World’s fastest

Australian Muscle Car - - Immortal Muscle -

His­tory shows that Dick John­son isn’t one for back­ing down from a chal­lenge. He’s the guy who bounced back from the rock in­ci­dent at Bathurst in 1980 to build a new car, win the 1981 Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship and then the Great Race at Mount Panorama. He’s the guy whose race team has been to the brink of fi­nan­cial col­lapse on more than one oc­ca­sion and has re­cently emerged with none other than global mo­tor­sport pow­er­house Roger Penske as a new majority owner of what will be­come DJR Team Penske.

Put a wall or chal­lenge up in front of John­son and he al­ways finds a way through it or over it.

The same was the case when it came to his team’s six-year pe­riod, from 1987 to 1992, rac­ing tur­bocharged Ford Sier­ras.

The Bri­tish-con­ceived four-cylin­der turbo rocket ship flooded the world of Group A tour­ing car rac­ing, in par­tic­u­lar once its RS500 evo­lu­tion model was re­leased later in 1987, which helped to fix many of the ini­tial RS Cos­worth model’s short­com­ings.

The do­main of Euro­pean teams with the re­la­tion­ship and ex­pe­ri­ence to dub them­selves as rulers of the ‘world of Sier­ras’, the unique rear-wheel drive cars from over­seas how­ever weren’t as good as they could have been. And John­son knew it.

It was his team in Queens­land that used some lo­cal nous, lat­eral in­ge­nu­ity and a will­ing­ness not to cop a back seat to any­one that helped make Dick John­son Rac­ing’s Sier­ras the fastest in the world – with the race re­sults to back it up.

Tra­di­tional think­ing would la­bel an ‘Aus­tralian mus­cle car’ as a V8-pow­ered Fal­con, Monaro, Charger, Com­modore or the like. But while its bodyshell may have orig­i­nated at Ford Mo­tor­sport in Europe (Ghent in Bel­gium to be ex­act), the red Shell Sier­ras very much de­serve re­spect for their cre­den­tials as home­grown high per­for­mance rac­ing ma­chines. After all, they were de­vel­oped and tested lo­cally and dom­i­nated re­sults sheets on the do­mes­tic scene.

What’s more, in the ul­ti­mate coals-to-New­cas­tle story, DJR-built Sier­ras beat the Poms at their own game, as we will de­tail over the com­ing pages.

Any car that can pump nearly 700 horse­power from a four-cylin­der, turbo-charged en­gine that wheel­spins in fourth gear is mus­cu­lar in its own spe­cial way…

Some 22 years on from the last time DJR raced a Sierra – and 25 since the red­back’s finest mo­ment lo­cally, vic­tory in the 1989 Tooheys 1000 at Bathurst – John­son him­self takes enor­mous pride in the ‘world’s fastest Sierra’ la­bel that is at­tached to his cars rather than those of Ruedi Eggen­berger or Andy Rouse.

“I take a lot of pride from when peo­ple say we had the world’s fastest Sier­ras for the sim­ple rea­son that at the be­gin­ning we were vir­tu­ally the colo­nials from down un­der that had to spend time send­ing all the stuff to and from the UK to get any ad­just­ments made,” John­son ex­plains to AMC.

Read on to learn about the day John­son ef­fec­tively de­clared war on for­mer sup­plier Rouse; how DJR over­came early re­li­a­bil­ity is­sues; re­ceived a boost from the crack McLaren For­mula 1 team cour­tesy of shared spon­sor Shell; and sup­plied cars that won mul­ti­ple BTCC rounds (and races in Asia).

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