Baby-faced as­sas­sin: Glenn Se­ton

It’s hard to be­lieve that Glenn Se­ton is 50 this year. In fact, he reaches the mile­stone while this edi­tion sits on news­stands. It’s an ap­pro­pri­ate time then to re­flect on his ul­tra-suc­cess­ful ca­reer and its many dra­matic mo­ments.

Australian Muscle Car - - Front Page -

Glenn Se­ton is the Stir­ling Moss of Aus­tralian mo­tor­sport. He’s won in ev­ery­thing he has raced, con­tin­ues to race in his of­fi­cial re­tire­ment, and is one of the nicest blokes around. But, just as Moss is known as the best driver to have never won a For­mula One world cham­pi­onship, Se­ton is tagged as the best driver who has not won at Bathurst.

His best re­sult at Mount Panorama is a sec­ond, which would be good enough for a lot of driv­ers.

Yet Se­ton clearly de­served so much bet­ter from his time in tour­ing car rac­ing, af­ter ex­plod­ing on the scene as the boy-man nick­named by Mike Ray­mond as the ‘Baby Faced As­sas­sin’.

“Most peo­ple re­mem­ber me to­day for two things: get­ting within nine laps of win­ning Bathurst in 1995 and driv­ing in the wet in the Sky­line in ’87,” says Se­ton. “But there are a lot of peo­ple who never even got the chance to stand on the podium at Bathurst, and I have done that. A few times.

“I’m not bit­ter about any­thing now. I wasn’t then, ei­ther. On the day I didn’t get it done. Sure, it was heart­break­ing and gut-wrench­ing in ’95, but you can­not carry that with you for the rest of your life be­cause it just makes you ill.”

Look be­yond Bathurst and there is a lot of suc­cess. Se­ton won the Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship twice, driv­ing Fal­cons to the ti­tle in 1993 and 1997, as well as the Aus­tralian En­durance Cham­pi­onship. He had a bunch of pole po­si­tions and scored 17 tour­ing car wins from 209 starts.

He was also at the beach­head of a new gen­er­a­tion of rac­ers and achieved suc­cess at un­prece­dented ten­der age, a decade be­fore Craig Lown­des’ ar­rival.

When you walk into Se­ton’s home on the Gold Coast you are im­me­di­ately struck by two big framed pic­tures of his cham­pi­onship­win­ning Fal­cons. There are lots of model rac­ing cars on dis­play, in­clud­ing a Ford Capri and a Mark I Es­cort.

He is a quiet man, as he al­ways was, but there is deep in­sight and frank open­ness that’s rare in a racer.

Th­ese days Se­ton is semi-re­tired and living at a house called ‘Thisldoo’ on an acre of land on the Gold Coast. Apart from the house he shares with his wife Jane and their 16-year-old son Aaron – daugh­ter Court­ney has moved to Perth – there is a multi-car garage and a ‘man cave’ fur­ther back on the block. That’s where he cus­tom-builds rac­ing shock ab­sorbers and where he also has a Ford Capri racer.

His per­sonal car is a 1990s Fal­con ute, to­tally in keep­ing with his un­pre­ten­tious ap­proach to life. He likes to drink white tea.

In re­cent years Se­ton has dab­bled in the Aus­tralian Man­u­fac­tur­ers Cham­pi­onship, for pro­duc­tion cars, in a Lancer owned by Bob Pear­son. This is also where Aaron has kicked off his rac­ing ca­reer – at a younger age than his ‘old man’.

Get­ting started

There was never any doubt that Glenn Se­ton, son of 1965 Bathurst 500 win­ner Barry ‘Bo’ Se­ton, would race. Not when five-mon­thold Glenn first went to Mount Panorama in a bassinette the year Bo won.

Glenn be­gan on dirt bikes, then got into karts, be­fore grad­u­at­ing to cars with his fa­ther’s Ford Capri and an Es­cort sports sedan. But it was not as sim­ple as it sounds.

“I was rac­ing karts and a guy called John Piz­zaro un­loaded me at Oran Park and put me into the wall. I was paral­ysed down one side and taken to hos­pi­tal. My dad said, ‘Let’s get into some­thing safer’ and that was cars.”

Bo Se­ton was well known in rac­ing and ran a work­shop in the Syd­ney sub­urb of Moore­bank. He was es­pe­cially good at en­gines, some­thing that car­ried right through to Glenn’s later Ford Fal­cons.

“I started do­ing some AMSCAR rounds at Ama­roo Park in dad’s Capri. Peo­ple prob­a­bly don’t re­alise that Mark Skaife got his li­cence in the same car, two years af­ter me. Our fa­thers were good friends then and still are.”

What hooked young Se­ton on rac­ing was his first time com­pet­ing at Mount Panorama.

“I re­mem­ber my first ever day in go-karts at Oran Park was quite scary. I didn’t know what to ex­pect. But the first laps I did at Bathurst in the Capri – the ex­cite­ment and ex­hil­a­ra­tion of driv­ing across the top of the moun­tain – that was amaz­ing,” he re­calls.

Things moved quickly when he and Bo moved to Mel­bourne to join the Nis­san fac­tory team un­der Fred Gibson. The young­ster be­gan in a front-drive EXA turbo – it was both ugly and aw­ful – and per­formed en­durance co-driver du­ties to Christine Gibson at Bathurst in 1984.

The fol­low­ing sea­son was a quiet one, as Nis­san geared up to re­turn boots-and-all in 1986 with the DR30 Sky­line. When it did, Se­ton

found him­self thrown into battle as back-up to Ge­orge Fury at half of the Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship rounds.

In those days, 21-year-olds just weren’t given op­por­tu­ni­ties, with the tin-top scene pri­mar­ily the domain of those aged 40-some­thing. He led the odd race, but crashed out of enough races for eye­brows to be raised.

Se­ton would prove doubters wrong be­fore sea­son’s end, by win­ning three of the five Aus­tralian En­durance Cham­pi­onship rounds as Fury’s side­kick. This in­cluded the Sandown 500.

But don’t think the Sky­line years were all smiles.

“They were a night­mare to drive. It was only when I drove the car again, at Oran Park in 2008 in the farewell event, that I re­alised just how bad they were.

“I’ll never for­get the first year at Bathurst with Ge­orge Fury and me. It had a steel cage, and we were al­ways talk­ing about Con­rod and com­ing over the humps and won­der­ing whose bar­be­cue we were go­ing to join. They just jumped side­ways.”

The Sky­lines may have been a hand­ful, but he rode the wave of suc­cess into 1987.

“My big­gest mem­ory is win­ning at Calder in 1987, in the first round of the tour­ing car cham­pi­onship. Larry Perkins hounded me for lap af­ter lap but I ended up win­ning,” he says.

Se­ton nar­rowly missed his first ti­tle in 1987, helped by a touch from Jim Richards that bumped his Nis­san ri­val out of the way at Oran Park and gave him the ti­tle with a JPS BMW.

“That’s the thing about Jim; he does it but he al­ways smiles and apol­o­gises af­ter­wards.”

De­spite the dis­ap­point­ment, win­ning three ATCC rounds was a mighty achieve­ment for a lad of 22. And big new things were com­ing.

“Through­out 1988 Nis­san said they didn’t want to be as­so­ci­ated with cig­a­rettes. Ken Pot­ter, who was re­spon­si­ble for spon­sor­ship at Phillip Mor­ris, ap­proached my dad be­cause they still wanted to be in­volved in tour­ing car rac­ing. That’s when we made the de­ci­sion that this was prob­a­bly best way to con­trol our own des­tiny.”

Top right: Sun­day, Oc­to­ber 1, 1995; just be­fore 4pm. This page: Se­ton served his rac­ing ap­pren­tice­ship in class cars like his fa­ther’s Capri and the EXA Turbo. We can’t think of any­one who pre­ceded him in scor­ing a works tour­ing car drive lo­cally as a teenager. By com­par­i­son, his early men­tor Fred Gibson was 26 when Harry Firth came call­ing in 1967.

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