The Great Race is on again this Sunday, and it looks like it will be one of the last in which we’ll see Holden and Ford duke it out in their classic V8s.
It’s a unique feature of Australian culture that the Bathurst 1000 only matters to pretty much everyone who watches it in terms of who’ll come up trumps the greatest sporting rivalry in the country. It’s not like it’s traditionally a two-horse race.
In its 54-year history, there’s barely a car company that hasn’t been represented at Mt Panorama. From Prince, Singer and Studebaker to Leyland and Dodge – the list of Bathurst 500/1000 vehicles contains no less than 43 different manufacturers.
In 1966, the first nine cars across the line bore the Morris Cooper S badge. (The winner was driven by Aussie Bob Holden.)
But a year later, Harry Firth and Fred Gibson piloted the first Aussie built V8 muscle car, a Ford XR Falcon GT, home ahead of the Geoghegan brothers Leo and Ian in the same model.
The following year, Holden’s Monaro entered the fray, and for 20 years, Bathurst became the big V8 battleground.
Every now and then, organisers have dallied with compliance rules and the odd nimble foreign touring car has snatched a controversial, unpopular victory or two. The Ford Sierras in ’88 and ’89 and the Skaife-Richards Nissan Skyline double in ’92 and ’93 being most notable.
Diversity is a good thing, but technology has a habit of eventually sucking the testosterone out of everything. This year’s underwhelming and uninspiring F1 cars are the latest prime example.
So news that Ford is talking of ending its association with V8 Supercars at the end of next year – and Holden possible to follow in 2016 – is casting a pall over the 2014 event.
There’s nothing we can do about it, because Ford and Holden won’t even exist as companies in Australia, let alone be able to manufacture cars to race.
Nothing to do except enjoy the last couple of hundred laps of brutal, big-block action and have a bit of a laugh at these foreign drivers and foreign cars struggling to tame the mountain.
Only pride was the casualty.
1. Kiwi Ian Spurle in a Nissan Sentra, 1998.
2. Greg Murphy in a Vauxhall Vectra; Englishman Tim Harvey in a Volvo, 1998. A Vectra!
3. Wayne Johnson in Honda Integra.
5. Several Kiwis in Toyota Corollas and a Nissan Skyline, 1987.
6. Crashing into the same crash, Aussie Gary Brabham (London born) and Argentina’s Juan Maneul Fangio III in a BMW M3.
7. Aussies Conway, Gardiner and Forshaw in a Toyota Sprinter, 1992, the second year dominated by the Richards-Skaife Skyline.
8. Kevin Bartlett, Chevy Camaro, 1982. He won the Great Race in 1974 in a Falcon GT.
9. Aussies Phil Ward and David Clement’s Mercedes 190E, 1988.
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