2 was where it all went pear shaped for a large number of the TCM field as Jason Gomersall span in front of the following pack as he rounded the 2nd corner on the first lap. 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. Bowe was sandwiched in the middle of all the action and the resulting broken ribs ensured a non-start for race 3 and a short stint in hospital for the fan favourite.

Bowe was able to make a speedy recovery from the massive shunt to line up only four weeks later at Hidden Valley Raceway in Darwin. It wasn’t quite a fairytale comeback as a gearbox issue left the Torana in a plume of smoke early on in the first race. Some quick work was done to the Torana and he was able to make it back on to the circuit for races 2 & 3, finishing in 2nd and 1st respectively.

On to Queensland Raceway and after recording his 90th victory in the TCM category Bowe left the event sharing the championship points lead with Adam Bressington. The ‘paper-clip’ as it’s known in the industry provides a unique challenge to competitors with a number of difficult breaking sections wreaking havoc on the TCM field. Sandown provided a unique challenge to competitors as race 1 was run in terribly wet conditions. The conditions provided a shuffle in the running order with Bowe finishing in 8th. Race 2 was abandoned while Bowe was out in front after Gomersall parked his Torana in the tyres at the end of the back straight. Wrapping up the weekend with a 2nd in race 3, Bowe was able to take the lead in the championship over his rivals.

While Bathurst wasn’t a bad weekend for Bowe by any stretch of the imagination, the event began the late season run of Steve Johnson. Scoring 4,2,2 finishes throughout the weekend was enough for Bowe to maintain the championship lead, however closing quickly was Johnson who took 2 of the 3 victories throughout the weekend at the mountain.

Bowe entered the final round with a 5 point lead, however was only able to manage 3rd in both races, making up ground throughout the first half of the track but struggling to keep up with the big Mustang of Johnson and the Camaro of Bressington down the more open sections of the track. The championship went to Johnson who won both races and the image of Bowe congratulating Johnson post-race will be go down as one of Australian motorsports great moments of sportsmanship.

As well as TCM racing, Bowe has kept busy piloting a number of different race cars throughout the country this year at a host of different events. Take a look at his Facebook page to keep up to date with all of the incredible cars John gets behind the wheel of – very impressive!

What was your favourite moment of the 2017 TCM season? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Blast from the Past – The Supercars tracks of yesteryear

In two weeks’ time the 2017 Supercars season will reach fever pitch as the championship comes down to the wire at the brand new Newcastle street circuit. The Newcastle circuit is undoubtedly going to prove to be one of the more picturesque racing locations on the circuit and a worthy replacement for the at times dull Sydney Olympic Park race. The Olympic Park location isn’t the first track in Supercars history to make way for a new and improved location, in this article we’ll take a look at some of the rounds that are no longer on the Supercars calendar.

Calder Park

Calder was staple on the ATCC and V8 Supercars throughout the 80’s and 90’s, and along with Sandown was one of two championship races within a stone's throw of Melbourne CBD. The Supercars utilised the ‘road’ circuit at the facility, bypassing the iconic Thunderdome, a feature which many feel could have added to the variety of racing on the Supercars calendar and potentially lead to a NASCAR style duel format of racing. Unfortunately racing ceased at the venue after the 2001 event when the racing surface and facilities were deemed not up to scratch. The circuit was also the scene of one of the biggest touring car crashes in recent memory when a young Craig Lowndes and his VT commodore went cartwheeling down the front straight after making contact with Steven Richards and Garth Tander.

Oran Park

Another iconic Australian racing circuit, Oran Park played host to battles from Brock and Moffat through to Ambrose and Skaife before closing down in 2008 to make way for a housing estate. A favourite of many drivers, the short and narrow circuit included one of the only ‘over-under’ bridges in Australian racing. Now unrecognisable to the average racing punter, the only remaining indicator of racing ever taking place on the site is the motorsport related street names.

Hamilton Street Circuit

Running between 2008 and 2012, the Hamilton 400 took the place of Pukekohe on the Supercars calendar and provided a happy hunting ground for 6 time series champion Jamie Whincup, who took 2 of the 5 race victories at the venue. The racing itself at the track was interesting enough, however bubbling away behind the scenes was a massive debate within the Hamilton City council when it was discovered the event had been operating at a significant loss in its final 2 years. Subsequently the event was relocated back to Pukekohe where it remains today as the Auckland SuperSprint.

Mallala

Mallala Motorsport Park flew the South Australian flag in the ATCC right up until 1999 when it was replaced on the calendar by the incoming Clipsal 500, which itself was also filling the void left by the Adelaide iteration of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix. The track received mixed reviews from competitors with Dick Johnson openly criticizing the track’s lack of facilities and bumpy racing circuit; however such remarks were uncommon from Johnson who was renowned for being not much of a fan of any tracks outside of Queensland. On the other hand, Jim Richards suggested the tight track would even the competition up, ensuring close racing at a time when the RS5000 Sierra’s were dominating the competition. Racing at lower levels still takes place at the circuit; however with the passing of longtime owner Clem Smith earlier this year, the future of racing at the circuit is unclear.

With a number of other circuits coming and going over the years including trips to Bahrain, Texas and local circuits such as Amaroo Park, Lakeside and the Canberra Street Circuit the Supercars championship has spread its wings far and wide, we’re just scratching the surface!

Which former Supercars or ATCC circuit was your favourite? Which would you replace on the current calendar? Head over the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.

The Introduction of the V6 Twin Turbo to Supercars

Way back in 2014, it was announced that Supercars (formally V8 Supercars) were going to open up their rules starting in 2017 to allow cars other than 4 door sedans and engines other than 5 litre V8’s into the category. Dreams of Camaro’s, Mustang’s and GTR’s instantly overcame the Supercars fan base. Fast forward to the 2017 season and no teams or manufacturers had taken up the offer to run a new car in the category. We have however, received an insight in to the future of the category via the Red Bull Triple Eight Racing Team, who have been developing both their ZB Commodore body and more importantly the 3.6 litre Twin Turbo V6 engine.

With a reported 475kw, the new powerplant was manufactured in Pontiac, Michigan before being shipped to Triple Eight Racing for testing in their Sandman ride day car. And while we will only see the engine on track in select events in 2018, preparations are well underway with all three of Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup and Shane Van Gisbergen spinning laps in the Sandman. So it’s all systems go from a development side of things, but how do the general punters feel about the move?

Well, it’s fair to say the public’s opinion on the issue is all over the place. Triple Eight Racing recently released footage of the Sandman cutting laps around the Norwell Motorplex in Queensland and opened the floor for feedback from Supercars fans. Some think it’s absolute sacrilege that anything other than a big V8 will grace the starter at Bathurst, Sandown or Surfers Paradise. Others were pleasantly surprised by the unique sound provided by the boosted small capacity V6. I’m sure that the very Facebook comments section below this blog will provide a wide array of opinions and beliefs on the topic!

Alas, the V6 is on its way and you can’t help but wonder how it will stack up. Will it be a case of miscalculation, where the new option comes in and lays waste to the competition? Or will the engineers strike the perfect balance of power and controllability that ensures that the Supercars of the future are not all that different to years past? Time will tell.

Detractors will point to the Nissan Skyline’s of the early 90’s that were just about unstoppable at the hands of Mark Skaife and Jim Richards as to why mixing naturally aspirated engines and their force fed cousins is a recipe for disaster. They’ll also point to the fact that there won’t be a twin turbo production Commodore available to the general public as a reason for their lack of enthusiasm. But technology has come a long way in the last decade and it’s been quite some time since Supercars closely resembled any sort of production car. So in this writer’s humble opinion, providing the racing is still interesting, the crowds will flock and the modern day ‘Australian Touring Car Championship’ will live on.

What are your thoughts on the introduction of the twin turbocharged V6 to the Supercars championship? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook Page and let us know in the comments section below.

Five Close Motorsport Finishes

Parity has become an increasing focus across almost all forms of motorsports in recent years, however close races are still few and far between. As motoring enthusiasts there’s not much we love more than watching two drivers go toe-to-toe over the distance of a race with the end result coming down to the thousandth of a second. In this week’s blog we’ll take a look back at a few of the closest and most memorable motorsport finishes in history.

1986 Spanish Formula 1 GP

In a race between two of racing’s most famous and well respected racers Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell, the end result will be remembered as one of the closest in the history of Formula 1. Mansell elected to pit in the closing stages of the race for fresh tyres while Senna elected to stay out on older, worn out rubber. Mansell took increasingly bigger chunks out of the late Brazilian’s lead as the race wore on; eventually falling only 0.014 seconds short of victory after Senna successfully covered his lines in the final corners.

2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400

The 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 came down to the wire between eventual winner Ricky Craven and the hot-headed Kurt Busch. As the two cars approached the line the two traded paint, with Craven eventually holding of Busch by 0.002 seconds at “The Track Too Tough To Tame.” Subsequently, the race was voted as the best NASCAR race of the decade by members of NASCAR Media.

2013 Freedom 100

Commentators at the time were calling it the greatest finish in the history of the Indianapolis Raceway, as four drivers from the IndyCar support category; Peter Dempsey, Gabby Chavez, Carlos Manoz and Sage Karam went toe-to-toe on the final lap. The resulting finish looks as though it had been staged as the drivers finished four-wide with Dempsey making a last straight dash from fourth to first. The final result; first and second were separated by 0.0026 seconds, with the gap to fourth totaling 0.0443 seconds.

2006 Portuguese MotoGP

2006 was an interesting year for Moto GP, as multi-time world champion struggled with an unreliable bike and struggled to reach the lofty heights of seasons past. This left the late Nicky Hayden to take out the championship under thrilling circumstances. In hindsight the Portuguese GP would prove to be the race that potentially cost Rossi the championship as a hard charging Toni Elias came from way back to snatch victory by 0.0002 seconds.

2016 NHRA Summit Southern Nationals

This race went about as close as you could get to a dead-heat, with NHRA Top Fuel Drag racers Doug Kalitta beating teammate JR Smith by a miniscule 0.0001 seconds, or about an inch. You would be forgiven for thinking that results like this are a foregone conclusion in drag racing, with similar cars racing over such a short distance. However, the more you watch top level drag racing, the more you realise that the chances of both cars having a perfectly clean run are slim to none. This race truly was an impressive spectacle.

Do you know of any other close racing finishes? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about your favourites in the comments section below.

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.