Garry Rogers Motorsport
|Team Principal||Garry Rogers|
|Team Manager||Dean Cowling|
|Race Drivers||33. Scott McLaughlin
34. Robert Dahlgren
|2013 position||6th (3,340 points)|
Garry Rogers Motorsport (currently known as Volvo Polestar Racing) is an Australian motor racing team. The team is owned by retired racing driver Garry Rogers who began the team to further his own racing efforts. Based in Melbourne, originally out of a Nissan dealership owned by Rogers, the team has competed in a variety of touring car series in Australia ranging from relatively modest Nissan production cars to Chevrolet NASCARs to building GT specification Holden Monaros. The team won the Bathurst 1000 in 2000 and also won both of the Bathurst 24 Hour races which were held in 2002 and 2003. In 2013 the team celebrated its 50th year in racing since Rogers made his debut.
Rogers has been famed as a talent spotter with a number of future champions and Bathurst winners finding their feet within GRM, including Steven Richards, Jason Bargwanna, Garth Tander, Jamie Whincup and Lee Holdsworth.
The early years
Garry Rogers Motorsport has its origins in 1963 when Garry Rogers began racing Appendix J Holdens. He then went on to race Sports Sedans during the late 1960s and the 1970s. In the mid-1970s Rogers got more serious, running a BDA Escort in Sports Sedans with some success, before moving onto an ex-Ian Geoghegan Holden Monaro. Around this time, in late 1978, Rogers also moved into the Australian Touring Car Championship as a privateer in an ex-Bob Jane Holden Torana. He ran through until the end of 1979 in touring cars before turning his attention back to Sports Sedans, putting in a big effort in the 1981 Australian Sports Sedan Championship driving a Holden Torana LX SS A9X Hatchback.
The team disbanded while Rogers concentrated on his Nissan dealership and he drove for other teams at the Bathurst 1000, including Allan Browne's Re-Car team in 1982 paired with Ron Wanless (who famously drove the Commodore the wrong direction through pit lane without copping a penalty). Rogers was a top 10 qualifier at Bathurst in 1983, partnering Clive Benson-Brown to a 13th place finish after suffering brake problems, while in 1984 he drove with Melbourne "Gentleman" Peter Janson in the Castrol 500 at Sandown, and the James Hardie 1000 at Bathurst in Janson's Commodore. The car failed to finish both endurance races.
As Australian touring car racing went to regulations based on FIA Group A from 1985, Rogers once again only drove at Sandown and Bathurst, teaming with Melbourne solicitor Jim Keogh in Keogh's ex-JPS Team BMW 635 CSi. After not finishing at Sandown, the pair finished 6th outright at Bathurst, 4 laps behind the TWR Jaguar XJS of John Goss and Armin Hahne.
GRM re-emerged in 1986 when he ran purchased a BMW 635 CSi from JPS Team BMW and drove it throughout that year's touring car season. The year included a win in one of the AMSCAR Series races at Amaroo Park. Rogers BMW carried sponsorship from Bob Jane T-Marts, with the car painted in Bob Jane's famous Sebring Organge. At the 1986 James Hardie 1000, Rogers teamed with Queenslander Charlie O'Brien. After qualifying 22nd, O'Brien started the race, but the car was struck down by a slipping clutch which led to its retirement after just 19 laps.
After spending 1987 on ice, the team came back in late-1988 with a Les Small (Roadways Racing) prepared, but unsponsored Holden VL Commodore SS Group A SV at the Tooheys 1000, sharing the drive with American John Andretti, the nephew of motor racing legend Mario Andretti. Rogers had originally wanted Mario to drive with him at Bathurst, hoping his high profile would help land a major sponsor, but the 1978 World Champion was unavailable and suggested his nephew as a replacement. Unfortunately though, Andretti was recovering from a broken leg (he still needed crutches outside of the car), continued the tradition of American drivers not having a good Bathurst record and on lap 37 put the Commodore into the wall at Reid Park. To his credit Andretti admitted the accident was caused by going too fast, too soon, on cold tyres.
The Commodore was also run in selected (mostly Victorian based) rounds throughout the 1989 Australian Touring Car Championship. For the 1989 Tooheys 1000, Rogers accepted an offer to drive Colin Bond's Caltex CXT Race Team's second Ford Sierra RS500 with Ken Mathews. Rogers and Matthews failed to finish the race. In the early 1990s GRM turned its attention to the Calder Park Thunderdome and the AUSCAR series running a variety of Ford Falcons during the category's heyday (during the 1990s AUSCAR fields were dominated by the Holden Commodore). At first, Rogers drove the car himself alongside Paul Fordham. Garry slowly eased himself out of regular driving, putting Steven Richards in the seat. The team also secured a major sponsor in Valvoline along the way.
In this time the team also competed in Production Car racing at events such as the Winton 300 and Bathurst 12 Hour. The team used a Nissan Pulsar and a 300ZX due to Rogers' links with Nissan (he owns a Nissan dealership in Melbourne). Rogers also ran and then assisted Formula Ford teams during the 1990s, helping title sponsor Valvoline's promotion of Australian motorsport, as well as helping drivers such as Steven Richards and Garth Tander.
GRM joined the fledging Australian Super Touring Car Championship in 1994 with young lead driver Steven Richards piloting the teams Alfa Romeo 155. Quickly Richards was established as one of the series leading privateers, finishing ninth in the burgeoning championship. In 1995 the team replaced the Alfa with a Honda Accord and used it to win the Privateers Cup and finished fifth in the championship behind the two factory supported BMWs and Audis. The team continued into 1996, replacing the Honda with a Nissan Primera but the teams form slipped, distracted by their new V8 Supercar and finished seventh, losing the Privateers Cup to Cameron McLean.
V8 Supercar Series
Garry Rogers Motorsport joined the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1996 with Richards a driving a Holden VS Commodore sourced from Gibson Motor Sport. The team expanded to two cars in 1998, with Jason Bargwanna driving the second car. Richards went to England for a test drive with the Nissan team in the British Touring Car Championship and was replaced by 1997 Australian Formula Ford champion Garth Tander. Bargwanna scored the team's first race win at Calder that year, also finishing second for the round. Tander scored the team's first round win in 1999 at Queensland Raceway and he and Bargwanna finished second in the Queensland 500 in the same year.
The 2000 season remains the team's most successful season to date. Tander won three rounds (including the Bathurst 1000 with Bargwanna) and finished runner-up to Mark Skaife in the title. Tander led the series early in the season but a couple of bad rounds in the middle of the season allowed Skaife to take the championship lead. Compared to 2000, 2001 was a poor season for the team, with Tander and Bargwanna finishing tenth and fifteenth in the points respectively and a best finish of second for Tander in Canberra. Bargwanna took his final win for the team at Surfers Paradise in 2002 before switching to Larkham Motor Sport for the 2003 season. He was replaced by 2002 Australian Formula Ford champion Jamie Whincup.
GRM was one of the first teams to use the Holden VY Commodore for the 2003 season, with Tander driving the new model car. Whincup would drive an older model VX Commodore. Whincup was sacked at the end of the season and was replaced by Cameron McConville for 2004. McConville took the team's first round win in two years in controversial circumstances at Winton when he passed Rick Kelly on the second last corner of the race just after the end of a yellow flag zone. Tander left the team at the end of 2004 for what was then called Kmart Racing and was replaced by Andrew Jones. Jones was sacked before the end of the 2005 season and was replaced by Dean Canto for the end of 2005 and the 2006 season. Lee Holdsworth also joined the 2006, with McConville moving to Paul Weel Racing. The team scored one race win in 2006 with Canto winning the reverse grid race at Barbagallo after Team Kiwi Racing driver Paul Radisich spun off the track at the last corner.
2007 saw the team's first major livery change since joining the sport, with the traditional blue, white and red replaced by black, silver and red. Major sponsor Repco also left the team. Holdsworth and Canto remained with the team with Canto driving a new Holden VE Commodore. Holdsworth remained in a VZ Commodore until the Queensland Raceway round. Holdsworth was involved in a serious crash in Round 4 at Winton when his car slid off the circuit and went backwards into the wall at high speed. Holdsworth rebounded quickly to score his maiden V8 Supercar round win at Oran Park Raceway. After qualifying a career best fourth, Holdsworth dominated the final race of the weekend in very wet weather after a good strategy call from the team at the start of the race. Holdsworth was commended for his composure during the race while other, more experienced drivers made errors.
Michael Caruso joined the team for 2008, replacing Canto. No wins came for the team in this season, however Holdsworth finished second at the Clipsal 500 and he and Caruso finished fifth at the L&H 500. Caruso won his first race in 2009, holding off a late race charge from Alex Davison in the Sunday race at Hidden Valley. Holdsworth was again on the podium at the Clipsal 500, finishing second in the Saturday race. The team also achieved a podium at Bathurst, with Holdsworth and Caruso finishing third. The second car of Greg Ritter and David Besnard looked like being in a position to win the race in the closing stages before a poorly timed safety car meant that they only finished ninth.
2010 saw the team's major sponsor change from Valvoline to Fujitsu with the livery changing in accordance, to red and white separated by black lines. The Clipsal 500 saw Holdsworth finish on the podium at the event for the third year in a row, Holdsworth taking third place on Sunday. The team came very close to winning the Bathurst 1000, with Holdsworth and Besnard leading the majority of the race. A drive-through penalty for speeding in pit lane with thirty laps to go meant that the pair would only finish in seventh place, while Caruso and Ritter finished tenth. Holdsworth won the final race of the year at the Sydney 500 after taking both pole positions for the event.
Holdsworth and Caruso remained with the team in 2011 for their fourth consecutive season at teammates. The team was only able to achieve three podium results, with Holdsworth finishing second at Hamilton and at Winton and third at the 2011 Gold Coast 600, driving with Frenchman Simon Pagenaud. Caruso achieved a best result of fourth at the Sydney 500. Holdsworth left the team to join Stone Brothers Racing in 2012 and he was replaced by French driver Alexandre Prémat, while Caruso entered his fifth season with the team. The team struggled to find pace during the year, with a best result of fourth for Caruso at Hidden Valley, while Prémat struggled for most of the season. Prémat showed good pace at the Sydney 500, however, before retiring from the Saturday race with heat exhaustion. He was unable to take part in the Sunday race and was replaced by Development Series champion Scott McLaughlin.
For 2013, McLaughlin was signed to drive for the team full-time alongside Prémat, with Caruso moving to Nissan Motorsport. Under the new Next Generation V8 Supercar regulations, the team performed strongly at the start of the year with Prémat and McLaughlin finishing fourth and sixth respectively in the first race of the season at the Clipsal 500. McLaughlin went on to finish in the top ten in the first six races, becoming the youngest ever V8 Supercar race winner when he took victory at Pukekohe. However, his fortunes changed following this victory, only taking three top ten finishes in the next fifteen races. Queensland Raceway saw a return to form, with McLaughlin taking a second place and a victory. He was on track for another podium in the final race before a tyre failure dropped him down the field. Both cars finished in the top ten at the Sandown 500, with McLaughlin and Jack Perkins finishing eighth and Prémat and Greg Ritter finishing tenth. McLaughlin finished the year tenth in the points standings while Prémat finished in nineteenth.
In June 2013 it had been announced that the team would switch to running the Volvo S60 for the 2014 season, in a collaboration with Volvo Cars and Polestar Racing. As a result of the Swedish manufacturer's involvement, Prémat was dropped in favour of Swedish driver Robert Dahlgren.
Bathurst 24 Hour and Nations Cup
In 2002 Holden Motorsport was looking at running a Holden Monaro in the Bathurst 24 Hour endurance sports car race against the likes of the Lamborghini Diablo GTR, Ferrari F360, Chrysler Viper and Porsche 911 GT3. After the Holden Racing Team reportedly turned down the job of building the Monaro, GRM accepted the job of building the car as well as running it. The car ran a GRM developed version of the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R's 7.0 litre, 427cui motor which had taken numerous class wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The GRM engines were built by the team's engine builder Mike Excel.
The Nations Cup Monaro was controversial thanks to its 7.0 litre V8 as the road going Monaro was only equipped with the smaller, 5.7 litre Gen III V8. Many felt that the car should have been using the smaller engine, as all other cars in the Australian Nations Cup Championship were required to use production based engines of the same capacity as their road going versions. However, Nations Cup managers PROCAR Australia (founded and run by long time Dick Johnson Racing sponsor Ross Palmer of Palmer Tube Mills fame) wanted a local manufacturer racing in the championships top category (without just making up the numbers) and gave Holden special permission to use the 427 V8 in the Monaro in order to better compete with the 6.0 litre V12 Lamborghini and the 8.0 litre V10 Viper.
In its race debut, the 2002 Bathurst 24 Hour, Tander qualified the bright yellow #427 car (nicknamed the "Nuclear banana") in second spot behind the N-GT Ferrari F360 driven by John Bowe (one of Bowe's co-drivers Brad Jones had set the pole time in the Ferrari). After taking the lead at the start, the car suffered an early flat tyre which dropped it to second behind the Cirtek Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 of David Brabham (the Ferrari had already suffered the first of 2 engine failures early on and was out of contention). Then, just a few hours into the race, the entire fuel cell of the Monaro needed to be replaced, dropping the car 13 laps behind the Porsche. The team overcame the fuel cell problem as well as the car becoming jammed between gears just before sunrise after Nathan Pretty was hit by the BMW 318i of Debbie Chapman in The Chase, which also caused damage to the driver's side door. The Monaro spun and stalled, jamming the gearbox, forcing Pretty to get out and rock the car back and forth to clear the problem. By the 18 hour mark the GRM entry had clawed its way back to second place only 3 laps behind the lead. The Porsche struck trouble with a broken half-shaft, causing the car to pit for 4 laps. The GRM Monaro re-took the lead, despite the Monaro pitting at the same time as the Porsche to replace rear suspension bolts that had broken away from the chassis. When the Porsche returned to the track, Allan Grice, told to drive as fast as possible, hit the wall on the top of the mountain while attempting to lap the Mosler MT900R driven by Park Pashley which broke the Porsche's rear suspension and took it out of contention. Upon its return to the track Darren Palmer put the car into the wall at Griffin's Bend with no steering, a legacy of the Grice crash. The Monaro, driven by Garth Tander, Steven Richards, Cameron McConville and Nathan Pretty, ran in the lead for the last five hours to win the race by 24 laps from the British entered Mosler of Martin Short. In the race, Tander's fastest race lap of 2:14.3267 was actually quicker than Brad Jones' pole time of 2:15.0742.
It was then widely expected that regular GRM V8 Supercar driver Tander would drive the car in the 2003 Australian Nations Cup Championship, and Tander himself stated that he would like to race the car. But it was former AUSCAR and part-time V8 Supercar driver Nathan Pretty who was given the drive instead. Pretty went on to score numerous race wins in the series, including round wins at Symmons Plains and Winton, but would finish third in the eight round championship behind the Lamborghini of Paul Stokell and John Bowe in the Ferrari.
In 2003 GRM built a second car for the legendary touring car driver Peter Brock. Brock had driven the Bathurst winning Monaro at the Nations Cup support racing at the 2003 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne (the car ran with Brock's famous #05 rather than its usual #427), winning all four races after battles with Paul Stokell. He then drove the new car (painted red and, until late in the series without the team sponsorship of "Just Car Insurance") in the Nations Cup Championship alongside Pretty, though he did not win again until the final round at Surfers Paradise. Pretty and Brock finished third and fourth in the 2003 Championship. It was this second car which won the 2003 Bathurst 24 Hour with Jason Bright, Todd Kelly and Greg Murphy sharing the driving with Brock. The winning car from 2002, driven by the same four drivers as the previous year finished second, less than one second behind after 24 hours of racing. With seven minutes to go in the race, and with the two Monaro's running nose to tail, Garry Rogers gave the drivers (Murphy and Tander) permission to race each other to the finish, with orders to respect the work put into the event by the team and not to take each other out. Tander was all over Murphy in the final four laps of the race and set the races fastest lap of 2:14.489 with just three laps to go (Murphy's corresponding lap time was a 2:14.499, #05's fastest lap), but his last chance at snatching victory from Murphy with a last lap lunge into Murray's Corner was thwarted due to yellow flags on the last lap forcing him to stay behind and finish second.
For Brock, the 2003 Bathurst 24 Hour would be his last ever win at Mount Panorama, and would be seen by some (including himself) as his 10th Bathurst win, despite the race not being the traditional Bathurst 1000 where he had scored his nine other wins dating back to 1972.
After the teams 1-2 finish in the 2003 Bathurst 24 hour, Garry Rogers told in an interview with "Australian Muscle Car" (AMC) magazine that with the restrictions that PROCAR forced them to have on the 427 V8's (induction and rev limits), he believed the cars would actually have been faster using the smaller Gen III production based engine which would have been almost restriction free. He also refuted that having a professional team such as GRM made the car unbeatable at Bathurst, stating that had anyone built a V10 Viper to at least the same standards and had professional drivers like the Monaro's instead of part-timers and gentlemen drivers, then "Nobody would have seen which way they went" as during the Nations Cup Championship, Greg Crick's privately entered Viper had shown on a small budget that it was capable of beating the Monaro's.
Ten years later in a late 2013 interview with AMC to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 2003 Bathurst 24 Hour and GRM's switch from Holden to Volvo in 2014, Rogers proclaimed that winning the two Bathurst 24 Hour races and finishing 1-2 in 2003 was the crowning achievement for his team during their 25 years running Holden's which spanned from 1988 until 2013.
One more Monaro was built in late 2003, with Peter Brock and his son James to run as Team Brock in the 2004 Australian Nations Cup Championship. Peter Brock drove his Bathurst winning car alongside James in the new car, with GRM running the original car car for Nathan Pretty. Of the three, Pretty had the best championship run, finishing second behind the Lamborghini of Paul Stokell. James Brock finished the series in fourth place while Peter Brock finished the championship in sixth place despite not contesting all rounds.
The GRM built Monaro's have the distinction of winning both the first and last races they competed in. After the debut victory in the 2002 Bathurst 24 Hour race, James Brock drove his Monaro to win the last race of the 2004 Nations Cup at the Mallala Motor Sport Park in South Australia. It would prove to be not only the Monaro 427C's last win, but the last ever race of the Nations Cup Championship as Ross Palmer could no longer afford to fund the series and PROCAR was disbanded after failing to find a major sponsor. The series was replaced in 2005 by the return of the Australian GT Championship where the Monaro's with their 7.0 litre 427 engines were ruled ineligible due to the lack of a road-going 427 Monaro.
The 2002 Bathurst 24 Hour winning Monaro currently resides as the National Motor Racing Museum located at Mount Panorama in Bathurst. The 2003 Bathurst 24 Hour winner is currently owned by a historic car racing enthusiast, while whereabouts of the Monaro driven by James Brock is currently unknown.
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