The Group A Com­modores

Australian Muscle Car - - Cars That Won Bathurst -

This edi­tion we re­visit three for­mer cover cars as part of our con­tin­u­ing se­ries pin­point­ing the where­abouts of the Great Race-win­ning chas­sis.

Here’s

a stat that will sur­prise many: Holden was the most suc­cess­ful marque of the Bathurst 1000’s eight-year Group A era. The Gen­eral’s three wins (1986, 1987 and 1990) pipped Ford and Nis­san (two vic­to­ries apiece), with Jaguar the only other man­u­fac­turer to claim the tour­ing car clas­sic when it was run to in­ter­na­tional rules.

Holden’s trio of wins says a lot about Fish­er­mans Bend’s tenac­ity to com­pete with the global brands and the suit­abil­ity of tried and tested V8 power around Mount Panorama.

A per­fect ex­am­ple of the against-the-odds na­ture of Holden’s Group A suc­cesses was Holden Rac­ing Team’s 1990 victory, the sub­ject of AMC #13’s cover story in 2004.

Win Percy and Al­lan Grice claimed the up­set win de­spite not be­ing rated a chance against the top Ford Sierra teams and Nis­san’s GT-R. In­deed, their Com­modore qual­i­fied two sec­onds off the pacesetters’ times. How­ever, thanks to a com­bi­na­tion of su­perb en­gi­neer­ing, strong driv­ers and a never-say-die spirit, the fac­tory Holden squad pulled off the sur­prise win. While the car was not the fastest in the field, it ul­ti­mately pos­sessed the right com­bi­na­tion of speed and re­li­a­bil­ity over 161 laps.

The #16 VL Com­modore car­ries great sig­nif­i­cance for HRT as the car which claimed the team’s first Bathurst win. In fact, first win full-stop.

The seem­ingly bul­let­proof car of 1990 was in stark con­trast to the same bodyshell’s first run at the Moun­tain, as #20 in 1988, when it lasted just a hand­ful of laps. It was the car built at Tom Walkin­shaw Rac­ing in Eng­land when the fledg­ling Holden Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles had con­cur­rent VL race­car builds, in the UK and here in Australia via Larry Perkins.

Ac­cord­ing to Percy, who was HRT’s team boss in 1990, the chas­sis in which he won that year’s Bathurst clas­sic was a stripped shell in the cor­ner of the team’s work­shop when he ar­rived in Australia at the be­gin­ning of that sea­son.

It was com­pletely re­built, he says, re-des­ig­nated from chas­sis TWR 023 to chas­sis 025 and re­turned to the track as the #16 HRT car at Sandown, Bathurst and at Ade­laide’s AGP Group A sup­port event.

It was re­tired from com­pe­ti­tion ahead of the 1991 sea­son, when HRT up­dated the new VN model; and, af­ter do­ing the pro­mo­tional rounds, was sent to Eng­land, to be­come a part of Walkin­shaw’s per­sonal car col­lec­tion.

The fa­mous Aussie mus­cle car was res­cued by Holden’s top brass in the early ‘noughties’ af­ter TWR went bust and Walkin­shaw was forced to dis­pose of his col­lec­tion.

The VL has been a long-time res­i­dent of HRT’s Clay­ton head­quar­ters in Vic­to­ria. It re­turned to the spot­light in 2010 when HRT un­veiled its pair of VE Bathurst chal­lenges in the clas­sic white and black livery of 1990 to cel­e­brate the 20th an­niver­sary of the gi­ant-killing feat. And again ear­lier this year high­light HRT’s 25th birth­day.

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