Ground­breaker

Australian Muscle Car - - Immortal Muscle -

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.”

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