2017 Motorsport Year in Review

2017 has been a year to remember in motorsports worldwide, with champions crowned, rising stars established and the rest going back to the drawing board hoping for a more successful 2018. At Rare Spares we’ve been glued to our TV sets throughout the year keeping track of all the major forms of racing around the globe. From TCM to Formula 1, in this article we’ll take a quick look at the categories that caught our eyes in 2017.

Touring Car Masters

Touring Car Masters produced another classic racing season as Steve Johnson stormed his way through the second half of the season to take out the Pro class. John Bowe and Adam Bressington rounded out the podium, while a huge crash at Winton captured headlines when a no less than 12 cars were caught up in a pile up at the second corner. The TCM category is going from strength to strength attracting a number of ex pro’s providing the ultimate challenge to the amateur participants.

Supercars Australia Championship

What a season for Supercars, Jamie Whincup took the title for the seventh time, with the fight between himself and Scott McLaughlin coming down to the very last lap of the season. The eventual margin of victory was 21 points after McLaughlin was penalised 25 seconds for squeezing a hard charging Craig Lowndes into the wall on the last lap of the season. David Reynolds and Luke Youlden were popular Bathurst 1000 winners while Chaz Mostert and Steve Owen took out the Enduro Cup. The category’s first female driver Simona Di Silvestro finished in 24th place, but produced a few moments that suggest 2018 could be an exciting year for the Swiss native.

Bathurst 12 Hour

Taking place way back in February, the Bathurst 12 hour was won by Marinello Racing with Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup and Toni Vilander behind the wheel. Shane Van Gisbergen and his Scott Taylor Motorsports teammates put up an incredible fight before SVG put the incredible AMG into the wall while trying to chase down his Red Bull Racing teammate Jamie Whincup. The 2018 edition is fast approaching, and catching our eyes is the inclusion of a classic car event at this year’s 12 hour. Group S cars will be taking to the grid, with everything from Austin Healy’s, MG’s and Porsche’s taking part in a support race.

Formula 1

British superstar Lewis Hamilton claimed his fourth World Championship and Mercedes claimed their fourth constructer’s championship in a row. Ferrari regained some level of form in 2017 as Sebastian Vettel held the points lead for much of the first half of the season. Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo was left frustrated due to the lack of pace and reliability in Red Bull’s 2017 power units, meaning only one win was recorded for the popular West Australian.

NASCAR & IndyCar

Martin Truex Jnr took out the premier class of NASCAR in 2017, winning the final event in Miami to round out the ‘playoff’ series with a lead of 5 points over Kyle Busch. IndyCar headlines were dominated by Fernando Alonso in 2017 as he began his quest to conquer motorsports ‘Triple Crown’ (Monaco GP, Indy 500 & Le Mans). Alonso impressed in his first IndyCar outing at the Indy 500 and even led the prestigious race at one point before an all too familiar Honda engine failure left the Spaniard stranded. Takuma Sato won the event while Josef Newgarden went on to take out the title.

What was your favourite motorsport moment in 2017? Or maybe you have some predictions for 2018? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

How did the Falcon and Commodore get their names?

The Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore are undoubtedly the two cars that will be remembered most fondly in the hearts of Australians as the years pass. But just how did the Falcon and Commodore get their names? In most cases, the names of modern cars are the result of hundreds of hours spent by marketers in boardrooms trying to conjure up a name that they believe resonates with the target audience. But in the case of the Falcon and the Commodore, there is a little bit more to the story! Read on to find out about the origins of the names of these two great cars.

The Ford Falcon

Unbeknownst to some, the Falcon has a history long before it ever hit the shores of Australia with some experts believing the name goes as far back as 1935 when Edsel Ford used the name plate on an early luxurious motor vehicle. It didn’t hang around long though, and by 1938 the Falcon had been rebranded as Mercury, which of course went on to become the long-lived ‘luxury’ division of the Ford Motor Company.

The Falcon then reappeared in 1955 as a Chrysler concept vehicle, which was built with the intention of going head to head with the Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet’s Corvette. After only 2 or 3 were built, the idea was shelved once the costings of developing a low volume, high priced vehicle didn’t quite stack up. Now from here is where the story goes one of two directions depending on which side you believe. The first story goes that in 1958, both Chrysler and Ford had internally named their new small car the ‘Falcon’. In the auto industry all names need to be registered with the Automotive Manufacturers Association, and in a case of true coincidence Ford managed to register their ‘Falcon’ a matter of only 20 minutes ahead Chrysler, ensuring the name was Ford’s. Controversy ensued and Chrysler was left searching for a new name.

On the contrary, the other much less exciting story is that Henry Ford II called up Chrysler boss Tex Colbert and asked for permission to use the Falcon name. Colbert was happy to allow the name be used as Chrysler had their eye on another name… The Valiant.

Two years the later the Falcon made its way to Australian shores and after a few early hiccups became one half of Australia’s much publicised Holden v Ford rivalry.

The Holden Commodore

As some of you may know, the Holden Commodore didn’t actually start its life on Australian shores. Some 60 years ago, Opel were building a car called the ‘Rekord’. In 1967 a slightly upspec-ed Rekord was rebranded as the Opel Commodore and marketed as a faster and better looking alternative to the dating Rekord. While the naming process isn’t as interesting or long winded as the Falcon, the Commodore was named after the naval officer rank.

After 10 years of Commodore production the name was brought to Australia and utilised under the Holden banner. The original model, the VB Commodore shared its likeness with both the Opel Commodore C and the Rekord Series E. Right through until 2007 the Holden Commodore drew on a design used by the Opel Omega and Opel Senator before being replaced by the first truly Australian designed Commodore – the VE. So while in 2018 the Commodore will be replace by an Opel, remember it’s not the first time that Australia has been graced with a European designed Holden.

What other car makes and models should we look at the origins of? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Five Memorable Summernats Grand Champions

Summer is fast approaching and for many that means one thing; Summernats. Summernats plays host each year to Australia’s best show cars, street cars, burnout cars and more in a festival of cars, music and burnt rubber. Each year the elite entrants compete in a series of events to establish who is the year’s Grand Champion, with criteria stretched from the typical ‘car show’ presentation points to include a number of driving tests. A scroll through the list of previous Grand Champions is like a walk through one of the most impressive car museums you’ve ever seen, and in this article we’ll take a quick look back at some of our favourites.

Rob Beauchamp’s VL Commodore – Top Street Machine Overall at Summernats 1, 2 & 3

Rob’s Jaw dropping VL Commodore will be remembered as not only one of the meanest VL’s in the land, but as also a car that pushed the limits of the term ‘street machine’. Fitted with a Kinsler-injected 302 Chev at the time, the VL was a full blown drag car, capable of mid 10’s and barely suited to use on the street. It was the immaculate attention to details that won fans and judges alike to win the then named Top Street Machine overall at Summernats 1, 2 & 3.

Howard Astill’s Rock Solid 3 – Grand Champion at Summernats 4 & 5

Howard Astill’s XA Falcon went through a number of guises throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s before it was reborn as the gobsmacking Rock Solid 3. Featuring an ever-so-cool neon paintjob, Rock Solid 3 typified what the punters love about show cars – it was fast, loud and eye catching. The XA would dominate Summernats 4 & 5 before being parked to allow Astill to move on to the next of his many incredible builds. In recognition of his contribution to the show car scene, Astill was honoured as a Rare Spares Legend in 2009 – check out our blog from 2015 with Howard here.

Joe Lore’s BLOWJO XY Falcon – Grand Champion at Summernats 23

Everybody loves an XY, and you’ll struggle to find any better in the land than Joe Lore’s purple beast. Featuring a 351 Cleveland (stroked to 383cu) and a humungous blower, BLOWJO is an incredibly striking vehicle that ran away with victory at Summernats 23 in 2010. If you haven’t had the chance to see this XY up close yet, keep an eye out for the incredibly detailed airbrush work on the interior and underbody, this car is a true work of art.

Peter Fitzpatrick’s ’59 FC Holden – Grand Champion at Summernats 2

A six time Grand Champion winner, Peter Fitzpatrick is a name that stands without peer in the Summernats history books. At Summernats 24 Peter Fitzpatrick arrived with his ’59 FC Holden and swept all before him, taking out not only the coveted Grand Champion award, but also winning the People’s Champ and Top Judged awards, the first to do so in the history of Summernats. Peter Fitzpatrick is also a Rare Spares Legend, recognised in 2012 for his legendary contribution to the street machine community.

Mark ‘Happy’ Williams’ HQ One Tonner – Grand Champion at Summernats 30

The most recent Summernats Grand Champion winner, fan favourite Mark ‘Happy’ Williams and his HQ One Tonner was a popular winner with the huge Summernats 30 crowd. The Supercharged One tonner is a sight to behold and sounds incredible, becoming the first Western Australian built car to take out the Grand Champion sword at the 2017 event. An emotional victory for Williams, who lost his father only days before the event, in his memory the car’s license plates were changed from ‘2HAPPY’ to ‘4MYDAD’.

Which is your favourite Summernats Grand Champion? We would love to hear which car and why, so 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 Camaro is coming to Australia!

With Holden’s manufacturing in Australia now wrapped up, our attention turns to HSV and what they have on the horizon now that the RWD V8 Commodore has gone the way of the Dodo bird. Well, although not yet 100% confirmed, the word doing the rounds in the automotive industry is that HSV will be importing and converting both the Chevrolet Camaro SS and Silverado to right hand drive for the Australian public. While the idea of a right hand drive Silverado somewhat excites us, it’s the 339kw Camaro SS that really gives us hope of an exciting future for HSV fans.

In 2016, the long awaited arrival of the Ford Mustang came to fruition and left in its wake year-long waiting lists and a complete obliteration of all expected sales figures. For the first time in decades Holden and in turn HSV are facing the short term prospect of a car lineup without a V8 and quite frankly are being left in the dust by Ford and it’s pony car. With the above factors considered, GM execs and the Walkinshaw group have reportedly come to an agreement to import the Camaro and convert it to suit the Australian market in HSV’s Clayton factory.

So, GM will bring the Camaro and take a decent chunk out of the Australian performance car sales market now dominated by the Mustang, right? Well not quite, while the cost of importing the car won’t be astronomical, unfortunately once you throw in the cost of the right hand drive conversion it’s expected the final sale price will be around the $90,000AUD mark, some $30,000 north of the Mustang GT. So, why bother you may be asking? Well it’s not all that straight forward; the Camaro will be marketed as a more exclusive alternative to the Mustang (only 1,000 per year will be built) while offering some serious power in the name of Chev’s 339kw LT1 V8 (33kw more than the GT).

So who will be purchasing the Camaro? As much as the Ford v Holden rivalry has died down over recent years, there are still a huge number of people who would rather drive a 1997 Holden Barina than anything with a Ford badge… even if it is a Mustang. So now these people have an option, and quite a good looking, fast one at that.

Word in the industry suggests the Camaro could be gracing showroom floors as early as 2018 and don’t stress, it will have Chevy badges gracing the grille, not Holden. How do you feel about the Camaro hitting Australian roads? Will you be trading in your Commodore for the aggressive coupe? Head over to the Rare Spare Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.