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.

1992 Bathurst Re-cap

As the Supercar enduro cup is about to begin and the iconic Bathurst 1000 creeps up on us at a rapid rate, we’ve decided to produce a series of articles on some of the more memorable Bathurst’s over the years. We chose to begin with 1992 for a number of reasons, firstly it’s one of the more controversial Bathurst in the race’s history, and with the re-introduction of turbochargers in 2018 (in the form of wildcard entries) creating a bit of talk currently, we thought it would be worth checking out the last time turbo’s hit the mountain.

For a bit of background in the 1992 event, Jim Richards and a young Mark Skaife had been campaigning the all-conquering Nissan GT-R throughout the 1991 and 1992 seasons with a championship a piece and Bathurst victory in 91 to boot. To say that the ‘Godzilla’ wasn’t universally loved would be an understatement. Ford and Holden fans were displeased with the GT-R’s perceive benefits, namely four-wheel drive and a power advantage.

Bathurst weekend arrived and to the joy of Ford fans, Dick Johnson was able to upstage the GT-R in the top 10 shootout, putting down an incredible time in his Ford Sierra RS500 with Skaife following almost 2 seconds behind. On race day, the track was hit with severe weather (eventually resulting in 16 DNF’s), with Richards’ and Skaife’s four wheel drive GT-R benefitting from the inclement conditions.

In the early stages of the race, tragedy struck. New Zealander Denny Hulme lost his life after suffering a heart attack mid-race. Hulme’s car came to a rest on Conrod straight under seemingly innocuous circumstances, before he was then transferred to Bathurst Hospital where he passed away.

Racing resumed after a prolonged safety car period and as conditions worsened the majority of the field pit for wet tyres, however, the Nissan stayed out on slicks ensuring they were able to stretch their lead to a seemingly insurmountable one-lap lead. More and more cars found themselves in the wall as conditions continued to deteriorate, and eventually the stewards were left no option other than to red-flag the race. In the meantime, as Richards continued making his way around the circuit he damaged the front left wheel of the GTR, before losing traction out of forest elbow and winding up off the circuit with a score of other mangled cars.

The stewards were left with the unenviable task of declaring a race winner, eventually deciding to score the race as finished on the previously completed 143rd lap, resulting in race victory to Richards and Skaife. The result didn’t sit well with Holden and Ford fans, who booed and jeered the two as they stood on the podium. Richards’ response will go down in racing folklore; “I thought Australian race fans had a lot more to go than this, this is bloody disgraceful. I’ll keep racing, but I’ll tell you what, this will remain with me for a long time. You’re a pack of arseholes.”

While certainly creating a stir at the time, in hindsight it’s just one of many incredible moments that shape the history of the incredible racing spectacle that takes place at Mt Panorama each year.

Stay tuned as we continue to talk Bathurst in the lead up to this year’s great race. What do you remember about the 1992 Bathurst 1000? Do you agree with the steward’s decision? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Summer Cruising – 5 Classic Convertibles

Whether it’s cruising through the countryside or through beachside tourist hotspots, there’s hardly a motoring experience that compares to driving a convertible on a beautiful summers day. In this week’s article we will take a look at five of our favourite drop top classics.

1958 Chevrolet Corvette

With most Corvette’s along the journey displaying a certain level of ‘cool’, it’s difficult to pick just one as our favourite. However, there’s just something about the ’58 Chevy Corvette that screams American Classic. With white wall tires, quad headlights, an abundance of chrome and the iconic ‘creases’ in the doors, the ’58 ‘Vette is remembered as one of Chevrolet’s most popular cars. 283 cubic inches of engine were bolted to a 4 speed manual transmission, resulted in an (at the time) impressive 290hp from the top of the line fuel injected model.

 

Shelby Cobra

The Shelby Cobra was the brainchild of Carol Shelby, who deemed it a great idea to place a Ford V8 engine in the tiny AC Ace roadster body. The original V8’s of choice were 260 and 289 cubic inch variants before making way for monster 427 and 428 cubic inch engines. Worldwide, the Cobra continues to prove popular among collectors although an original will set you back a pretty penny! More likely to be within reach of us mere mortals are the ‘continuation’ models that Shelby America still sells to this day or a replica kit car that is produced by several companies around the globe.

 

Ferrari 250GT SWB California

The Ferrari 250GT SWB California is not only one of the most beautiful cars ever built; unsurprisingly it’s also one of the most expensive to ever be sold at auction. Sold for an eye wateringly high sum of US$15.2 million 12 months ago, this 250GT is one of only 56 ever built. While 56 is an already low number, at the present time only around half of those are accounted for. So, if you have a spare US$15 million up your sleeve, now might be the time to make a play for the 250GT convertible you’ve always had your eye on.

 

First Generation Mazda MX-5 

Comfortably the most modern car on this list, the MX-5 is also the cheapest, and most likely the most fun to get behind the wheel of. The pint-sized Mazda doesn’t fit the typical sports car bill, opting in favour of a small sized 1.6 litre engine producing 85kw, Mazda instead turned its focus towards handling, utilising a further back than usual engine placement coupled with a shockingly low total weight of 980kg’s to bring the fun. The fourth generation MX-5 is now on showroom floors and after straying from the original brief for the second and third generations, all reports suggest the latest model is just as much a hoot to drive as the original!

Jaguar E-Type

Battling the above Ferrari for ‘most beautiful car ever built’ the E-Type roadster to this day is still immensely popular among collectors. With four wheel disc brakes coming standard and independent coil spring suspension, this Jag handled incredibly well for its day. Power was supplied by a 3.8 litre engine in series I models while later models were graced with the larger and more powerful 4.8 litre engine. While not in the same price range as the 250GT California; you’ll be hard pressed to find an E-Type convertible with much change to spare from a couple of hundred grand.

What is your all-time favourite convertible? Do you agree with the list we’ve compiled? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know 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.

Pikes Peak 2017 Wrap-up

Known as one of the most extreme racing events in the world, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb roared into Colorado once again in June, with highly accomplished drivers and riders making their way from all corners of the globe to have a crack the famous ‘Race to the Clouds’. While in its current paved form, the course isn’t quite as insane as it once were (check out the iconic short film ‘Climb Dance’ to see what old school Pikes Peak was all about), there’s no doubting the task at hand is only suited to the supremely talented and/or the slightly crazy.

Taking the win in 2017 was Romain Dumas, a French Porsche factory driver and former Le Mans 24 hour winner. For Pikes Peak he took the wheel of his Norma MXX RD Limited to take victory for the third time in four years. Despite the impressive victory and a respectable time of 9 minutes and 5 seconds, Romain was left somewhat disappointed in the run and explained that mechanical issues put a stop to having a run at Sebastien Loeb’s incredible record run (8min13sec) in 2013. “It’s difficult to put words to this victory. The primary objective was to win, which is what we did and it’s never easy here. Never. I even questioned whether I’d get to the summit....We got first place, but we wanted so much more that I’m unable to feel completely satisfied today” Said Dumas.

While one-off prototypes are undoubtedly incredible, at Rare Spares we can’t help but cast our eyes through the results to find how the classics went! In a throwback to the old school Pikes Peak days, an Audi Quattro S1E2 drew cheers the whole way up the mountain on its way to a respectable to time of 12 minutes and 18 seconds. The 44 year old Porsche 911 RSR driven by Christopher Lennon found itself inside the top 25 outright and 3rd in the open class with a seriously impressive time of 10 minutes and 50 seconds. Arguably the crowd favourite was R J Gottieb in his amazing sounding ’69 Chevy Camaro who was able to tame the mountain in a tick over 11 minutes to wind up inside the top 35 outright.

Australia’s best hope of victory in the car category came in the form of Tony Quinn, who piloting his 633kw VR38DETT-powered Ford Focus bodied machine came within 3 kilometers of setting a lighting fast time before his brakes gave way. Although disappointed, the failure hasn’t dampened Quinn’s spirits who has stated he will back to take on the mountain again next year. The most impressive Australian result this year belongs to Sydney born Rennie Scaysbrook, who riding a brand new KTM Super Duke 1290 R finished second outright in the bike category. By doing so, Scaysbrook became only the 3rd man in history to break the 10 minute barrier on a motorcycle.

The Pikes Peak Hill climb holds a certain prestige, with competitors and spectators alike respecting that this mountain is a special beast, capable of wreaking havoc on those who take it lightly. Many have stated that the incredible Sebastien Loeb/Peugeot record from 2013 may never be broken, and in fairness no one has come even close yet. However, with a number of incredible custom built hill climb machines popping up across the world, it’s unquestionable that Pikes Peak is sure to retain its incredible reputation long into the future.