Australian Muscle Car - - Mail -

It used to be said that big, heavy, pow­er­ful cars weren’t any good at Bathurst. They might get up the Moun­tain quickly, but that fast, twist­ing run across the top and down the Moun­tain puts so much stress through wheels, axles and sus­pen­sion com­po­nents that the big­ger cars just can’t han­dle it. And good luck get­ting them to stop at the end of Con­rod Straight 130 times ev­ery three min­utes. The con­ven­tional wis­dom was that some­thing small, light and nim­ble was the way to go at Bathurst. Some­thing like the Ford Cortina GT500, devel­oped es­pe­cially for the 1965 race by Harry Firth.

Five years on and Firth was at­tempt­ing to do more or less the same thing with Holden. But things had changed in the in­terim. Large, pow­er­ful cars still had their prob­lems at Bathurst, but with Holden and Ford now el­d­ing high­per­for­mance V8s that were al­most 20 sec­onds a lap faster than the old Cortina GT 500, it was go­ing to take a very good smaller-ca­pac­ity car to win Bathurst in 1970.

The smaller-ca­pac­ity car in ques­tion, the LC model To­rana GTR XU-1, cer­tainly looked the goods when it rst ar­rived on the Se­ries Pro­duc­tion rac­ing scene. It was a spec­tac­u­lar en­trance in­deed for the XU-1 at War­wick Farm on Septem­ber 6, with Colin Bond win­ning in his

rst start. Bond came from be­hind and had the crowd in rap­tures as the lit­tle coupe nipped past the big Monaros of Spencer Martin, Bob Mor­ris and Bob Jane un­der brakes on con­sec­u­tive laps to take the vic­tory.

The sym­bol­ism of that per­for­mance was clear to all: it was a chang­ing-of-the-guard mo­ment for Holden. In just one race, the Monaro had gone from be­ing the Gen­eral’s log­i­cal weapon of choice in Se­ries Pro­duc­tion to sud­denly be­ing seen as a heavy old lum­ber­ing beast that had reached its use-by date – lit­er­ally last year’s model. In just one race, the mighty Monaro had seem­ingly been emas­cu­lated by its lit­tle brother To­rana.

And yet… just as the twisty War­wick Farm was ide­ally suited to the XU-1, it was prob­a­bly the least Monaro-friendly cir­cuit out­side of maybe Win­ton and Ama­roo Park. And though Bond’s XU-1 beat the Monaros that day, it wasn’t as though he left them for dead. In fact, he wasn’t any faster than them; he shared the fastest lap of the race (1m50.6s) with Jane’s 350.

Fur­ther at­ter­ing the XU-1’s seem­ingly her­culean rst-up win was the near-com­plete ab­sence of GT-HOs. There had only been one de­cent Fal­con there that week­end, Fred Gib­son’s Phase I, but it ex­ited the race with fuel pres­sure prob­lems af­ter just one lap. The real test for the XU-1 lay ahead just seven days later at Sandown, and that’s where the mag­ni­tude of the chal­lenge it faced on the Moun­tain was re­vealed. Sandown’s two long straights

graph­i­cally ex­posed the XU-1’s com­par­a­tive lack of straight line speed. If the new To­ranas weren’t in the run­ning at Sandown, what hope was there for them at Mount Panorama, where the straights were even longer, and the hills even steeper?

If any­one run­ning a Holden (or any­one at Holden) was hav­ing sec­ond thoughts about the To­rana af­ter Sandown, it was al­ready too late. The die was cast, the Bathurst en­try ac­cep­tance list al­ready set. Not one of the Monaros that raced at War­wick Farm on Septem­ber 6 would be at Bathurst four weeks later. In fact, only one HT Monaro GTS 350 would front at Mount Panorama for that year’s big race. The Holden en­try con­sisted of that lone Monaro (for David Shel­don) and 12 XU-1s – with an­other three To­ranas wait­ing their chance on the re­serve list.

If noth­ing else, Ford was al­most guar­an­teed vic­tory in Class E, as long as at least one Fal­con made it home. The en­try for that class con­tained

Be­low: What might have been... Holden would have had a bet­ter chance against Ford in 1970 at Bathurst by fight­ing V8 fire with some V8 fire of its own. Monaros run­ning first to third at War­wick Farm (above) just one month be­fore Bathurst. But all three are about to be over­whelmed by the lit­tle green car chasing them. 14 GT-HOs, the afore­men­tioned Shel­don GTS 350 and, fas­ci­nat­ingly, a Jaguar 4.2 XJ6 au­to­matic for Jack Nougher and David O’Keefe (which never even­tu­ated, the pair in­stead switch­ing to a BMW 2800 – the rst BMW to start in a Bathurst 500/1000).

When Colin Bond won that Septem­ber War­wick Farm race, part of the sen­sa­tion it caused was due to the ex­pec­ta­tion from some that this new up­rated GTR To­rana was only in­tended to be a class con­tender. This wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily a mis­con­cep­tion, ei­ther, be­cause even within Holden it­self – at least ini­tially – it was no cer­tainty that Firth would be able to de­liver an XU-1 pack­age that was an out­right con­tender.

In fact, the XU-1 re­ally was both: a car that was com­pet­i­tive at a ma­jor­ity of cir­cuits – and even dom­i­nant on some – but a class car on others.

The XU-1 made life a mis­ery for GT-HO driv­ers try­ing to beat it at tracks like Ama­roo Park and War­wick Farm. In a clas­sic ex­am­ple of this, in qual­i­fy­ing for the rst round of the 1971 South Paci c Tour­ing Car Se­ries at War­wick Farm, Al­lan Mof­fat couldn’t get within a sec­ond of Bob Mor­ris’ XU-1 pole lap time. In the 34-lap race, af­ter Mor­ris re­tired with a sheared wheel, Mof­fat’s Phase II even­tu­ally pathed his way through the XU-1s to be run­ning a dis­tant sec­ond to Colin Bond un­til a wheel broke on the Fal­con. XU-1s

nished rst to fourth; fth placed McPhee in the sec­ond works Phase II was al­most a full lap down. At War­wick Farm that day, the GT-HOs had vir­tu­ally been re­duced to Class E com­peti­tors only!

One week later at Sandown for the sec­ond round of the South Paci c Se­ries, the sit­u­a­tion was re­versed. In qual­i­fy­ing Mof­fat was a full two sec­onds faster than Bond’s XU-1! (Mof­fat then promptly crashed heav­ily, fronting up the fol­low­ing day for the race with a pris­tine GT-HO Phase II which Rac­ing Car News de­scribed as ‘look­ing dis­tinctly like a new one…’).

The XU-1 was bril­liant on some tracks, but at places like Sandown and Bathurst, it just didn’t have the legs. It’s true that it was ca­pa­ble of win­ning on those tracks – be­cause it did – but the cir­cum­stances had to be just right. All things be­ing equal, the XU-1 was a Class C Bathurst con­tender whose main op­po­nent was the two­bar­rel Valiant Pacer.

If you were re­ally se­ri­ous about win­ning Bathurst in 1970, you needed a V8.

Jane Brock O’Brien Mof­fat

* Lap time charts are listed

Monaro Aug ‘71 52.8s XU-1 Aug ‘71 52.8s Phase II Aug ‘71 52.8s Phase II Mar ‘71 53.9s rstly in chrono­log­i­cal or­der (sep­a­rated into years) and then by lap time.

rac­ing rub­ber the works cars ran.

Like­wise in the race it­self, the Phase IIs were no faster than the GT-HOs had been 12 months ear­lier. Per­haps this was be­cause in 1970 the fac­tory Fords were not forced to push to the max­i­mum. In­deed, it was left to one of the pri­va­teer Phase IIs to set the fastest lap. That was John Goss, whose best lap was al­most a full sec­ond slower than the cor­re­spond­ing Phase I fastest lap from the ’69 race.

We know that the HT Monaro GTS 350 was a pretty even match for the Phase I. And on the ev­i­dence of the qual­i­fy­ing and race lap times, there’s lit­tle doubt that the GTS 350 could have matched the Phase IIs in 1970. The fact is that the GT-HO Phase II was not a demon­stra­bly faster car than the HT Monaro GTS 350. Maybe not even faster at all.

This was not just the case at Bathurst, ei­ther.

It was the same at pretty much ev­ery other track. At the Novem­ber Oran Park night-race meet­ing John Goss set a fastest lap of 54.7 sec­onds in his Phase II. Nearly three months into his time with the Cleve­land-pow­ered XW should surely have been enough for a driver of Goss’ skills to have ex­tracted max­i­mum per­for­mance from it. But Goss’ best lap that day was still three-tenths slower than the time Bob Mor­ris had set in his Monaro back in Au­gust. In fact, no GT-HO Phase II ever went faster than Mor­ris’ Monaro at the south­ern Syd­ney track un­til Goss shaved the lap record by one-tenth late in Fe­bru­ary the next year.

At Calder, too, a good HT GTS 350 – namely Bob Jane’s 350 – was al­ways a match for any XW Fal­con, no mat­ter which Phase. In fact, as late as March, 1971 – less than two months be­fore the XY Phase III was re­leased! – Jane recorded the last Se­ries Pro­duc­tion race win for a Monaro. And it wasn’t as though he had no op­po­si­tion that day: trail­ing the big Holden V8 coupe home were no less than Mof­fat’s works Ford team Phase II and Peter Brock in a HDT To­rana XU-1.

In the be­gin­ning at the Holden Dealer Team, Colin Bond was the undis­puted lead driver. Bond’s ver­sa­til­ity meant he could be em­ployed in rac­ing as well as in ral­ly­ing, and that was how things op­er­ated for the rst six months of the HDT. His suc­cess rate in HDT Monaros dur­ing that pe­riod in ral­ly­ing and rac­ing was phe­nom­e­nal.

And there’s no rea­son it couldn’t have con­tin­ued right through 1970, Bond be­lieves. On re­flec­tion, Bond reck­ons the Monaro was re­tired be­fore its time had come:

“I think we went too early with the XU-1 at Bathurst. The XU-1 was a great car on just about ev­ery other cir­cuit. But at

Bathurst you needed the bloody V8 to get up the hill. In the XU-1 you’d get caught up be­hind some of the slower Fords, and they could hold you up for a while un­til their tyres started to go away, and then you could get round them and rack off. In the mean­time, Mof­fat and the others are dis­ap­pear­ing down the road.

“Had we run Monaros in 1970s, we would have run on race tyres. I’m sure our car in 1969 was bet­ter than Digby Cooke’s car, which was on race tyres and started from the front row that year.

“In the ‘69 race, we were on Miche­lin XAS road tyres and we were as fast as the Fords – and they had rac­ing tyres. Early on af­ter Mof­fat stopped on the rst lap with a gear se­lec­tion prob­lem, we had no prob­lem run­ning with the Geoghe­gans.

“Af­ter the ’69 Bathurst pretty much ev­ery­one was switch­ing over to rac­ing tyres. Ford was sort of us­ing Goodyear only by then. I ran Fire­stones at the Lake­side 1500, and by then there were

some fairly good com­bi­na­tions from tyre man­u­fac­tur­ers that you could try.

“I would have thought also that by Bathurst 1970, and hav­ing raced the Monaro through that year, we would have had at least a bet­ter car than the year be­fore. We would have been on race tyres; we de nitely would have been faster in 1970 at Bathurst with a Monaro.”

Bond also won­ders whether or not he played a role in seal­ing the Monaro’s fate, with his race-win­ning drive on de­but in the XU-1 at War­wick Farm.

“If we hadn’t have gone to War­wick Farm rst time out and passed all the Monaros and won the race, who knows? Be­cause af­ter that race, I

Colin Bond be­lieves a HG Monaro could have beaten the new GT-HO Phase II at Bathurst in 1970, just as the HT GTS 350 had seen off the Phase I in 1969.

think ev­ery­one was just think­ing, ‘this [the XU-1] is the go.’

“There were re­ally only Monaros ahead of us that day, and in the race we were knock­ing them off one af­ter an­other into Creek Cor­ner lap af­ter lap, and then we got Jane on the last lap and won the race.

“War­wick Farm was a at track that suited the XU-1, but for the car to do that straight away sort of sig­nals that it’s the way to go.

“And it had hap­pened be­fore that you could win Bathurst with some­thing smaller and lighter, like the GT500 Cortina, which had also been one of Harry’s cars.”

So, had it been up to Bond, what would a HG Monaro GTS 350 1970 Bathurst con­tender have looked like?

Brakes were the Monaro’s big­gest prob­lem. They were the same brakes as the XU-1. The Monaro han­dled pretty well, a bit bet­ter than the Fal­con, off the show­room oor at least.

Brock’s sprint de­but

While Peter Brock had shared a HDT GTS 350 to third place with Des West at Bathurst in ’69, into the fol­low­ing sea­son the young Brock’s sta­tus within the team was far from con­crete.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter the ‘69 Bathurst there was no full time role for Brock at the HDT. He went back to rac­ing his Austin A30-Holden. Brock’s next start in a HDT Monaro wasn’t un­til April 12, 1970, at Oran Park In what was the last race ap­pear­ance for a HDT Monaro, this was Brock’s rst ex­pe­ri­ence of a tour­ing car sprint race in open com­pany. His op­po­si­tion that day was not in­con­se­quen­tial, and in­cluded sim­i­lar GTS 350s for Bob Mor­ris, Spencer Martin and Nick Petrilli, plus Fred Gib­son’s GT-HO and the new works Valiant Pac­ers of Leo Geoghe­gan and Des West.

Brock set the fastest lap (55.7s) in the 15-lap Toby Lee Se­ries nal but crashed out af­ter a tan­gle with Harold Shar­man’s lapped GTS 327. Harry Firth was less than im­pressed with his young pro­tégé’s per­for­mance, but in a rare mo­ment off for­give­ness from the HDT boss, the young Brock was not given his march­ing or­ders. The rest, as they say, is his­tory.

John Goss heads the Se­ries Pro­duc­tion charge at Oran Park. The new Phase II GT-HO was not re­ally any faster than the Phase I - which was cer­tainly no faster than the Monaro GTS 350.


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