The first Sun­day in Oc­to­ber

Australian Muscle Car - - Bathurst Muscle -

De­spite the many hur­dles the team faced just to get on the grid, #61E’s big day out proved largely trou­ble-free – al­beit with a st­ing in the tail.

Garry Rush started the race and hov­ered just out­side the top 10 dur­ing his 41-lap stint.

“Af­ter about three laps you had no brakes,” Rush says. “You had to rely on your driv­ing skills and bit of dar­ing to get it around the track for the rest of the day. And that’s what we did.”

Damon Beck did the ‘lunchtime shift’ and re­calls Rush shout­ing “watch them brakes” as he closed the door and Beck ex­ited the pit­box.

Around this time Bill Brown had his mas­sive, death-de­fy­ing multi-rollover at McPhillamy Park, the re­sult of his Phase III’s right-front tyre rub­bing on the guard. Beck says the en­su­ing slow laps when dou­ble-yel­low flags were waved across the top of the moun­tain proved a god­send for the Bald­win car. Beck, with the reg­u­lar ap­pli­ca­tion of light pres­sure on the pedal, was able to flat­ten out the face of the pads which had be­come con­cave dur­ing the early race scram­ble.

As Beck be­came more con­fi­dent in the car his times came down and he even pulled a cheeky move af­ter race leader Al­lan Mof­fat lapped him mid-race.

“A good run down the Moun­tain and through For­rest’s El­bow gave me about 3mph on Mof­fat en­ter­ing Con­rod Straight. I came along­side his right-rear guard and he de­cided to get rid of me by back­ing off about 20 me­tres ear­lier than usual. I could not do any­thing other than pass him. Com­mon­sense dic­tated that I let him through on Moun­tain Straight and, as the crew held out the ‘EZ’ sign af­ter a quiet word from Mof­fat’s crew, I dropped my pace and he went on his way.”

Beck says he handed the car back to Rush on lap 86 when in a fine fifth place, al­though the changeover cost quite a few places.

Rush drove to the end, pit­ting for fuel on lap 110, and with a top 10 fin­ish well within the team’s grasp.

Im­pres­sively, the Bald­win team, in its first ever race (of any de­scrip­tion), was a mere lap be­hind the works en­try of the even­tual win­ner an hour from the che­quered flag. It was a fact not lost on an ex­citable Bryan Bald­win, as out­lined in the break­out box.

Rush says, brakes aside, all was go­ing swim­mingly.

“We were chas­ing a Charger and were catch­ing them at quite a rate of knots,” he says, rec­ol­lec­tions that match those of Field and Sayer.

“I came around For­rest’s El­bow and the wheel

cen­tre fell out of my right-front wheel. I nudged it into the Armco bar­rier and that was the end of the day,” he re­calls wryly.

Field: “We were run­ning in eighth place in the 117th lap and catch­ing the Charger that was in front of us at quite a rate of knots.”

Field’s mem­ory is bang-on in this re­gards, with Leo Geoghegan’s E38 fin­ish­ing the event in sev­enth.

At the time, the lit­tle Bald­win team was ahead of Peter Brock’s Holden Dealer Team LC To­rana GTR XU-1, which ul­ti­mately came home eighth af­ter some dra­mas.

The his­tory books record that the cars awarded sec­ond through ninth were just one lap down on the win­ning Phase III of Mof­fat, who, ad­mit­tedly, had adopted a con­ser­va­tive ap­proach. This was the Great Race’s most com­pacted top 10 in the race’s pre-Safety Car race era.

The Bald­win Fal­con may not have greeted the che­quered flag but it was far from be­ing an also-ran. So what caused the five-slot steel wheel to break? We’ll never know for sure, but the crew mem­bers have their the­o­ries.

Sayer: “The wheel ac­tu­ally col­lapsed and the cen­tre of it was still on the car. Prob­a­bly a bad rim.”

Rush: “What we didn’t know at the time was that the Ford Mo­tor Com­pany knew of the wheels cracking and didn’t pass that info onto us.”

AMC #27’s Bill Brown pro­file touched on this sub­ject. Brown’s mas­sive mid-race ac­ci­dent was caused by the tyre rub­bing on the Newell-en­tered Fal­con’s guard and blow­ing. Bill said in that ar­ti­cle that there was dis­cus­sion at the time that the works cars had dif­fer­ent wheels to the pri­va­teers, hav­ing iden­ti­fied var­i­ous is­sues in pre-race test­ing. Other pri­va­teer Fal­cons had sim­i­lar prob­lems to Brown’s yel­low ma­chine, al­beit to a lesser ex­tent, in­clud­ing the Bald­win ve­hi­cle, which still bears scars in­side its guard to­day.

AMC has also noted the view­point of an­other Bald­win Ford ser­vice depart­ment em­ployee in cor­re­spon­dence we’ve sighted. He sug­gests that the rim which broke may have been on the car when the Bald­win Ford rac­ing Phase III MkI hit struck the horse near Wind­sor and that an­other em­ployee ne­glected to get that rim crack-tested as in­structed by his su­pe­ri­ors... We’ll never know for sure. What we do know is that Bald­win Ford would never re­turn to the Moun­tain.

Top: And their off... up Moun­tain Straight. #61D be­gins its strong run. Colour: Klaus Sayer wasn’t part of the race day pit crew, which left him free to take these great shots. Above: Uh-oh! Rush and Beck’s great drive comes to nought. The im­age on the story opener (p36) shows how hard the right-front was worked.

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