The HRT Army
Season 1996 was also the year the ‘HRT Army’ was mobilised. The HRT Army was what specialist motorsport media dubbed the legions of fans who massed at racetracks across the country to cheer on the General’s frontline squad.
Such was the lure of HRT’s new star Craig Lowndes as partner to the legendary Peter Brock that enlistees came from outside the usual ranks of motorsport fans. Folk with a passing interest in racing suddenly became new recruits and faithful followers, much like how otherwise fair-weather footy fans come out of the woodwork when their team goes on a march to the grand final.
Local touring car racing had never seen anything like it. HRT’s merchandisers hit the jackpot and it was the beginning of well-drilled team apparel operations.
The HRT Army’s uniform consisted of navy blue Mobil-emblazoned jacket, blue jeans, team cap and a similarly-attired girlfriend or wife.
On the rare occasions that both HRT Commodores would make an early exit from a race in the late 1990s, these new recruits would immediately head en masse for the carpark. In doing so they signalled that they weren’t motor racing fans in the traditional sense, but specifically HRT fans. Not that race promoters, merchandisers and Holden cared one zot.
It was easy to pick the long-time motor racing spectators who happened to barrack for Lowndes, Brock and Murphy, as they stayed to the end to cheer on the other Commodores if #05 and #15 DNF’ed.
For years later you couldn’t visit a shopping centre without seeing aforementioned navy bluejacketed types from HRT’s glory days.