The winds of change

It’s 25 years since the seeds of tour­ing car revo­lu­tion were sewn that would even­tu­ally see Group A ex­ot­ica re­placed with a for­mula for V8 Aussie sedans – a cat­e­gory that has dom­i­nated the land­scape to this day.

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Machinations - Luke West

Sun­day Oc­to­ber 6, 1991 will go down in lo­cal mo­tor rac­ing his­tory as the day a Ja­panese man­u­fac­turer first won Aus­tralia’s Great Race. Tied to Nis­san’s vic­tory in the 1991 Tooheys 1000 was the be­gin­ning of the end for the in­ter­na­tional Group A tour­ing car cat­e­gory. In fact, the winds of change be­gan to gain strength and blow across Mount Panorama’s pad­dock area mid­way through that very race.

While the twin-turbo,4WD Nis­san GT-R of Jim Richards and Mark Skaife pounded forth on its re­lent­less de­mon­stra­tion of tech­no­log­i­cal su­pe­ri­or­ity, the van­quished – Holden and Ford – is­sued an his­toric joint state­ment. Mid-race!

CAMS had been ex­pected to an­nounce the 1993 tour­ing car rules dur­ing the Bathurst 1991 week­end, but the con­fed­er­a­tion held off un­til the in­ter­na­tional gov­ern­ing body, FISA, tied down its plans for a global Group A re­place­ment.

Holden and Ford grew im­pa­tient and cir­cu­lated a state­ment de­mand­ing CAMS take ac­tion. At the bot­tom were the sig­na­tures of Holden Mo­tor­sport’s John Lin­dell and Ford’s rac­ing boss, Peter Gil­litzer.

“Both com­pa­nies have been work­ing closely with CAMS for many months to as­sist the draft­ing of the reg­u­la­tions in­volv­ing lo­cally man­u­fac­tured, vol­ume-sell­ing V8en­gined cars,” their state­ment read. “The draft reg­u­la­tions re­lat­ing to 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre cars how­ever are too poorly de­fined for GMHA and Ford to es­tab­lish a po­si­tion on par­tic­i­pa­tion.”

“GMHA and Ford there­fore call on CAMS to is­sue fi­nal reg­u­la­tions for 1992 and 1993 by Mon­day Oc­to­ber 21, 1991,” it con­tin­ued. “Fail­ing the re­lease of reg­u­la­tions by this date recog­nis­ing the im­por­tance of main­tain­ing the com­pet­i­tive­ness of in­ter­ested lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers, Ford and GMHA will look to other forms of mo­tor­sport to present in­ter­est­ing and close rac­ing be­tween pop­u­lar, mar­ket-rel­e­vant cars.”

The state­ment was prob­a­bly fair enough from Holden’s per­spec­tive, as the com­pany had an un­bro­ken his­tory of sup­port­ing lo­cal rac­ing dat­ing back to 1968. Com­ing from Ford, how­ever, such an ul­ti­ma­tum was a bit rich, as the Blue Oval blew in and (mostly) out of lo­cal rac­ing with mo­not­o­nous reg­u­la­tory since it had folded its works team in early 1974.

Oc­to­ber 21 came and went with no sig­nif­i­cant reper­cus­sions and it was nine months be­fore an­other party, the Seven Net­work, brought the sit­u­a­tion to a head.

What hap­pened next is now re­vealed on the fol­low­ing pages, in an ex­tract from the new CAMS – The Of­fi­cial His­tory book, cel­e­brat­ing 60 years of the gov­ern­ing body.

On

June 12, 1992 a dis­parate group of par­ties gath­ered at the Seven Net­work’s head of­fices at 1 Pa­cific High­way, North Syd­ney. Present were Bob Camp­bell and Mike Ray­mond rep­re­sent­ing Seven’s in­ter­ests, Holden ex­ec­u­tive and pas­sion­ate sup­porter of the lo­cal car in­dus­try Rob McEniry, Ford Aus­tralia’s Ian Vaughan, Shell’s Tom Smith, CAMS pres­i­dent John Large and CAMS Queens­land State Coun­cil­lor David Tait.

The meet­ing was set up by Ray­mond, the net­work’s long-serv­ing ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of Seven Mo­tor Sport and sports di­rec­tor of ATN7 Syd­ney, at the be­hest of Seven’s Syd­ney sta­tion man­ager Bob Camp­bell.

“Al­lan Tyson, then the CEO of Seven, Bob (Camp­bell) and I shared a be­lief that an Aussie V8 Ford ver­sus Holden com­pe­ti­tion was long over­due,” re­called Ray­mond. “The mail and calls we were tak­ing sup­ported this view.”

The con­cern of Seven and Shell was that af­ter seven years of Group A tour­ing car rac­ing largely dom­i­nated by for­eign makes, Aus­tralian mo­tor­sport was in the dol­drums. Crowds and tele­vi­sion au­di­ences were fall­ing. Grids were also mod­est due to the high cost of run­ning Group A cars. To bring greater rel­e­vancy to the race­track, a for­mula was pro­posed which put the two most pop­u­lar Aus­tralian mar­ket­place mo­tor ve­hi­cles into tight com­bat, both pow­ered by pushrod five-litre V8 en­gines of sim­i­lar power. Holden and Ford op­por­tunis­ti­cally saw a won­der­ful chance for their Com­modore and Fal­con to dom­i­nate. It was a heaven-sent, golden mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­nity to push their lo­cally made fam­ily sedans.

“All the play­ers had tried hard to keep Group A rac­ing alive, said Ray­mond. “Seven had driven the Group A agenda since day one, given non­stop pub­lic­ity and cov­er­age to the class. The World Tour­ing Car Championship at the 1987 Bathurst 1000 and ex­otic in­ter­na­tion­als like the Eggen­berger Sier­ras and Tom Walkin­shaw’s Jaguars gave us and Group A rac­ing breath­ing space. How­ever, the in­evitable was al­ways lurk­ing...

“David Tait and John Large from CAMS were in­vited to the meet­ing by me be­cause they were straight shoot­ers. I told them we needed to make some hard but far-reach­ing de­ci­sions and they were the two I trusted.”

The pro­posal for a V8 se­ries was out­lined. Shell’s Tom Smith sup­ported the idea, while the Ford and Holden rep­re­sen­ta­tives both agreed that their com­pa­nies would sup­port a V8 Holden and Ford cat­e­gory for the fol­low­ing year’s championship.

Anx­ious for the small car ver­sus big car chal­lenge to con­tinue, Mike Ray­mond also pushed for a com­pet­i­tive class to al­low Frank Gard­ner’s fac­tory BMW team to par­tic­i­pate in the new-look ATCC. “Frank was keen but BMW Aus­tralia wouldn’t have a bar of it... which opened the door for Colin Bond’s two-litre Toy­otas.

“If Tait and Large had said no to the in­tro­duc­tion of V8s on that day at North Syd­ney, Seven was out of tour­ing cars af­ter Bathurst that year, Shell had in­di­cated it would exit af­ter the ATCC, and Holden and Ford had also sup­ported a with­drawal from the sport”

“If Tait and Large had said no to the in­tro­duc­tion of V8s on that day at North Syd­ney, Seven was out of tour­ing cars af­ter Bathurst that year, Shell had in­di­cated it would exit af­ter the ATCC, and Holden and Ford had also sup­ported a with­drawal from the sport,” Ray­mond said.

There was re­ally only one de­ci­sion to make. CAMS had ef­fec­tively been de­liv­ered a fait ac­com­pli. Op­pos­ing the pro­posal could have meant a schism in Aus­tralian mo­tor sport, with CAMS pos­si­bly los­ing its sole Na­tional Sport­ing As­so­ci­a­tion (known as ASN) sta­tus with the FIA.

“Tait and Large con­tacted the var­i­ous board mem­bers at CAMS overnight and we met the next morn­ing to shake hands and nut out a deal,” Ray­mond ex­plained. The green light to the V8 for­mula shaped Aus­tralian mo­tor sport for the next two decades.

With the tour­ing car se­ries spon­sor Shell, the championship tele­caster and two ma­jor lo­cal car mak­ers all sup­port­ing change, CAMS rub­ber­stamped the new di­rec­tion for the se­ries. The tur­bocharged Nis­san GTRs and Ford Sier­ras that had proved so dom­i­nant were ban­ished. Ex­ist­ing nor­mally-as­pi­rated cars such as the BMW 3 Se­ries could con­tinue to com­pete but the rules clearly favoured the Fal­cons and Com­modores. BMW didn’t stay around much longer, mov­ing to a new Su­per Tour­ing Championship for 2.0-litre cars. Nis­san sim­ply walked away (and stayed away un­til 2013, when it re­turned as a player in V8 Su­per­cars rac­ing).

CAMS an­nounced two new classes – 5.0-litre

Aus­tralian tour­ing cars and 2.0-litre FIA Class II tour­ing cars – later to be known re­spec­tively as V8 Su­per­cars and Su­per Tour­ing Cars.

Start­ing at Syd­ney’s Ama­roo Park Race­way on Fe­bru­ary 28 1993, both cat­e­gories ran to­gether in the tour­ing car championship and in the Bathurst 1000 of that year.

Group A rac­ing was his­tory and the new tour­ing car grids (still quite thin in the start-up phase) were in­hab­ited by lo­cal Ford EB Fal­cons and Holden VP Com­modores, plus the non-V8 con­tenders – Toy­ota Corol­las and 2.5-litre BMW M3s.

Glenn Se­ton and Peter Jack­son Ford team­mate Alan Jones were the best pre­pared of the lot, rac­ing to a dom­i­nant one-two in the ’93 Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Championship. But Holden’s Larry Perkins and Gregg Hans­ford won the Bathurst 1000 of that year with a Com­modore.

This wasn’t the start of V8 Su­per­cars, but that sum­mit in North Syd­ney was the trig­ger for its ul­ti­mate emer­gence four years later. Ex­tract from the new CAMS – The Of­fi­cialOf­fi­fi­fi­cial His­tory book, cel­e­brat­ing 60 years of the gov­ern­ing body. This is just one of 500-page tome’s fas­ci­nat­ing in­sights to the de­ci­sions that shaped the sport. The book is avail­able from cams.com.au

Tom Smith

Mike Ray­mond

Rob McEniry

John Large

David Tait

Ian Vaughan

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