LEGENDS OF BATHURST FESTIVAL
Words and photos: Steve Ritchie
Growing up, Bathurst was always watched live on TV, with the most memorable race being that when the Godzilla Nissan Skyline GT-R of Jim Richards and Mark Skaife easily won, to the booing and jeering of the tens of thousands of V8 punters.
This year’s festival at Hampton Downs was to celebrate the history of Bathurst and the great achievements set by many of the drivers. It was held on January 13 and 14 under hot, dry conditions. Several drivers were present to celebrate the occasion, including New Zealand’s own Jim and Steve Richards; Paul Radisich; and Australia’s John Bowe, Allan Moffat, Fred Gibson, and John Goss. Several of them donned their overalls and helmets and were reunited with the cars that they raced in their heyday.
A walk around the paddock revealed various different cars from all eras racing and on static display. These included the 1971 XY Falcon that two-time Bathurst winner John Goss drove to sixth place in the 1971 Bathurst, while on static display in the pavilion was the Coppins/richards Torana L34. This car has special significance to New Zealanders, as it is the one and only car that a Kiwi team has got onto the podium, at the first of many Bathurst events which Jim Richards contested. Two of the Paul Radisich Mondeos — one of which won the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) — were also on hand and being driven by Scott O’donnell and Paul.
Racing over the two days was the Enzed Central Muscle Cars (CMC) 4Guys Autobarn Legends of Bathurst Invitational, which was for Bathurst replicas and some genuine historic touring cars, and featured Jim and Steve Richards, John Bowe, Angus Fogg, Matos Formula Libre and Sports Cars, and Historic Formula Ford. In all, over 100 drivers were on the entry list, which was a pretty good turnout for just five categories of racing.
Kicking off the racing on Saturday was Enzed CMC, which had four racing slots over the event. As with all races during the weekend, there was some very close racing. Trying to stop several tons of metal often proved difficult in the hot conditions, with tyres quickly overheating. Greg Honnor in a Ford Mustang was the most consistent, coming third in race one, and winning race four. His third place from round one meant that he had to start from 24th place in race two, so he was only able to move as high as 13th by the chequered flag.
The 4Guys Autobarn Legends of Bathurst Invitational featured cars of various ages and specifications, including an Allan Moffat replica RX-7, a replica of Peter Brock’s Commodore, as well as some newer machinery — Garry Carter’s Ford V8 supercar, and Alan Smith’s Greg Murphy / Jason Richards
V8 supercar. As wasn’t surprising, the Ford of Garry Carter won all three races by a mile, including the feature 20-lap race, in which he was paired up with John Bowe — difference: plus-one lap over the BMW of Warwick Mortimer, who had a slow driver change.
Historic Touring Cars is one of many classes experiencing growth at present. It was great seeing the cars that actually used to race in their premier classes. Jim Richards drove the BMW 635 CSI, which he first raced in 1983 for the Frank Gardner Racing team, while his son Steve piloted the BMW E30 that had previously been in the hands of Denny Hulme, Paul Radisich, and Craig Baird in the New Zealand Championship, and was raced to seventh place in the 1987 Bathurst 1000 by Gianfranco Brancatelli and Johnny Cecetto. Another favourite in this category was the ’97 Volvo 240GT, which John Bowe was reunited with — he raced it around the Mount in ’86. Queenslander Charlie O’brien won all three races while in charge of a Nissan Primera super tourer.
Into just the second season, the Matos Formula Libre and Sports Cars class had round two of its three-round series. Race one had David Glasson in a Juno sports car take the chequered flag, while second-place Dean Mccarroll — who started from pole — was down to ninth place by the second lap of the seven laps raced; however, over the course of the remaining laps, he clawed most of the positions back. As in the first race, the second was won by David Glasson, but stalwart Kenny Smith made an appearance in the top three after a good tussle with Hampton Downs owner Tony Quinn. The third race, which had Smith take off from pole, soon saw Quinn in his Reynard RF94 pass him by, and, from then on, Smith was playing catch-up. The dramatic end to this race saw a pile up of broken metal at the Double Bastard corner along with Smith, who ground to a halt on the last lap.
The Historic Formula Ford cars was the final class to race over the weekend. A surprise entrant to the group was Adrian Reynard, who was driving — wait for it — a Reynard 73FF. Reynard dabbled in Formula 1 (F1) early on in his career and was involved with the takeover of the Honda Racing F1 team in 2009. His races at Hampton didn’t go as planned, as he was forced to retire in lap two of the first race, while he gained sixth in race two and fifth in race three. Martin Lucas in the Lotus 69 dominated the first race, leading from start to finish, while Jason Liefting won race two when he worked his way up from a fifth-place start. Race three was won by Malcolm Oastler, after a fight with Lucas and Liefting.
To finish off the successful weekend of motor sport, trophies were handed out to the winners of the various classes and to those who made special contributions to the weekend, including the Historic Touring Cars, which received the Howden Ganley Trophy for its silent achievement in support of the festival. The BMW Motorsport Trophy was awarded to Peter Sturgeon, with the ex–jim Richards car, for being the “most significant and best presented” BMW Motorsport car. The final award — the Chris Amon Trophy — was presented by John Bowe to Stephen Armstrong for his Allan Moffat RX-7 replica. The citation was for “exceptional effort and endeavour in support of the festival”.