Gibson Motorsport

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Gibson Motorsport Logo.png
Manufacturer Nissan (1981-1992)
Holden (1993–2000)
Ford (2001–2003)
Team Principal Howard Marsden (1981–1984)
Fred Gibson (1986-1999)
Garry Dumbrell (2000)
Bob Forbes (2001-2003)
Team Manager Howard Marsden (1981–1984)
Fred Gibson (1986-1999), (2001)
Allan Heaphy (2001-2003)
Race Drivers George Fury, Fred Gibson, Masahiro Hasemi, Kazuyoshi Hoshino, Christine Gibson, Bob Muir, Glenn Seton, Gary Scott, Terry Shiel, Mark Skaife, John Bowe, Grant Jarrett, Anders Olofsson, Jim Richards, Garry Waldon, Drew Price, David Brabham, Colin Bond, Steven Richards, John Cleland, Darren Hossack, Steven Ellery, Darren Pate, David Parsons, Simon Wills, Greg Murphy, David Parsons, Craig Lowndes, Neil Crompton, Rodney Forbes, Neal Bates, Greg Ritter
Chassis Nissan Bluebird Turbo
Nissan Skyline (RS DR30, GTS-R HR31)
Nissan GT-R (R32)
Holden Commodore (VP, VR, VS, VT)
Ford Falcon (AU, BA)
Debut 1981
Drivers' Championships 4
Round wins 35
2003 position 32nd (Ritter)
34th (Forbes)]

Gibson Motorsport was an Australian motor racing team that competed in the Australian Touring Car Championship from 1981 until 2003, though the team had its roots in Gibson's "Road & Track" team which ran a series of Ford Falcon GTHO's in Series Production during the late 1960's and early 1970's. The name of the team was also the name of Fred Gibson's automotive business in Sydney. As Gibson was also a driver for the Ford Works Team, his team was sometimes a pseudo-works team when the Ford were not entered.

History[edit]

Group C[edit]

The team was originally established by Howard Marsden as the in-house factory Nissan motorsport operation debuting at Bathurst in 1981 after Nissan decided to go touring car racing. A limited campaign in 1982 was followed by full campaigns in 1983 and 1984. The 1.8 litre Bluebird turbo was fast but fragile, although Fury did finish second in the 1983 series and took pole at Bathurst in 1984 with a time that would stand until 1990.

At one point of 1984, Marsden had gone to Japan to discuss Nissan's plans for the new Group A category, and when he returned he joined the team at a test session at Melbourne's Calder Park Raceway where lead driver George Fury was substantially faster than ever before and had broken the existing touring car lap record on the 1.6 km circuit. Fred Gibson told the story that the normally placid Marsden went into a rage when he found the Bluebird was fitted with a 2.0 litre turbo engine and not the 1.8 litre unit it raced with.

Fred Gibson, who gave the Bluebird turbo its first win in Australian touring car racing during the 1983 AMSCAR Series at Sydney's Amaroo Park, retired from driving at the end of 1983 and in 1985 took over from Howard Marsden as team owner/manager. Gibson later described the Bluebird Turbo as "A shithouse little car".

Group A[edit]

1986-1987[edit]

After sitting out 1985 while Nissan sorted out the homologation of its first Group A car, Nissan reappeared in 1986 with two Nissan Skyline RS DR30's, one driven all year by long time team driver George Fury, and the second shared between Gary Scott and Glenn Seton, with Scott claiming pole position for the 1986 James Hardie 1000 (Seton partnered Fury who qualified 3rd). In 1987, Seton drove the second car all year to 2nd place both in the 1987 ATCC and at the James Hardie 1000 at Bathurst which was also a round of the inaugural World Touring Car Championship. Seton's Skyline was co-driven at Bathurst by twice Australian Drivers' Champion and 1986 Volvo team driver John Bowe.[1]

After Fury took four round wins in the 1986 Australian Touring Car Championship and finished an unlucky runner-up in the series to the Volvo 240T of Robbie Francevic, the Peter Jackson sponsored team scored its first big win when Fury and Seton led Scott and new team driver Terry Shiel to a 1-2 win at the 1986 Castrol 500 at Sandown Raceway, the traditional warm up event for the Bathurst 1000. Fury, partnered by Shiel, would back up to win his second Sandown 500 in 1987.

The Nissan team also raced a Nissan Gazelle in the 1987 Australian 2.0 Litre Touring Car Championship for 20 year old Mark Skaife, who had previously shown good form finishing second in the 1985 and 1986 Ford Laser series held at Amaroo Park. Skaife, who had joined the Nissan team as a mechanic in 1987, went on to win the 2.0 Litre championship, winning three of the four rounds of the series to break the stranglehold that Toyota had on the baby car class. He was joined at Bathurst in the Gazelle by Adelaide Hills Nissan dealer Grant Jarrett. During qualifying, Jarrett was having trouble making the class cut off time and it looked as if the Gazelle, which due to the race being an FIA WTCC race was forced to run in a higher engine class than it did in Australia (putting it in the same class as the BMW M3), would be a non-qualifier. However, late in Friday qualifying Jarrett managed to make the cut. During the time Jarrett was on his qualifying run, Skaife was reportedly nowhere to be seen in the Nissan pits. When the car returned to the pits it was driven straight into the garage and the doors closed. Both drivers emerged a short time later, with Skaife having damp hair and a flushed face while Jarret looked more like he had just got out of a shower than a touring car. This led to speculation it was Skaife and not Jarrett who had just been in the car for its final qualifying run. The pair finished the race in 19th place after numerous mechanical problems which had started within the first 10 laps. Despite the speculation that he had not driven his fastest qualifying laps, in the race Jarrett proved his critics wrong and would be credited with a faster race lap than he recorded in qualifying.

1988-1990[edit]

For 1988, the new Nissan Skyline HR31 GTS-R was introduced. The new car featured a 2.0 Litre turbocharged Straight-six engine which produced approximately 450 bhp (336 kW; 456 PS), almost 110 bhp (82 kW; 112 PS) more than the outdated DR30's turbocharged 4cyl engine (the DR30 was powered by the same engine that was used in the Group C Bluebird turbo). Also, the HR31 featured front and rear spoilers which helped with high speed stability, something the old car lacked with team drivers reporting the cars as being frightful to drive on the high speed Conrod Straight at Bathurst where they were reaching speeds up to 263 km/h (163 mph) in 1986.

Unfortunately for the team parts for the car were late in arriving as Nissan also had to supply to teams in Japan and Europe (the European Nissan team was in fact run by Howard Marsden). This saw the car not debuted until Round 5 in Adelaide in the hands of Seton. Seton and Fury alternated driving the car while the team built its second, and it would not be until Round 8 at Amaroo Park before that second car appeared. Despite the new cars tendency to be unreliable, especially with its transmission, Seton and Fury showed enough speed in the ATCC to give hope to an end of the Ford Sierra domination, though in reality the team was playing catch-up all year having to develop the car as they raced it. The car was also homologated with only a small capacity turbo which limited its power output, with power peaking at around 470 bhp (350 kW; 477 PS) in 1990.

At Sandown for the annual Sandown 500, the Fury / Skaife car had led the for a number of laps (after all the leading Sierra's except Allan Moffat's had retired or been delayed with mechanical problems), and Skaife was holding a 30 second lead over the Larry Perkins / Denny Hulme Holden Commodore V8, before retiring while in the lead on lap 94 with differential failure. The Seton / Anders Olofsson car (which Seton had qualified 3rd, though almost two seconds slower than Dick Johnson's pole winning time in a Sierra) had retired on the first lap of the race with the same transmission failure that would put it out of the Tooheys 1000 a few weeks later.

The team suffered a setback in August 1988 when Seton rolled the #15 Skyline during a media day at Bathurst. This would set the tone for a disastrous Tooheys 1000 campaign which saw both Skyline's out by lap 17, with Seton's car destroying its gearbox as the green flag was waved to start the race (he made it only as far as the pit exit gate), while Fury's car was out with overheating after the fan belt flew off the engine at close to 250 km/h (155 mph) on Conrod Straight.[2] Against a flock of the all-powerful Ford Sierra RS500's, Fury managed to qualify the Skyline in 10th place at Bathurst. He would use Seton's car in the "Tooheys Dozen" shootout as co-driver Mark Skaife had crashed the #30 car during practice and it was still under repair. Fury (10th) and Larry Perkins (8th) driving one of the new Holden Commodore VL SS Group A SV's, were the only non-Ford Sierra drivers to qualify in the Top 10 at Bathurst, though they were joined by the non-Fords of Peter Brock (BMW M3) and Nissan Europe driver Allan Grice (Commodore) in the shootout. 1988 was also the only year the shootout would not decide the top 10 grid positions for the race.

In 1989, title sponsor Philip Morris, who was dissatisfied at being given secondary status behind Nissan for their signage on the Skylines throughout 1988, offered its sponsorship dollars to Glenn Seton who had left to form his own team, Glenn Seton Racing. Twice ATCC champion and triple Bathurst winner Jim Richards was hired as a replacement. The team expanded to three cars for some events with Mark Skaife driving. Wins were achieved at the Winton ATCC round (Fury) and at the Sandown 500 (Richards/Skaife) with a 3rd and 4th placing at Bathurst.[3] Driving the HR31, Richards was the only non-Ford Sierra RS500 driver to qualify for the Tooheys Top 10 pole runoff at Bathurst.

For 1990 the team reverted to two cars for Richards and Skaife. At round 7 Skaife debuted the 4WD, twin-turbocharged Nissan Skyline GT-R at the Mallala Raceway, with Richards moving into it for the last two rounds to win the series at Barbagallo and Oran Park. Richards won the race at Oran Park and secured the first ATCC win for both Nissan and Gibson. The car led for long periods at Bathurst before failing with drive-train failure.[4]

1991-1992[edit]

In 1991, the team dominated winning all but a handful of races.[5] Richards and Skaife completely dominated the Tooheys 1000 at Bathurst, easily claiming pole (Skaife), fastest lap (Skaife in the team's second car) and winning in race record time.

The team were then set to take their GT-R's to the Fuji Speedway in Japan for the 1991 Fuji 500 race, but were asked not to do so by the head of NISMO in Japan. The Japanese company were fearful that the Australian built car would easily outpace and defeat the Japanese GT-R's at Fuji after seeing the overwhelming speed of the Gibson built car at Bathurst. NISMO claimed that it would be bad for business for their own factory backed cars, as well as those of their customers, to be soundly beaten by an overseas built GT-R.

For 1992, cigarette brand Winfield joined the team as title sponsor. During the season CAMS handicapped the GT-R's in an attempt to bring it back to the field, which included upping the cars weight from 1400 to 1500 kg, as well as adding pop-off valves to the turbos to restrict power. In spite of this and the teams year long claim that the cars were no longer competitive (which even led to court action in a failed attempt to have the handicaps lifted), Mark Skaife won the 1992 Australian Touring Car Championship, and then again teamed with Jim Richards to win the crash shortened Tooheys 1000, with team mates Anders Olofsson and Neil Crompton finishing in third place.[6] Richards went on to finish the turbo era in style when he drove the GT-R to won both of the "Clarke Shoes Group A Finale" races at the 1992 Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide.

V8 Supercars[edit]

Holden[edit]

For 1993, Australian touring car racing moved to the V8 formula open only to Ford and Holden. Given his history with the brand and with Rothmans also leasing its fleet from Ford, it was expected that Fred Gibson would take this route, but with a better financial package on offer from Holden, Gibson Motorsport elected to race Holden VP Commodores.[7] The team started with two cars assembled with many customer Holden Racing Team and Perkins Engineering components. After a lacklustre championship, the team were on the pace at Bathurst finishing 2nd.[8]

In 1994, Skaife won the series.[9]

In practice at Eastern Creek in January 1995, Skaife had a major accident that kept him from driving in the opening round of the series. This coupled with the need to find a new major sponsor and a mid-season workshop move saw the team off the pace throughout much of 1995, although Skaife would win the Eastern Creek round. At Bathurst, the car dominated the first 65 laps before failing with transmission failure.[10]

From the end of 1995 tobacco sponsorship was outlawed. In a tight market, the team struggled to find a replacement, running just one plain white car in the opening rounds of 1996 for Skaife. Eventually some funding came the team's way from Sega and Holden's Network Q second hand division, but it was a long way short of the team's previous funding levels.[7][11]

The situation didn't improve in 1997 with the team having to miss some rounds due to funding issues and Skaife leaving the team at the end of the championship to replace Peter Brock at the Holden Racing Team. A lifeline was thrown to the team by Garry Dumbrell, who contracted Gibson Motorsport to prepare his ex Gibson Motorsport VS Commodore for the 1997 endurance races with Darren Hossack and Steven Ellery finishing 6th at Bathurst.[12]

In 1998, the team expanded to three cars, two Wynns cars for Darren Hossack and Darren Pate and a third car for the Holden Young Lions entry for Steven Ellery which was sub-contracted by the Holden Racing Team.[13]

For 1999, the team built two new VT Commodores and recruited Steven Richards and Greg Murphy to drive the Wynns sponsored cars. A development program saw Murphy win a race at Symmons Plains before the pair won at Bathurst[14]

Garry Dumbrell[edit]

In December 1999 Fred Gibson sold the team to Garry Dumbrell. In 2000 the cars were sponsored by K-Mart with Richards winning in Canberra and the pair finishing 3rd at Bathurst.[15]

Bob Forbes[edit]

With the category's star driver, Craig Lowndes, having negotiated his way out of his management contract with Tom Walkinshaw, he was expected to leave the Holden Racing Team at the end of 2000. Ford were very keen to gain his services and a deal was done that was portrayed as Fred Gibson buying back his old team and signing Lowndes to drive. It later emerged that it was Bob Forbes and not Fred Gibson who had bought the team from Garry Dumbrell, with Gibson only have purchased the Racing Entitlement Contract.[16]

An ex Stone Brothers Racing Ford AU Falcon was purchased for Lowndes to race throughout the 2001 championship before a Gibson Motorsport car debuted at Bathurst. The team also ran a second car for Rodney Forbes. A falling-out between Forbes and Gibson saw the latter leave the team after Bathurst. As Forbes owned his own Racing Entitlement contract, Gibson sold his to Briggs Motor Sport.[16]

For 2002, the team was rebranded as 00 Motorsport with Neil Crompton driving a second car. At the end of 2002, Ford withdrew their support with Lowndes and Crompton both leaving.[16]

Demise[edit]

For 2003, two new BA Falcons were built for Rodney Forbes and Greg Ritter to race. The team closed after round 6 of the series. The Racing Entitlement Contract was sold to Team Brock and the hardware in 2004 to WPS Racing.

After leaving the team, Fred Gibson retained ownership of the team's Dandenong workshop. It was later leased to Paul Weel Racing and today is Garry Rogers Motorsport's base.

Open Wheelers[edit]

Gibson Motorsport first competed in Open-wheel racing in the 1988 Australian Drivers' Championship (also known as the CAMS Gold Star), run for Formula 2 cars. In Round 4 of the championship at the Adelaide International Raceway, Glenn Seton drove a Nissan powered Ralt RT4 to an easy win in what was his only race of the series. Seton had dual driving duties on the day, also debuting the HR31 Skyline in the ATCC race to which the Formula 2 cars were a support category.

The team entered a Spa FB001 for Mark Skaife to drive in the 1990 Australian Drivers' Championship for Formula Holden cars. Skaife would finish 3rd in the championship, winning Round 4 at Mallala in South Australia (the same day that Skaife gave the Nissan GT-R its ATCC debut).

Mark Skaife would go on to win the championship for Gibson in 1991, 1992 and 1993. His win in both the CAMS Gold Star and the ATCC in 1992 saw Skaife become the first, and so far only driver to win both championships in the same year, and he would complete the treble by partnering Jim Richards to win the crash shortened Bathurst 1000.

Rebirth[edit]

In 2013, Fred Gibson reformed Gibson Motorsport as a race car preparer for cars participating in the Heritage Touring Cars series. Amongst its clients are the owners of former Gibson Motorsport Nissans. Some of the former race team personnel work on the cars, while former GMS drivers Jim Richards and Mark Skaife have both driven their former Nissan Skyline HR31 GTS-R's in historic competition, while George Fury has also reunited with his Bathurst pole winning Bluebird Turbo.[17][18][19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Normoyle, Steve (1988). The Great Race 7. Hornsby: Chevron Publishing. ISSN 1031-6124. 
  2. ^ Normoyle, Steve (1989). The Great Race 8. Hornsby: Chevron Publishing. ISSN 1031-6124. 
  3. ^ Normoyle, Steve (1990). The Great Race 9. Hornsby: Chevron Publishing. ISSN 1031-6124. 
  4. ^ Normoyle, Steve (1991). The Great Race 10. Hornsby: Chevron Publishing. ISSN 1031-6124. 
  5. ^ Normoyle, Steve (1992). The Great Race 11. Hornsby: Chevron Publishing. ISSN 1031-6124. 
  6. ^ Normoyle, Steve (1993). The Great Race 12. Hornsby: Chevron Publishing. ISSN 1031-6124. 
  7. ^ a b Skaife, Mark (2010). Skaifey: Life in the Fast Lane. Ebury Australia. ISBN 9781741668995. 
  8. ^ Normoyle, Steve (1993). The Great Race 13. Hornsby: Chevron Publishing. ISSN 1031-6124. 
  9. ^ Normoyle, Steve (1994). The Great Race 14. Hornsby: Chevron Publishing. ISSN 1031-6124. 
  10. ^ Normoyle, Steve (1995). The Great Race 15. Hornsby: Chevron Publishing. ISSN 1031-6124. 
  11. ^ Normoyle, Steve (1996). The Great Race 16. Hornsby: Chevron Publishing. ISSN 1031-6124. 
  12. ^ Normoyle, Steve (1997). V8 Bathurst 1. Hornsby: Chevron Publishing. ISSN 1329-3184. 
  13. ^ Normoyle, Steve (1998). V8 Bathurst 2. Hornsby: Chevron Publishing. ISSN 1329-3184. 
  14. ^ Normoyle, Steve (1999). The Great Race 19. Hornsby: Chevron Publishing. ISSN 1031-6124. 
  15. ^ Normoyle, Steve (2000). The Great Race 20. Hornsby: Chevron Publishing. ISSN 1031-6124. 
  16. ^ a b c Gibson Motor Sport Merchandise Pty Ltd vs Robert James Forbes Federal Court of Australia 29 June 2005
  17. ^ About Us Gibson Motorsport
  18. ^ "Fred Gibson Part 2". Speedcafe. 25 April 2013. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  19. ^ Phillip Island: Gibson Motorsport Classic Report Heritage Touring Cars 25 March 2014

External links[edit]