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Australian Muscle Car - - Contents -

The day they raced Oran Park in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

It’s an idea that pops up from time-to-time: hold a big-time mo­tor race on a cir­cuit in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

It’s also an April Fools Day ch­est­nut, wit­ness speed­cafe.com’s April 1, 2014 news story (il­lus­trated with the shot above) declar­ing that, “Rac­ing tra­di­tions will re­turn to Bathurst in Easter 2015 with a five-day event for V8 Su­per­cars us­ing the full 6.213 kilo­me­tre Mt Panorama cir­cuit in re­verse for the first time ever.”

You would pray for a good firm pedal head­ing up­hill into For­rest’s El­bow from The Chase, like­wise down­hill from Griffin’s Bend into Hell!

Of course, in this day and age it’s to­tally im­prac­ti­cal from a safety point-of-view to run any cir­cuit in the re­verse di­rec­tion. All cur­rent cir­cuits fea­ture such im­mov­able ob­jects as sand­traps, run-off areas and crash bar­ri­ers.

Yet, 30 years ago, one cir­cuit, Oran Park, was brave – or fool­ish – enough to hold a meet­ing fea­tur­ing races held in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. June 8, 1986’s na­tional level meet­ing.

This bizarre oc­cur­rence came to our at­ten­tion when an im­age sur­faced on Facebook of Ford Lasers head­ing the wrong way around Oran Park. AMC con­trib­u­tor Paul Gover shared it and brought it to the at­ten­tion of for­mer Oran Park Race­way pro­moter Alan Hors­ley, who worked at cir­cuit in the 1970s.

“At first I didn’t think they were rac­ing,” Hors­ley ex­plained. “The guardrail and flag points would be back-to-front. Per­haps they were just do­ing a U-turn to come back to the grid.

“Then I dou­ble-checked and the pic­ture is not faked. On fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion I found that a race meet­ing was held in re­verse on the eighth of June, 1986.

“It was just mad and I’ll bet there was no in­sur­ance cover or cor­rect race per­mits.”

We don’t know about that, but we can con­firm that of­fi­cials were kept on their toes with for­mula cars rac­ing on the tra­di­tional (long) lay­out in the reg­u­lar di­rec­tion that day, while other cat­e­gories raced the short cir­cuit in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

Aus­tralasian Auto Ac­tion de­clared it to be “Aus­tralia’s first ever re­verse di­rec­tion race pro­gram. In fact, a to­tal of seven dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories were sent on their way in both di­rec­tions. Go­ing in the ‘right’ di­rec­tion (an­ti­clock­wise) over the Grand Prix cir­cuit were the For­mula 2s and For­mula Fords.”

The five cat­e­gories do­ing it in re­verse were Group E pro­duc­tion cars, the Laser se­ries, Queens­land Gem­i­nis (mak­ing a NSW cameo), Ap­pen­dix J (what’s now Group N) and Sports Sedans. Yes, Sports Sedans. Those wild ma­chines would have been quite a hand­ful get­ting through the fi­nal turn.

Rac­ing Car News’ (and now AMC’s) Bruce Moxon re­ported that the con­cept was the brain­child of then pro­moter Jim Ferguson.

“One of Jim’s re­cent mar­ket­ing ploys was to con­duct a re­verse di­rec­tion race meet­ing – some­thing many peo­ple have been cu­ri­ous about for some time – and this worked quite well. The spec­ta­cle of a full field of cars jostling up the straight to plunge head­ling into Cas­trol Cor­ner was a thrill de­nied race­go­ers for too long.”

When we searched our ar­chive we found a mere hand­ful of images of that oc­ca­sion. The most strik­ing was of Bob Tin­dal’s vir­ginal white To­rana hatch bat­tling Steve Reed’s Es­cort-Chev (now there’s a unique combo!) head­ing up and over the Dog-leg, which was surely blind in ei­ther di­rec­tion. Mark Skaife was prom­i­nent in the Laser se­ries images.

We’d be in­ter­ested in hear­ing from com­peti­tors via am­ced­i­to­rial@chevron.com.au, par­tic­u­larly from Sports Sedan com­peti­tors, about the chal­lenges the re­verse di­rec­tion lay­outs tossed up. We imag­ine the first cor­ner (the fi­nal cor­ner, BP, when run in the reg­u­lar di­rec­tion) would have been par­tic­u­larly tricky with the wall wait­ing to suck in any un­der­steer­ing com­peti­tor.

Whad­daya­know?

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