The HRT 033 Commodore chassis was the start of a new era at the Holden Racing Team. It was all about ‘going large’ with a blank sheet of paper and young, keen, hungry engineering minds being given a green light to push the category envelope.
Lessons of previous cars were put into place in the new chassis. Inspiration came from the DTM and ITC touring cars of the time racing in Europe. The new chassis had 15 kilograms more roll-cage than previous cars, was 11 months in its design and featured a rear roll-hoop that sat further back than previous cars.
The cage rear assembly support was attached at the bottom to the rear floor by an integral tube structure that had never been seen in the V8 class before.
But the media of the period were instantly transfixed by the diagonal horizontal roll-cage bar through the front passenger’s area that became the subject of plenty of politics with CAMS. It was the most visible difference between the new car and the two produced by HRT in 1995 (chassis 031 and 032).
George Smith was a partner in Dencar – the company that produced HRT’s chassis – when this car was created and put in many hours on its construction himself.
Today he can admit what the team wouldn’t let on 20 years ago… the ‘Petty’ bar did not make a single bit of difference!
“We put in on the flex rig to test it so we could measure what sort of a percentage gain it gave,” he recalls.
“It was zero, absolutely zero! It didn’t make a single piece of difference! I reckon the idea came from Chris (Dyer, engineer) but the idea was to go over the top and make a car that was stiff as we possibly could do.
“That bar became a point of contention over driver extraction and that’s why it was canned in the next car (HRT built a sister Commodore for Peter Brock though had to chop out the bar).”
As Smith explains, keeping the Petty bar did have its benefits.
“We went through the numbers with Jeff (Grech, team manager) and it came to a decision to leave it in. It would take the heat off so many other areas and the opposition would instead focus on the bar and try to get it banned. That was why it was left in.”
Eventually the CAMS Motor Racing Executive cleared the use of the bar, though a re-write of the regulations quickly followed.
Despite having already commenced another identical chassis (HRT 034) with bar already inplace for Peter Brock to debut later in the season, the team was forced to remove it from the sister machine. But Smith looks back on HRT 033 with great fondness. It’s his favourite car from a long line of successful chassis Dencar built for and with HRT.
“The car took forever to build,” he says. “It was a joy, but there was so much stuff that was new, so time-wise it took a while. My recollection was that it was ‘secret squirrel’ but there generally weren’t many blow-ins at our place in those days.
“When they took it out to Calder for the first test they doctored it up as best as they could to make it look like any one of their existing cars but that big bar in the middle was a bit of a giveaway!”
Given the driving position was well back from that of previous cars – all but in line with the B-pillar – a floor-mounted assembly boxed in a carbon-fibre structure replaced the regular pendant-shaped pedals.
“It needed floor-mounted pedals because of where the roll-cage ran; the pendulum pedals under the dash were no good for that design any more,” says Smith.
“Once we mounted the pedals on the floor we made a shroud. I made an aluminium tool and the carbon boys made a piece out of it. It was like a formula car cockpit where your feet were in a tunnel to keep feet from flailing around.”