Posts Tagged ‘Bathurst’

Kevin Bartlett from Spencer Martin and Greg Cusack on the plunge down the mountain, Bathurst March 1967…

David Atkinson’s depiction of Kevin Bartlett’s dice and achievement of the first over 100 mph lap of Mount Panorama shows the Brabham BT11A Climaxes of  KB and Spencer from Greg’s Brabham BT23A Repco V8.

Bartlett first raced a Morris Minor at Bathurst in the late fifties, he knew the place as well as anyone- the sense of achievement was great. ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ is the title John Medley gave his wonderful ‘biography of Bathurst’ and goes a long way to making clear the significance of this wonderful place and it’s importance in the continuing pantheon of Australian motor racing.

Only Lobethal and Longford match it for its majesty and Warwick Farm, Phillip Island and Albert Park it’s importance.

During a couple of torrid dices in a preliminary race and in the NSW Road Racing Championship round Bartlett and Martin both broke the lap record and 100mph mark repeatedly but Kevin was the first to do so.

Frank Gardner casts a paternal eye over his younger teammate and his old BT11A in the Longford paddock in 1968. It’s not wet so it’s not raceday! (oldracephotos)

In many ways I see Kevin and Spencer as the Australian ‘Bobsy Twins’ of the time…

Both Sydney boys, both born in 1940, both motor mechanics by profession, both drove for one of the best teams of the day in Alec Mildren Racing and Bob Jane Racing- both raced Brabham BT11A’s powered by 2.5 litre Coventry Climax four cylinder ‘thumpers’ and both were sublime practitioners of the single-seater driving art. Driver’s-Drivers if you will.

Spencer had greater experience of these powerful single-seaters than Kevin but the Curl-Curl Kid was learning fast, a classicist with god-given intuitive feel and car control that thrilled the crowds and record books for decades.

Oopsie. Spencer post WF Tasman contretemps with The Causeway, 1967- late in the race won by Jackie Stewart’s BRM P261 from Jim Clark’s Lotus 33 Climax (B Wells)

Bartlett from Martin during the WF 100 race, Tasman Series 1967. KB was 6th, Spencer’s shown in the shot above. Both cars Brabham BT11A Climax (B Wells)

Bartlett declared his intent in practice with an over 100 mph lap of  2:18.6 with KB setting a time of 2:17.7 in a 6 Lapper for Racing and Sports Cars in a fierce battle with Spencer- in the process Martin matched KB’s 2:18.4 he had set on lap 3, only for Bartlett to do a 2:17.7 late in the race.

In an amazing weekend for Bartlett he contested four races winning three- two single-seater events in the Brabham and a touring car race in Alec Mildren’s Alfa Romeo GTA- he was second to Bob Jane ‘s Mustang in the other race. But the thriller of the four was the feature race.

Peter Wherrett, then racer and later immensely gifted automotive TV broadcaster covered the meeting for Max Stahl’s monthly Australian motor racing bible ‘Racing Car News’, his account brings the thrilling weekends racing to life.

‘The feature event in the nine race program was the 1967 NSW Championship for Racing Cars…it was a thriller but disappointing as well…Geoghegan and Harvey were installing new engines and were indisposed…Then right there on the grid…poor Greg Cusack and his team pushed and shoved the Brabham all over the place, but the big Repco V8 refused to start’.

‘Bartlett had pole after his fabulous practice time, but there was determination written clearly all over Spencer Martin’s face. When the flag dropped they raced neck and neck for Hell Corner. Since Bartlett had the inside running he also had the advantage and was first out but accelerating away up Mountain Straight Martin again drew alongside. Up and over the mountain they raced with Bartlett leading Martin by the depth of his tread.’

‘Down Conrod and into the braking area it was still Bartlett, now by a car’s length , as they crossed the line after a standing lap of 2:21.3, already 4.4 seconds inside the lap record. Martin again caught up going up the hill but once more it was Bartlett who led down Conrod.’

‘Those who saw them said none have ever gone down the Esses like this pair. Bartlett, particularly was breathtaking!’

‘It seemed he simply twitched the car from one corner to the next, setting the booming Brabham up in the middle of one corner so that it was as near as possible to be spot on line for the one following, and then upsetting the whole thing in the middle of the corner so that he would be right for the next one and so on.’

‘Already way back in the field Max Stewart led the 1500’s…F2 Rennmax…Phil West 1100 Brabham running in close company with Alton Boddenberg in the Lotus 32’.

Brian Caldersmith’s wonderful painting of the battle

‘But it was the Bartlett-Martin duel which was drawing the attention of the masses. Bartlett’s second lap put him 30 yards in front and this was not surprising when it was announced that the lap record was now  2:17.4. Too much!’.

‘Spencer was right in there though, and on the third he picked up a bit. Into the fourth they went and again Spencer seemed to catch Kevin going up the hill and Kevin seemed to gain it all back again on the straight.

On the fifth of thirteen, people began to doubt they could both withstand the pace. Again Bartlett was in the 17’s but this time Martin joined him with a personal best of 2:17.8 and then…it was just too good to last.

We crazy money-paying enthusiasts are just not deserving of such joy. Going up to XL Bend for the sixth time Spencer slowed and with oil pressure failing withdrew the ailing Brabham. Bartlett slowed (?) to the low 20’s and could not be beaten. Stewart took second place, mad with glee, and Phil West gained a creditable third from Boddenberg, Barry Lake and Peter Cohen, who was in and out of the pits and only completed three laps’.

‘All but one of Bartlett’s laps were under the old lap record, and six of them were under the magic 100 mph lap (2:19.5)’.

Warwick Farm 100 1968, The Causeway, KB Brabham BT11A Climax DNF halfshaft in the race won by Jim Clark’s Lotus 49 Ford (oldracephotos)

Its interesting to look at the speeds recorded through the flying 1/8th of a mile that Easter long weekend. Cusack’s Repco V8 powered Brabham was the quickest open-wheeler at 162.45 mph, a time he recorded in practice with Bartlett and Martin doing identical times in their identical cars during the NSW Championship race- 159.57 mph. The quickest car over the weekend in a straight line was Bob Jane aboard his 4.4 litre Repco RB620 V8 engined Elfin 400 sporty, with 163.63 mph.

‘Ron Hodgson, who probably thought he was on a good thing with his offer, had to part with 100 bottles of bubbly for the first 100 mph lap, and these were added to Kevin’s 25 bottles scored on Sunday for fastest practice lap’ Wherrett wrote.

Martin inside Bartlett at Murray’s Corner

Bartlett’s recollections are recorded in Alec Mildren’s biography-

‘…We were at it hammer and tongs. We were both pretty gung-ho. I was probably a bit more aggressive…Alec was really on the ball…I wouldn’t have attempted what I did otherwise. I came in after first practice and he said “Where do you reckon you can get the laptime” He knew the circuit, look, he knew it…”What if you short shift here, leave it that gear there, what revs are you using? He was at me’.

‘I was the train (engine) and Spencer was the guards van. He broke the 100 mph mark, too don’t forget. Always remember that. But because I was leading and crossed the line first, I got the credit. And when it came to the run of the race. I out braked him by outbraving him- it was one of those do or die things. I said to Alec later “Spencer and I got pretty close, Alec”. “We nearly lost the lot”. He said “Yeah, but you outbraved him didn’t you?” That was the way he talked’.

Later ‘When  Alec asked me what I was going to do with the champers, I said I don’t want it, you have it, and he said “Good, I’m going to throw a party”. Anyone and everyone in motor racing was invited to the splash-out at the Mildren Newport (Sydney North Shore ocean beach suburb) residence…Alec was never a boozer- he was an orange juice man. But I’m sure he had a champers or two that night’ Bartlett recalled.

Bartlett amongst the Repcos in 1967: Leo G Lotus 39, KB Brabham BT11A and John Harvey Brabham BT14, ‘Angus & Coote Trophy’ Oran Park (Rod MacKenzie)

Whilst Bartlett was the hero of the day at Bathurst, Martin again won the 1967 Gold Star, as he did in 1966 with two wins (Surfers Paradise, Mallala) to Cusack and Bartlett’s one apiece (Symmons Plains and Lakeside).

The two BT11A’s would have been the most highly developed cars of their type in the world with Martin and Bartlett both having, just, the legs of the Repco V8 engined cars of Cusack, Leo Geoghegan and John Harvey- Brabham BT23A, Lotus 39 and Brabham BT14 respectively. Spencer’s Bob Jane Brabham was more reliable than KB’s however, Spencer took the title with a points haul of 30 from Cusack 23, and Bartlett 16.

Formative KB single-seater years, 17 December 1961 Warwick Farm in the Lynx BMC FJ. Race won by Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 20 (J Ellacott)

Another Big Bathurst Moment…

Bartlett and John Goss in the Bell cap (Greg Bartlett is the kiddo with his back to us) on the Bathurst 1000 victory dais in 1974.

What a sweet win for them both- especially KB who had a bad accident at Pukekohe at the seasons outset during the Tasman Series, he became a ‘Lola Limper’, breaking a leg when his T330 Chev came to grief, a lengthy recovery period followed.

That’s a walking stick in the young veteran’s left hand, quite a few of his fans shed a tear watching his gritty performance that day and this presentation on the telly, me included.

(autopics)

Etcetera: Spencer Martin HDT Holden Monaro GTS 350 alongside Allan Moffat’s works Ford Falcon GTHO Phase 1, warm up lap, Sandown 3 H0ur, September 1969…

There are plenty of Fords behind- Moffat/John French won from Tom Roddy/Murray Carter and Fred Gibson/Bo Seton all in HO’s.

Spencer had been retired for a year or so when he took a call from new Holden Dealer Team team manager Harry Firth to share a Monaro with KB during the HDT’s first event, the 1969 Sandown Datsun 3 Hour.

Ex-Ford racer/engineer/team manager, now Holden new boy Harry Firth was prevailed upon to hire a couple of single-seater drivers to race his new toy, Firth more of a believer in taxi drivers racing taxis, so to speak.

In a story for another time Martin had a massive brake failure at about the 45 minute mark of the endurance classic at the end of Sandown’s main straight, he skilfully backed the car into the Shell Corner armco minimising the damage to his good self but the car caught fire. The accident is variously attributed to boiled fluid, ‘brake booster system’ or standard brake pads being mistakenly fitted to the car prior to the race.

The Monaro was repaired after the race and sold by tender, it still exists. Spencer retired from a meeting he only entered after agreement with his new wife that a race in a touring car was relatively safe! His comeback to racing in the historic scene was a couple of decades hence.

In 1969 Bartlett had many successes in front of him including the second of his two Gold Stars aboard the Mildren Alfa/Waggott, in Asia and the US with much Formula 5000 and plenty of touring car wins including a Bathurst crown…

Slightly singed but not fatally damaged Monaro in the slip road on the outside of the Sandown track on pit straight, scene of Spencer’s high speed handbrake turn into the fence. KB did not get a drive during the race (unattributed)

Photo & Other Credits…

Racing Car News May 1967, Rod MacKenzie, autopics.com.au, Brian Caldersmith, oldracephotos.com.au, Bruce Wells, John Ellacott, Bob Jane Collection, ‘Driven To Succeed: The Alec Mildren Story’ Barry Green, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

Tailpiece: Bartlett at the wheel of the McLeod Ford / John Goss Ford Falcon GT during the Bathurst 1000 in 1973- they won in the same car in 1974 but I like the look of the big yella beastie the year before…

Finito…

 

 

Colin Bond in the Holden Dealer Team’s ‘new’ LC Holden Torana GTR XU1 V8 during the Easter Bathurst meeting in 1972…

New in the sense that this ‘cleverly disguised’, pensioned off 1970/71 Series Production V8 re-engined car fitted with rear wing, wide wheels was a ‘sleeper’- the prototype of the General’s (General Motors Holden) proposed ‘308 V8’ powered 160 mph 1972 Series Production Bathurst contender, make that winner.

The machine also featured widened 6X13 inch steel wheels and a full-width front spoiler incorporating brake ducts intended for the road-going variant.

During the weekend the V8 bullet was demonstrably quicker than the normal LJ 202 cid Series Production XU1’s winning the 5 lap Touring & Sports Closed Scratch Race from Ron Gillard’s XU1 and Graham Ryan’s Charger.

Bondy was a bit lucky as Bob Jane’s ‘full blown’ Torana V8 4.4 Repco ‘620’ Sports Sedan blasted away to an early lead only to slow, pit and rejoin the race back in 11th. But a win is a win, the only one for the car. Bond did a best lap of 2:39.6 to win, in comparison, he did a 2:43.9 in his Series Production LJXU1 to win the ‘Better Brakes’ Series Production Touring Car 17 lapper earlier in the day.

Its hard for me to picture my parents as ‘rampant rooters’, but they are of that generation who, free from the pressures of the war years hit the bedroom and created us ‘Baby Boomers’- that statistically big post-war rump of the populace who are still grimly hanging onto power.

Critically, we are a huge mob worldwide who drove demand for all sorts of consumer products throughout the sixties and seventies buoyed by a strong global economy and the expansion of consumer credit. The latter in essence allowed us to live beyond our means doing so as the houses we bought gained capital values of almost obscene levels (in Australia) thereby taking care of our debt/equity ratios. None of us are complaining mind you, even if our kids are!

In the US the car manufacturers noticed we youngsters, particularly our  burgeoning wallets and therefore the potential to flog us stuff. They delved into their parts bins and packaged existing hardware- engines, gearboxes and chassis underpinnings into very attractive packages. Ford’s Mustang and Chev’s Camaro being ‘Pony Car’ cases in point.

By 1966/7 those components were finding their way to their Australian subsidiaries and were packaged into yummy stuff such as the 289 cid V8 powered 1967 XR Ford Falcon GT and 1968 HK Holden Monaro GTS327. They were mighty fine racing cars compared with the Morris Cooper S and Ford Cortina GT/GT500 which had been the top guns at Bathurst till then.

The inexorable rise in Australian touring car racing gathered apace in the sixties and had morphed into three classes. ‘Series Production’ were essentially showroom stock cars, the class to which the Bathurst 500 was run. ‘Improved Production’, as the name suggests allows greater modification- was the class to which the Australian Touring Car Championship was contested. The category allowing the wildest modifications was ‘Sports Racing Closed/Sports Sedans’.

Inevitably motor racing played it’s usual part in the corporate brand building of the manufacturers and ‘moving metal’ of these new machines or rather the more modestly specified brothers of the race intended cars. The ‘win on Sunday, promote the shit out of it on Monday, flog on Tuesday’ adage has been a good, fairly accurate one down the decades.

For enthusiasts the cars modified for intended race use were what we sought and could buy if one had the readies as sufficient numbers had to be built and sold for road use to allow ‘Group E’ Series Production homologation for racing eligibility.

Holden initially raced V8 engined Monaro’s very successfully in Series Production winning a Bathurst 500 or two, 1968 and 1969 to be precise. Mount Panorama pickings were decidedly slimmer once the marketing focus changed to the six-cylinder Holden Torana in 1970.

There was nothing to stop privateer teams running the ‘Top Gun’ Holden Monaro GTS 350, some did, but the ‘factory’ Holden Dealer Team had to run the cars Holden’s marketing needs demanded. There was not the budget/resources to, say, develop, prepare and race Monaro’s on tarmac and Torana’s on dirt, that choice would have been the optimal one.

Without going into all of the detail for international readers, Ford and Chrysler competed locally with factory teams. General Motors Holden, the local GM subsidiary was a bit more ‘prim and proper’ over observance of the supposed American Automobile Association ‘no motor racing ban’, did so via the back-door ‘Holden Dealer Team’, a small outfit operated by ‘The Fox’, Harry Firth, former racer, mechanic, engineer and Bathurst 500 winner out of premises in Queens Avenue, Auburn, a twee inner-eastern Melbourne suburb.

Mason/Mason Mazda R100 and Cooke/Mason Monaro GTS350 Bathurst 1969. Digby Cooke qualified the Monaro 2nd, DNF with Trevor and Neil Mason 21st in the race won by the Colin Bond/Tony Roberts HDT GTS350 (S Jek)

Cooke/Bowden Monaro 350GTS Bathurst 1970 Q2 and DNF gearbox, Bathurst below (S Jek)

In creating the first ‘race variant’ of the Torana- the 1970 LC , ohv, 186 cid six-cylinder engined GTR XU1 Harry Firth and his small team including long time mechanic, Ian Tate, driver Peter Brock and GMH created the first in a series of the best all round competition ‘taxis’ in Australia. The LC and later 202 cid LJ 1971-73 XU1’s were supreme road cars (the LC ‘praps not so much, it was way too choppy in spring/shock rates to take your babe to the drive-in) and winners in rallies, rallycross and on the circuits.

The problem was, whilst there was an Australian Manufacturers Championship, run over rounds at Sandown, Bathurst, Surfers Paradise, Adelaide, Phillip Island (depending upon the year) the only race that mattered to the punters watching the Teev at home was the Bathurst 500- and Ford had a mortgage on that classic with their mighty, four door, 351 cid V8 engined Falcon GTHO’s.

Colin Bond’s HDT Torana LC GTR XU1 in the Bathurst pitlane 1971, 4th in the race won by Moffat’s works Falcon GTHO Phase 3 (autopics)

Whilst the Torana’s were continually developed they simply lacked the mumbo to win at the Mountain. The solution was simple, build a V8 variant of the XU1. The prototype of the car is the beastie Bondie is wheeling around Bathurst in the opening photo, it was put together in late 1971 using a cast-off HDT Series Prod LC XU1 raced by the team in 1970/71.

Fitted with a 5 litre Holden ‘308’ V8, M21 4 speed gearbox, suspension tweaks and away they went, the car was driven by Brock, Bond and Larry Perkins.

Repco Holden F5000 V8. Phil Irving designed, with assistance from Brian Heard, engine produced circa 470-520 bhp throughout its life (Repco)

Lets not forget that the Holden 308 V8 parts competition bin was deep. Repco had built and been racing the F5000 variant of the engine for about two years by the time the HDT boys started playing with the 308, inclusive of two Australian Grand Prix wins in cars driven by Frank Matich- 1970 in a McLaren M10B and 1971 in his self-built Matich A50

Bond, Hell Corner, Bathurst Easter 1972, XU1 V8

The test-bed car was registered for road use and carried the Victorian number-plate KSN-116 and was first raced by Bond as shown here at Bathurst.

Brock then raced the car at Adelaide International with Larry Perkins given the task of driving it across on the Great Western Highway and also racing in one of the support events. Firth was starting to get an idea of how their Bathurst contender would fare later in the year.

Perkins in Gary Campbell’s Elfin 600B/E Ford during the 1972 Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy at Surfers Paradise, first F2 home (G Ruckert)

Larry drove and tested for the HDT in 1972, mainly competing in Rallycross, his primary race program that season was driving Garry Campbell’s Elfin 600 B/E Ford ANF2 car to the national Australian Formula 2 title. He was off to Snetterton for the Formula Ford Festival with Garrie Cooper’s first Elfin 620FF late in the year, he won the Australian FF ‘Driver to Europe Series’ in 1971 but took his prize a year later knowing he would be better prepared, the rest is history.

Larrikins in the HDT Rallycross LC XU1 supercharged ‘Beast’ at Catalina Park in Sydney’s Blue Mountains in 1972. What a career!- FV to F1, Rallycross to Le Mans, he did, raced, built and won in everything (autopics)

Brock raced the LC V8 car at Calder on 14 May in the ‘Marlboro Trophy Series’ minus spoilers but with the widened steel wheels shown in the Bathurst shots earlier in this article, in a combined sports Sedan and improved tourer race running as a support event for the ‘Repco Birthday Series’ event for F5000 cars.

He raced mid-field amongst much faster sports sedans including Norm Beechey’s Monaro, Bob Jane’s Camaro, Alan Hamilton’s 911S and John Harvey’s Torana Repco V8 and barely rated a mention in the race reports.

That the car was ‘slipping under the radar’ was perfect from the HDT’s perspective.

Ford Falcon XA GTHO Phase 4’s come together at FoMoCo’s Oz ‘Skunkworks’ at Lot 6 Mahoneys Road, Broadmeadows on Melbourne’s north-western fringe.  Note the 36 gallon tank beside the standard item. 4 cars built (unattributed)

Whilst Holden were beavering away on their 1972 Bathurst contender, out in Mahoneys Road, Broadmeadows on the other side of Melbourne Ford were working on the new XA Ford Falcon GTHO Phase 4 whilst in Tonsley Park, Adelaide Chrysler were working on a V8 engined RT Charger, the E55.

For enthusiasts and racers these were mouth watering machines with enormous performance potential and engineering integrity.

GMH were proceeding to develop the production version of Harry’s V8 prototype ordering three GTR (not XU1) V8’s, which were sent down the Elizabeth, South Australia plant production line on 13 April 1972 for use by the Experimental Engineering team at GM’s Port Melbourne plant in inner Melbourne.

And then along came the media hysteria ‘Supercar Scare’ which was a frenzy of journalists and politicians whipping themselves into a lather over ’18 up year olds driving around the streets of our cities at 160 mph’.

This topic has been well ventilated down the decades amongst enthusiasts in Australia, their is little point adding to it here. Not that there is any doubt of the performance capability of any of these cars. Arguably a drum braked, cross-ply tyre shod, terminal understeering six-cylinder, ‘poverty pack’ Holden Belmont was a more lethal weapon than a well engineered ‘Supercar’ which was fit for purpose. A Belmont wasn’t fit for anything other than as an inner city cab operated at less than 35 mph.

So, the cars were all ‘pulled’ (or considerably softened as a luxury cruiser in Chrysler’s case) by manufacturers keen to maintain the high tariff walls the pollies provided which enabled them to produce sub-standard crap, flog it to the punters and make a poultice.

‘Let’s not piss the pollies off’ was the main aim of GMH, Ford and Chrysler management, the price of not building a few hundred high-performance machines was a cheap one to pay to keep the self serving State Governments and Canberra dickheads at bay.

(carthrottle.com)

It’s a shame really as the spec of the XU1 V8 would have been sweet- slinky, small (floppy in race terms) body, 308cid 300 bhp’ish V8, M21 4 speed box, Detroit locker diff, 6×13 inch Globe Sprintmaster wheels, long-range fuel tanks and aerodynamic aids. The car would have been a great 160 plus mph package with the slightly heavier V8 sitting back a bit in the chassis relative to the venerable Holden ‘Red’ six.

Torana racer/engineer Lee Nicholle had this to say about the prospects/charcteristics of XU1 V8’s on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’.

‘They do flex-horrid little car but they were also a great race car! I suspect though that Harry, Brock and Larry probably would have done the things that help- take all the rubber from between the front crossmember and chassis rails, that stiffens up the front no end plus of course the roll cage helps too, even the basic alloy ones in vogue then. Plus maybe some basic seam welding, though the car was road registered’.

‘That car (the HDT prototype) as an experiment seemed to work ok. I have seen no end of 308 LJ’s over the decades and they are NOT an evil monster, whatever the newspapers of the day insinuated. They are nicer to drive than a standard XU1 as the engine (V8) is far smoother than the lumpy, grumpy 6’.

‘With the right bits it (the V8) it is nearly a bolt in. There were over 30 built by a nearby country Holden Dealer here in South Australia as well as a few others by dealers interstate. They would not have been a great deal faster than a 6 cylinder XU1, unless the engine was worked’. (note the Repco parts bin comment earlier in the article)

Lee continued ‘My XU1 Chev Sports Sedan highlighted that. A 300bhp Phil Irving head Holden 6 was as quick as my then 380bhp Chev, though my engine bill was a LOT less which was the reason originally (to change from the Holden 6 to Chevy V8). Later with over 500bhp I was considerably faster than the sixes of course’.

With their V8 plans scuttled the HDT gave the specifications of the LJ six a tickle, by use of a wild ‘HX’ camshaft and with engines balanced and blueprinted they gave circa 212bhp. Globemaster Sprint alloy wheels were used and some revisions to the suspension- they evolved a good package which gave Peter Brock his first Bathurst win- the last solo win as it happens in 1972. In truth the win was as much down to Brock as the car.

The later V8 L34 and A9X Torana’s incorporating lots of Repco goodies would of course come soon but the LJ V8 is a wonderful mighta-been with KSN-116 proof positive of just what a weapon the XU1 V8 was…

Brock on his way to LJ XU1 victory, Fiat 850 Coupe behind, Bathurst 500 1972 (unattributed)

What  Happened to the Cars…

Depending upon your source there are some differences, but here we go all the same, he says with trepidation, ‘taxi’ enthusiasts are far more rabid then we open-wheeler nutbags.

1.HDT’s LC GTR-XU1 V8 Prototype

The ex 1970/71 HDT team car, KSN-116 was converted back into a 6-cylinder XU1, sold and has never been seen again, amazing given its significance

2.The three GTR V8’s were built in GM’s Elizabeth factory on 13 April 1972…

They were painted three different colours, lets identify them in that manner

Its said that Holden Experimental Engineers- Ed Taylor’s crew, fitted 308 V8’s with full spec ‘XW7′ parts with Harry Firth given the Pink and White cars to finish off, and, when completed, then handed them back to GM

.’Sebring Orange’ LGN-307

Registered by GMH on 6 September 1972 with a V8. Referred to as the ‘Lockwood Special’ due to the bonnet pin locks so fitted! Brock drove it as a loan car but the 308 V8 had been replaced with the 202 LJ 6

GM’s Administrator of Motorsport and PR also used the car as his company vehicle for a while before it was finally retired to Holden’s Engineering section.

Tendered for sale by GM in February 1975. Stolen in Melbourne’s Bundoora, Victoria in 1985 and never recovered.

.’Strike Me Pink’ LDH-255

Initially registered by GMH on 28 April 1972 with a 6 cylinder engine, a V8 was fitted later by Experimental Engineering

Tested by Brock at Calder where it was a ‘bit of a pig’ and then taken back to Queens Avenue, Auburn for attention to the suspension- spring rates, shocks and suspension bushes. When tested again at Calder by Brock on 31 May 1972, running a 2.78:1 diff and Detroit Locker it was a second a lap quicker than a normal XU1 driven by Colin Bond at the same test.

Brock recalled the car gave 271 bhp on Jack Hunnam’s dyno

.’White’

Intrigued to know the story

Photo Credits…

Dick Simpson, autopics.com, plannerpower, Sharaz Jek, Graham Ruckert

References…

Various online Holden forums, The Nostalgia Forum comments by Lee Nicholle, HDT Club of Victoria magazine, shannons.com, strikemepink on shannons.com, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

Afterthought: Bruce Hodgson in the only 1972 Australian Supercar that ‘got away’…

(plannerpower)

Bruce Hodgson with Fred Gocentas aboard their Ford Falcon GTHO Phase 4 during the Southern Cross Rally, Mount Faulk Road outside Port Macquarie in October 1973.

For all the plans by Chrysler, GMH and Ford for the Supercars of ’72 only one ever competed albeit as a rally car, hardly the function for which Howard Marsden and the boys at FoMoCo intended!

Of Ford’s four Phase 4’s constructed, the least built up racer, the spare was given to John Goss, it was sold via McLeod Ford, assembled for road use.

Hodgson and Gocentas, Phase 4, rally and date unknown (unattributed)

The first and most developed of the racers was sold to a chap in Toowoomba and is now in the Bowden Collection.

The second racer was given to Hodgson, a Ford works Escort rally exponent who rallied it for several years before the machine was involved in a head on accident with a Holden Commodore, the wreck exists.

The production model was sold, via a car yard to an astute Sydney dentist in 1978 who is believed to still own it.

Tailpiece: ‘The Beast’- HDT Sports Sedan, the ultimate V8 LJ Torana XU1, Colin Bond, Warwick Farm, May 1973…

This race meeting must have been one of the last open ones at Warwick Farm. Car built quickly by HDT with an old shell, the essential element of which was a 480bhp Lucas injected Repco Holden F5000 V8. Mawer alloy wheels clear, a crowd pleaser, the car was too basic in spec by then to be a winner even in the hands of Brock and Bond

Finito…

(unattributed)

Craig Lowndes dropping into Mount Panorama’s Skyline/Esses, McLaren MP4/23 Mercedes V8, 22 March 2011…

Australian Formula Ford has been a factory for the creation of V8 Supercar Drivers for a couple of decades now. Every now and again one escapes to international racing success, Mark Webber, Will Power and Daniel Ricciardo spring to mind. I’ve not forgotten Larry Perkins I’m just referring to more recent times. But in the main V8 Supercars and to a lesser extent Porsche Cup racing has given local aces a place to ply their trade as well paid professionals.

The popularity and commercial success of Touring Car Racing in Australia relative to Single Seaters began circa 1960 and has continued unabated since. Even very popular single seater formulae such as the 2.5 Tasman and F5000 classes did not put a dent in the rise and rise of ‘Taxis’. Why? Its a topic for a whole series of articles but perhaps fundamentally the cars are easier for the average punter to understand and relate to, are spectacular to watch and have had a succession of ‘characters’ racing them. The absolute professionalism in the way V8 Supercars has been managed for so long now has widened the gulf further.

Lowndes, Van Dieman RF93 Formula Ford, Oran Park August 1993. Craig won 5 of the 8 ’93 rounds including OP (autopics)

Sponsors re-prioritised their spend over time away from the purer form of the sport to tourers. Drivers chase the dollars of course. So Taxis grew and grew. Its not that simple but its not much more complex either.

Back to the point of the article which is to discuss young talent and progression into the professional ranks.

It wasn’t always the case though, a career path into tourers. Often guys won the AFFC right into the nineties and none were picked up by professional touring car teams- the class was a bit of a closed shop with the young thrusters not especially welcome. Tomas Mezera is perhaps an exception but he ended up at HRT after he came back from his sojurn in Europe, so too did Russell Ingall make the transition after he returned from Europe.

Cameron McConville, the 1992 AFFC champ looked as though he may set a trend when Dick Johnson recruited him to race the second DJR machine at Bathurst in 1993 but then he boofed a fence and that was it for him, so it seemed. A 1996 win in the Australian GTP Championship in a Porsche 993 RS CS saw him brought back in from the cold- he beat Jim Richards in the Warwick Fabrics car that year, I remember being hugely impressed by his speed and professionalism.

None of yer poofhouse single seater stuff in here matey! Peter Brock was a great mentor to Lowndes early on , this shot of an HRT Commodore circa 1996. Brocky had an all too brief sojurn into ANF2 circa 1973 with a Birrana 272 Ford (unattributed)

Lowndes was the one who really paved the way for the guys who followed- most of the V8 Supercar champs have been Karting and Formula Ford graduates since Craig showed the way.

Out of Karts of course, initially he raced an old RF85 Van Diemen Formula Ford in 1991 and then won the AFFC title aboard an RF93 in 1993. Longtime openwheeler racer and enthusiast (and 1975 Bathurst 1000 winner with Peter Brock) Brian Sampson threw him a lifeline by giving him some drives in his Cheetah Mk9 Holden Formula Holden in 1994. It wasn’t the latest bit of kit by any stretch, in fact it was and IS the very first FH built. But Craig made the thing sing, I recall some very good drives in the car against Greg Murphy in a much more recent Reynard.

Lowndes, a motor mechanic by trade, didn’t have much money but he had ability, a likable and engaging personality and ability to communicate and some contacts via his Dad, Frank Lowndes who had been in and around motor racing forever as a car/engine builder and scrutineer.

Holden Racing Team tested him and he was immediately quick, consistent, and easy on the equipment getting a drive in the 1994 Sandown 500. Soon he was team-leader and won the V8 Supercar title in 1996. He hadn’t lost the fire in the belly for open-wheeler success, and even though he had the local scene at his feet he negotiated a year in the European F3000 Championship via Tom Walkinshaw who by then owned HRT.

Lowndes, Lola T96/50 Zytec Judd F3000, Silverstone 1997 (LAT)

Lowndes had a shocker of a year being comprehensively blown off by Juan Pablo Montoya, his teammate at RSM Marko aboard the mandated Lola T96/50 Zytec. To be fair, he was coming back into single-seaters after an absence of some years into a group of the best F1 aspirants in the world straight out of F3 or doing a second or third year in F3000. Lowndes did not get a fair crack of the whip in the team with minimal testing, Marko ran Lowndes to settle a debt owed to Walkinshaw- and focussed, not unnaturally on the fellow who was winning races- Montoya.

What Lowndes needed was another season, but back to V8 Supercars he came and a couple of other titles, six Bathurst 1000’s and all the rest. Of course he is still racing at the top level too. It would have been interesting to see how far he could have progressed with another season in Europe.

(B Moxon)

Jenson Button and Craig Lowndes, car a 2008 spec (champion that year in Lewis Hamilton’s hands) McLaren MP23/4 Mercedes 2.4 V8

Lowndes nipping a brake into Hell Corner (unattributed)

The opportunity to get to drive a contemporary F1 car was too good to be true and came about due to Vodaphones sponsorship of both McLaren and Triple Eight Racing who ran VE Holden Commodores that year. The day, just before the AGP at Albert Park involved closure of the Bathurst public roads- the circuit is just that, roads for most of the year with Lowndes and Jenson Button swapping seats between their respective F1 and V8 Supercar racers.

(unnatributed)

For misty eyed open-wheeler fans it was also an amazing ‘if only’, for Bathurst is indeed, in the words of Australian motor-racing historian John Medley ‘The Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ and is where the Australian Grand Prix should be held. What a spectacle that would be! For that to occur the circuit would be destroyed to meet F1’s safety requirements, so of course it will never happen.

But for one day it was a reminder of what could be for enthusiasts and what might have been for Craig Lowndes had the racing cards been dealt or fallen a different way…

Comparo- F1 McLaren MP4/23 Mercedes Benz (2008) and V8 Supercar Holden ‘VE’ Commodore (2011)…

(Motor)

YouTube footage…

Credits…

Vue Images, LAT, Bruce Moxon, Motor

Tailpiece: Imagine 26 of them zipping past…

Finito…