Bathurst by the years
Martin’s rst Great Race at the Mountain was... the rst Great Race at the Mountain! He drove the Scuderia Veloce-entered Holden EH S4 with Brian Muir. However, it all went pear-shaped for one of the favourites before Martin even got behind the wheel.
“Brian was trying real hard and the rear shock-absorbers were not up to the job,” recalls Martin. “We were getting wheel tramp at the back and it broke the centre-bolt in the spring and the differential moved back on one side pulling the tailshaft out of the gearbox. It took quite a while to x as we pulled the tailshaft out from another car.”
The glamour Holden nished 38th overall, 19 laps down on the winners.
Firmly in the Scuderia Veloce fold, for ‘64 Martin was saddled with one of the three dealer-supported Vauxhall Vivas entered in Class A. Teamed with another rising Scuderia star Bill Brown, the pair won their class in what was a Viva bene t.
SV took a punt with a team of factory Datsun Bluebirds that had performed faultlessly in the previous year’s Sandown 6 Hour International, with both cars in the top ten. But Bathurst was very different as Martin explained.
“We kept breaking wheels in practice. David (McKay) made the decision to withdraw the cars. The Japanese engineers were horri ed. It was a bit hard on Datsun.”
The reigning and soon-to-be repeat Gold Star champ was drafted into the Ford factory team to drive one of the new XR Falcon GTs, albeit with a twist. His team boss and multiple 500 winner Bob Jane shared the driving duties. As a rising tyre magnate, Jane made a pragmatic choice of ‘boots’ for the race and the decision would prove costly in the race.
“We ran German Fulda radials. Bob offered a bonus for anyone racing with them, but we were the only ones!” laughed Martin. “I’m going down Conrod at 120mph and the right-front tyre blew. We replaced that and then a rear tyre went! Bob thought he knew what the problem was and I said, ‘It’s your turn to have a drive, boss!’ We didn’t have any more problems, but then Bob was lapping ve seconds a lap slower…”
The pair nished 18th having covered 118 laps.
AMC covered Martin and Jim McKeown’s exploits in the factory XT Falcon GT Auto in issue #102, but here is a quick recap. The pair quali ed strongly and were well-positioned in the race when a rear axle failed with McKeown onboard, the car shedding a wheel at Griffin’s Bend. By the time McKeown collected a new axle from the pits and replaced it himself the car was well out of contention.
Martin never actually made it to Bathurst, but it is worth recounting the lead-up to what would turn out to be a victorious race in ‘his’ car.
Harry Firth had been hired by GM-H to form the Holden Dealer Team and bought Martin across with him from Ford to race at both Sandown and Bathurst in the new HT Monaro GTS 350. At the Sandown 250 he was teamed with old foe Kevin Bartlett in the sole HDT entry, in the famed squad’s rst race. As Bartlett was competing in a Gold Star race earlier in the day, Martin started the race.
“The car was okay,” remembers Martin. “We were getting wheel tramp and the brakes were marginal. I was trying to hang onto Moffat (Falcon GT-HO) who was leading and the brake pedal was going down. At the end of the main straight the pedal went to the oor. Nothing. There was no run-off, so I threw it at the corner. It ew across the grass backwards into the Armco. It drove the rear muffler into the fuel tank. The re was enormous. The doors were jammed, so I climbed out of the window and crawled along the grass.”
Martin thought that it may have popped a rear brake-cylinder, but Firth found the singed Monaro had a pedal, ruling out a leak and pinning the blame on the driver in Firth’s familiar ‘you’re a naughty schoolboy’ manner.
It wasn’t until 20 years later that the real reason emerged. HDT mechanic at the time Frank Lowndes (father of Craig) admitted that after the race pads were bedded in during practice, road pads were tted so that the Monaro could be driven home overnight. However, Lowndes failed to swap the pads before the race and the road pads soon wore down to the metal – with catastrophic results.
For Bathurst, Martin was teamed with rally ace Tony Roberts, but had to withdraw after injuring his back in a road accident prior to the race.
“I fractured my vertebrae in a car accident – my brother was driving his old Holden wagon. I called Harry and told him I couldn’t drive. Colin Bond had been testing the Monaro at Amaroo