1997 AMP Bathurst 1000 Win­ner

Ge­off Brab­ham/David Brab­ham #83 Diet-Coke BMW 320i Chas­sis – E36 STC 96/008

Australian Muscle Car - - Cars That Won Bathurst -

The BMW that car­ried the Brab­ham broth­ers to vic­tory in the 1997 Great Race had been built in 1996 by BMW Mo­tor­sport and orig­i­nally com­peted that sea­son with the Bigazzi team in the Ger­man ADAC Su­perTourenWa­gen Cup.

Most sources state it was Steve Soper’s car, while Phil Branagan’s re­port of the Lake­side Su­per Tour­ing round later in ’96 in the pages of Aus­tralian Mo­tor­sport News says it was ex-Joachim Winkel­hock.

Ei­ther way, the lo­cal BMW team and Brad Jones’ Orix Audi team were pit­ted in a war for the lo­cal cham­pi­onship late in ’96. So BMW dis­patched this car and a sis­ter chas­sis to Aus­tralia, with Ge­off Brab­ham driv­ing the even­tual Bathurst win­ner as #83 and Paul Mor­ris the sis­ter ma­chine as #1 for the fi­nal two rounds at Lake­side and Oran Park.

Brab­ham was elim­i­nated in a crash in Race 2 at Lake­side and the car dam­aged, though it was re­paired for the fi­nal round where Brab­ham had

Ta mis­er­able weekend and wound up fourth in the fi­nal se­ries pointscore. He re­tained the car for the 1997 sea­son and drove it through­out the BOC Gases Su­per Tour­ing Cham­pi­onship, fin­ish­ing run­ner-up to team­mate Mor­ris in a BMW 1-2.

How­ever, the AMP Bathurst 1000 fell be­fore the fi­nal two rounds of the se­ries and Brab­ham had brother David join him for The Great Race.

Ge­off took pro­vi­sional pole on Fri­day but couldn’t back it up in the Top 10 Shootout, qual­i­fy­ing sixth, while Mor­ris took pole.

He started the race in the #83 car and en­gaged in an early dice with Peter Brock in the Triple Eight-run Vec­tra be­fore first hit­ting the lead on lap 33 as the first round of pit stops be­gan.

As the race panned out, the Diet-Coke BMW only led eight laps all day and had to sur­vive con­tact at The Cut­ting late in the day when an am­bi­tious Bel­gian Jean-Fran­cois Hem­roulle punted David into a spin while try­ing to over­take him for third po­si­tion.

Brab­ham re­cov­ered and hunted down the

other Audi of Frank Biela to take sec­ond spot on lap 155 and crossed the line be­hind the team car of Craig Baird, which would later be ex­cluded, given the Kiwi pi­lot had ex­ceeded the max­i­mum al­lowed con­tin­u­ous driv­ing time.

That gave vic­tory to the Brab­ham broth­ers, the first – and so far only – broth­ers to win the Bathurst clas­sic.

The fac­tory BMW team shut up shop at the end of the sea­son, so this car lay idle in 1998.

It re­turned to the track in 1999 when Paul Mor­ris formed NEMO Rac­ing and he ran it in the Aus­tralian Su­per Tour­ing Cham­pi­onship as the #23 en­try hav­ing been up­dated with a 1998-spec en­gine, drive train and sus­pen­sion.

He beat Jim Richards’ Volvo S40 and the fron­twheel-drive Audi A4s from Brad Jones’ team to claim his third Su­per Tour­ing crown and then went on to win the Bathurst 500(km) in wet con­di­tions.

On top of that he also raced the car in Ma­cau in ’99 and fin­ished run­ner-up in the tra­di­tional Guia tour­ing car event be­fore claim­ing a fourth ASTC crown (and 16 of the 17 races) against a com­par­a­tively weak field in what turned out to be the fi­nal year of Su­per Tour­ing in Aus­tralia un­der TOCA Aus­tralia in 2000/2001.

The car was even­tu­ally sold to Peter Kelly, who raced it in the short-lived Tour­ing Car Chal­lenge (a cat­e­gory cater­ing for ex-V8 Su­per­cars, Su­per Tour­ers, Fu­ture Tour­ers, Group A cars, etc), dur­ing 2005 and 2006.

It was re­built in 2007 and sold late last year (in­clud­ing a pile of spares) in plain white liv­ery to New Zealan­der Bruce Miles, who also owns an ex-Diet-Coke 1995 se­ries car that he and Mur­ray Cle­land drove in the 1998 AMP Bathurst 1000, the wet ’99 500km race and the 2002 24-Hour event at the Moun­tain.

“The Diet Coke car al­ways had a soft spot in our hearts as it was the next gen­er­a­tion from our car and tech­ni­cally very ad­vanced for its time,” Cle­land told us (no re­la­tion to the Scot­tish driver John by the way!).

“When it came up for sale hav­ing such great his­tory, it was a no-brainer that it should come to New Zealand. It only ar­rived in late 2013 so noth­ing has been done to it.

“We are eval­u­at­ing what needs to be done, then we will un­der­take a full restora­tion back to full rac­ing trim and per­haps use it for events here and pos­si­bly take it over to the UK and run it in the Su­per Tourer se­ries there, which sup­ports the BTCC rounds.”

Lake­side 1997


Oran Park 2000

Oran Park 1999

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