Holden will forever be known as winner of the 1966 Gallaher 500. But few know that the Holden/Rauno Aaltonen Cooper S was seen as the factory BMC Australia team’s third-string entry. What’s more, Bob went to great lengths to ensure he and Aaltonen would be competitive on Sunday October 2, 1966. Concerned that his Cooper S may not be identical to the other two, he asked for and received factory intervention.
“On Monday before the race all three cars went on the dyno,” he explained. “Dave Bradford, an English apprentice I knew well, rang me and told there was a problem. Dave said: ‘One of the cars is down one and a half horsepower... and you know which one you will get!’
“So I rang Evan up and asked if I could borrow one of the cars that night. I picked it up at 6pm Monday and took it to my garage at Pymble. Dave was there organising things. We stripped the car back to the bodyshell and balanced everything. We balanced all gears, brake drums and discs, axles and driveshafts, as well as checking the blueprinted motor. The parts went to Lynx Engineering for balancing and then back to the workshop. I returned the car the factory on the Tuesday morning; no one knew it was gone!
“I was just looking for an edge, and the edge just happened to be that it had to be as perfect a car as you could possibly get.
“I got the car again on the Tuesday night and I drove it all night to Canberra and Yass. On Wednesday Dave put it back on the dyno and found it was up one and a half horsepower, so I told him to wind back the distributor!”
The skulduggery continued at the track where there was sandbagging in qualifying – no one wanted to show their true speed, as he recalls.
“You had to sandbag because if you were fastest you might find the numbers on your car had swapped overnight. There were no logbooks then. Rauno understood the team politics. I told him we shouldn’t show our full speed in qualifying and we should just back off after the Castrol Tower at Skyline. We were timing half laps and working out what a quick lap would be without setting one.”
The race was a frantic affair. Lead driver Aaltonen took the lead early, with an armada of Minis snapping at his bumper. Brian Foley’s works Cooper S led for 15 laps before his engine failed and Aaltonen was able to eke out an advantage that Holden built upon. The Charlie Smith/Ron Haylen Cooper S kept them honest until crashing out at the halfway mark. By the end Aaltonen/Holden had won by over a lap.
Holden subsequently had a very full dance card in ’67 – standard production, Improved Production and rally Minis. There were times when the Lolita sportscar’s 1100cc engine would
go into the rally Mini for an event on Saturday night, before being returned to the Lolita on Sunday morning!
For the 1967 Bathurst 500, Holden was very much the senior driver, paired with lanky British driver Tony Fall, but the Cooper S had no answer for the faster XR Falcon GTs and Alfa Romeo GTVs. Holden/Fall were best of the rest, winning their class and finishing fifth outright. The following weekend he finished third outright with George Shepheard in the Southern Cross Rally.
BMC wound back its involvement with Minis in 1968 and Holden had to look elsewhere for drives, including overseas.
One such event was the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon in a Volvo 142. Bob was a passenger asleep in this car when it crashed in India and his head went through the windscreen. Bob is not sure which was scarier, realising he was sailing through the windscreen or ending up in an Indian hospital...
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He was a very busy boy following his ’66 Bathurst victory in #13C. He dabbled in sportscars, including the Lolita MkII (inset).