IRON LION TRACK TIME

THE MONARO TURNED OUT TO BE MORE THAN A STYLISH COUPE – IT SOON EMERGED AS A SE­RI­OUS TRACK WEAPON

Unique Cars - - CONTENTS - WORDS  MARK HIG­GINS PHO­TOS  AUTOPICS  UNIQUE CARS

The Holden Monaro proved to be a re­mark­ably ver­sa­tile com­pe­ti­tion car in cir­cuit rac­ing, ral­ly­ing, tar­mac events, long dis­tance marathons and even Ral­ly­cross.

It all started at Mel­bourne’s Sandown Park on Septem­ber 15 1968, where the Monaro GTS 327 made its rac­ing de­but and won the Datsun Three-Hour tour­ing car race, with an­other Monaro in sec­ond.

Vic­tory went to rally aces Tony Roberts and Bob Wat­son with Clive Mil­lis and Alan Jones, (later to be our sec­ond F1 world champ) sec­ond and com­plet­ing the podium was Alan Hamil­ton in a Porsche 911.

Three weeks later and the Monaro GTS 327 tri­umphed at Mt Panorama with Bruce McPhee and Barry Mul­hol­land win­ning Aus­tralia’s big­gest race in Aus­tralia’s first coupe and giv­ing Holden its first Bathurst vic­tor y. It was a clean sweep by the Monaro with Jim Palmer and Phil West sec­ond fol­lowed by Sandown vic­tors Tony Roberts and Bob Wat­son fin­ish­ing third.

The next month saw the run­ning of the gru­elling Lon­don to Syd­ney Marathon and among the 100 en­trants were three Monaros. One re­tired, but Doug Chivas and Barry Fer­gus­son fin­ished 12th with Doug White­ford and Ed­die Perkins (fa­ther of rac­ing driver Larry) four­teenth.

In 1969 Holden had its own works team, run by Ford de­fec­tor Harry Firth. Af­ter 500 miles the Monaro GTS 350 of Colin Bond and Tony Roberts took the honours, with Peter Brock, mak­ing his Bathurst de­but, third in an­other works GTS 350. The Monaro had seen off the big

“THE MONARO HAD SEEN OFF THE BIG BUCKS CHAL­LENGE OF THE FORD FAC­TORY AND ITS ALL-NEW PHASE I GT-HO FAL­CON"

bucks chal­lenge of the Ford fac­tory and its all-new Phase I GT-HO Fal­con.

De­spite its win this was the Monaro’s last ap­pear­ance with the works team in the Bathurst clas­sic, with Holden turn­ing to the lighter and more nim­ble Torana GTR XU-1 for its Se­ries Pro­duc­tion rac­ing in Au­gust 1970.

One driver who stuck with the Monaro was pri­va­teer Ron Dick­son who fronted at Bathurst in 1973 and 74 with a four-door Monaro GTS 308 com­plete with an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

Ral­ly­cross came to Aus­tralia in 1969 and the big Monaro GTS 350 was a front-run­ner for many meet­ings un­til it be­ing re­placed by the GTR XU-1.

Norm Beechey and his Im­proved Pro­duc­tion Monaro GTS 327 won two rounds and fin­ished third over­all in the 1969 Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship (ATCC).

Be­fore the GTR XU-1 ar­rived in Au­gust Colin Bond and Tony Roberts teamed up again to win the Roth­mans 12-hour race in the GTS 350 at the Surfers Par­adise race­way in early 1970 and in Fe­bru­ary the Monaro com­peted in the South Pa­cific Tour­ing Car se­ries, a sup­port event to the Tas­man Se­ries.

Stormin’ Norm Beechey built a Monaro GTS 350 for 1970 and won the Aus­tralian Tour­ing

Car Cham­pi­onship, a first for an Aus­tralian car, while in the Aus­tralian forests Colin Bond drove a Monaro GTS 350 to sec­ond in the Aus­tralian Rally Cham­pi­onship.

Two years later Bob Jane de­buted an HQ Monaro GTS 350 in the ATCC and when the cat­e­gory was scrapped, he raced it in sports sedans un­til the mid-70s, joined by Ian Geoghe­gan in an­other light­weight Monaro. Monaro sports sedans com­peted un­til the early 80s and then, like the road car, the Monaro’s mo­tor­sport ac­tiv­i­ties went into hi­ber­na­tion.

Fast for­ward to 2002 where Peter Brock be­came a favourite of the Targa Tas­ma­nia crowd f ling­ing his pur­pose-built tar­mac rally Monaro CV8 around the

Ap­ple isle course.

That same year Holden en­tered a Monaro in the first Bathurst 24 hour race. Built and run by Garry Rogers Mo­tor­sport, it was fit­ted with a 427ci 7.0-litre V8 and an aero kit based on the Com­modore Su­per­car.

Driven by Garth Tan­der and fel­low V8 Su­per­car drivers Steven Richards, Nathan Pretty and Cameron McConville, the Monaro qual­i­fied sec­ond and took an early lead only to stop to re­place its fuel cell los­ing 13 laps, then it jammed in gear los­ing more time. In­cred­i­bly it fought back from near last to win the in­au­gu­ral 24 race.

Later that year the HRT 427 road car was an­nounced but with an ask­ing price of $215,000 only two were built.

The 2003 Bathurst 24 hour win was an­other tri­umph for Holden with the Monaros beat­ing the world's best. Af­ter start­ing first and sec­ond the win­ning Monaro of Peter Brock, Greg Mur­phy, Jason Bright and Todd Kelly beat their team­mates by 0.3505 sec­onds. Nathan Pretty went on to fin­ish third in the Na­tions Cup se­ries with Peter Brock fourth in a sec­ond Monaro.

The Monaro's fi­nal year of com­pe­ti­tion saw James Brock join Peter and Nathan Pretty in a third Monaro in the Na­tions Cup with Pretty sec­ond in the se­ries fol­lowed by Brock ju­nior fourth and Brock se­nior sixth.

In a per­fect end­ing to its mo­tor­sport ca­reer, James Brock gave the Monaro its last race win at the 2004 Na­tions Cup Cham­pi­onship event at Mal­lala in South Aus­tralia.

01 The Peter Brock/ Des West HT GTS 350 on its way to a podium – Bathurst, 1969.

Ral­ly­cross GTS Monaro gets se­ri­ous air, Calder, 1972. 02Tony Roberts and Bob Wat­son – grin­ning win­ners, Sandown, 1968.03White­ford/ Perkins/Hawker HK– Lon­don-Syd­ney 1968.050604Peter Brock's CV8 – Bathurst 24-hour, 2003.Dick­son/Crea HQ GTS, Bathurst, 1974.

01 Pete Geoghe­gan's Monaro leads Bob Jane's – Calder 1974.

02 Roberts/ Wat­son HK wins Sandown 1968.03 Norm Beechey's HT – Bathurst 1970.04 Brocky at play – 2003 Targa Tas­ma­nia.05 Dick­son/ Stevens HQ ha­rass­ing Charger – Bathurst, 1973.

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