STIX ‘Monaro’ in the USA
Dave Roberts took more than memories and photographs away from his Touring Car Masters cameo at Bathurst in his own Camaro. Roberts, upon returning to United States, decked out his other racecar, a Pontiac GTO, in the colours of the Bathurst 1000-winning Tekno Commodore. Witnessing his first Great Race trackside clearly left a mighty impression on Dave.
So how did an automotive products company CEO/chairman from NASCAR country, North Carolina, find himself racing on Australia’s most hallowed racetrack?
Our story begins in February 2015 when Roberts, a racer whose credits include extensive experience in US vintage racing and the Pirelli World Challenge (a series akin to the Australian GT Championship) attended the Bathurst 12 Hour. While he was at Mount Panorama, he met local long-time racer and Prodrive Racing Australia co-owner Rusty French. Immediately taken with all things Bathurst, Roberts launched a plan to compete there and French became a willing accomplice.
For Roberts’ yellow-and-blue 1969 Chevrolet Camaro, preparations included a 35-day sea voyage followed by a trip to French’s shop to ensure all was in order for its Australian racing debut. The Camaro has been extensively raced in the US and is prepared in keeping with period Trans-Am standards – mimicking Mark Donahue’s Penske Camaro under the skin – including a five-litre V8 with a single four-barrel Holley carburetor, four-speed transmission and 1969 Corvette brakes. He would have his work cut out for him against a tough 55-car entry that included TCM regulars and New Zealand’s Central Muscle Cars.
Roberts’ personal preparation for Mount Panorama involved a few laps in a rental car, watching YouTube videos and a track walk, but this only scratched the surface of the track’s mysteries. He had driven on a lot of circuits, but nothing like this...
The narrowness of the track reminded Roberts of Mosport in Canada (before its widening).
“The section from Skyline to Forrest’s Elbow resembled Laguna Seca’s Corkscrew,” he said, “but with all the twists and turns the circuit has it was more like three Corkscrews!”
Overall Roberts found Mount Panorama’s high speed straights and 23 turns daunting.
The plan hatched months earlier came to fruition as Roberts and his Camaro took their spot on the grid at the Touring Car Masters support race for the 2016 Bathurst 1000. Any concerns he had felt were quickly dispelled as he found the Australian and New Zealand drivers very respectful on track. He had no problems mixing it up with his fellow competitors. The racers he met and competed against were great people who truly love their cars, always proved most helpful and, above all, were very fast!
Returning to the US, but still wanting to share his Bathurst experience, Roberts decided to pay tribute to this year’s Bathurst 1000-winning car of Will Davison/Jonathon Webb by cloaking his Pontiac GTO in a similar Darrell Lea STIX paint scheme. He felt this was a fitting way to highlight the GTO’s origins as a Holden Monaro imported to the US with enough changes to meet regulations and Pontiac’s marketing requirements. The car debuted at the Savannah Speed Classic in Atlanta where these photos were taken.
All in all, Roberts, whose business includes producing Hawk Performance brake pads, found competing in Australia a “great experience and a fantastic time” that he very much hopes to repeat.