Corolling along

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Man -

When

lo­cal tour­ing car squads be­gan gear­ing up for the in­ter­na­tional Group A cat­e­gory’s in­tro­duc­tion, Bob Holden ven­tured to the UK for a scout around in early 1984. There he met with Ford Europe’s rac­ing boss Stuart Turner to dis­cover what the Blue Oval had planned. The short an­swer: noth­ing he could af­ford!

Turner pointed Bob to­wards an English team ho­molo­gat­ing the new Corolla for Toy­ota Europe. “By the time I came home I had the Group A ho­molo­ga­tion pa­pers for the next three years,” Bob ex­plains.

He stopped off in Ja­pan on the way back to visit TRD (Toy­ota Rac­ing De­vel­op­ments) for a day... and ended up spend­ing two weeks there. TRD was build­ing what was sup­posed to be Toy­ota Team Aus­tralia’s (TTA) first Corolla Sprinter, for team driver John Smith. Bob im­me­di­ately noted that TRD hadn’t firmly grasped the Group A regs.

“It was like a sports sedan, with drop tank, cut outs in doors and no full dash. I couldn’t tell the Ja­panese they were wrong, but I told them it wasn’t a Group A car.”

Thank­fully, he put the Ja­panese in touch with the trail­blaz­ing Brits. TRD then built a car that did con­form to the new rules.

“I helped them build an­other car from scratch. I saved them a lot of face and then got looked af­ter (by TRD) like you wouldn’t be­lieve.”

Back home TTA of­fered Bob a job, but shift­ing to Mel­bourne wasn’t an op­tion. In­stead, he built his own Sprinter from a road car pur­chased at Bill Buckle Toy­ota and would prove a thorn in TTA’s side there­after, de­spite the dis­par­ity in bud­gets. His en­gines were sourced from lo­cal Ja­panese im­ports wreck­ers, although TRD Ja­pan was able to get him all of the new parts just like the TTA team had.

This Bob Holden-built Sprinter holds a most sig­nif­i­cant Bathurst 1000 record: the chas­sis with the most starts in the Great Race, nine.

The en­dur­ing lit­tle car headed to the moun­tain for no less than 10 con­sec­u­tive Bathurst 1000 cam­paigns be­tween 1984 and 1993 – ev­ery year the Group A cars were per­mit­ted to race in the Oc­to­ber clas­sic. There was, how­ever, one year, 1991, when the car prac­tised and qual­i­fied but didn’t race.

High­lights of this pe­riod in­clude Bathurst 1985, when Holden had the wood on TTA, set­ting the fastest lap and lead­ing the works car... be­fore blow­ing the Sprinter’s en­gine af­ter 123 laps.

1987 saw Holden snatch an un­ex­pected class vic­tory in the venue’s sole WTCC round. He may have had three un­sched­uled pit­stops in the first hour and was 20 laps be­hind the lead­ing Corolla, but both works TTA cars crashed in uni­son when the wild storm hit late-race. His Sprinter, co-driven by Bryan For the last 30 years it’s been mostly about Toy­otas, first in con­tem­po­rary rac­ing and now in His­torics. Bate and Garry Willm­ing­ton, was the last clas­si­fied fin­isher... in fact, the only fin­isher in class.

The in­ter­na­tional flavour of Group A al­lowed an easy trans­fer of both cars and driv­ers and the ‘Holden Sprinter’ raced sev­eral times in Europe, in the Spa and Nur­bur­gring 24 Hour events.

In 1991 Bob in­vited Rauno Aal­to­nen to race his Corolla at Bathurst, 25 years af­ter their his­toric Cooper S win. By way of com­par­i­son, on slick tyres the front-wheel drive Corolla AE82 qual­i­fied just un­der 2:50, whereas the Cooper S on the preChase cir­cuit qual­i­fied in 3:13.

The 1992 rain-short­ened Bathurst 1000 would be Bob’s last for some years as a driver.

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