JOHN GOSS/KEVIN BARTLETT
HOLDEN SHOULD HAVE CRUSHED THE THREE PRIVATE FALCONS. ONE GT SURVIVED. AND WON.
OCTOBER 1974, MOUNT PANORAMA
WHY IT’S UNFORGETTABLE:
DRENCHING RAIN, A MURKY SKY, A LONE SURVIVING FALCON UP FRONT WITH A FAST HOLDEN ON THE HUNT… AS DARKNESS descended rapidly and the laps ran out in the rain-saturated 1974 Bathurst race, the leading Falcon GT driven by Kevin Bartlett was in sight of an improbable victory. But catching Bartlett rapidly was the Holden Torana of Bob Forbes.
Setting the scene, Ford had withdrawn from racing before that season began, and so just three privateer optimists – Allan Moffat, Murray Carter and John Goss – turned up with Falcon GTS for the 1974 Bathurst punch-up. They were up against a Holden armada led by the mighty factory Holden Dealer Team.
Goss, a loquacious limelight-loving Tasmanian with lots of talent and self-belief, chose the brave open-wheel star Bartlett to co-drive, even though KB was still recovering from serious leg injuries from a massive Formula 5000 shunt early in the year.
Pole winner Peter Brock had opened an amazing six-lap lead in the new HDT L34 before engine failure ended his race.
The Moffat and Carter machines were silent by mid-race, leaving the Goss/bartlett GT as the only surviving Falcon.
Then it started to drizzle. Goss (and others) were scrambling to stay on the track.
Bartlett remembers: “Moffat was out of contention, so with his mind on helping Ford, he offered us a set of Goodyear wets. Proper wets, not the grooved dry Bridgestone rubber like we had.” It was a crucial, race-winning call. With rain belting down and cars crashing regularly, the race evolved into a scrap among genuine privateers in the most treacherous conditions. Goss/bartlett versus Forbes/wayne Negus.
“It was horrific,” says Bartlett, not an easy man to frighten. “Water was streaming across the track in about 15 places. I was concentrating so hard. The wipers were lifting off the screen on the straights, and a few times I had to loosen the belts to reach forward to wipe the mist off the glass.
“But I had good tyres and I think the long wheelbase of the Falcon was an asset on the slippery track.”
The murky film noir semi-darkness only added to the dramatic finish as Forbes’ Torana closed to within nine seconds before Bartlett/goss took a brave win in the wettest Bathurst race held until then.
“IT WAS HORRIFIC; WATER WAS STREAMING ACROSS THE TRACK IN ABOUT 15 PLACES”