Tony Longhurst Racing
||This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. (September 2009)|
|Team Principal||Tony Longhurst / Frank Gardner|
|2005 position||14th (1524 points)|
Tony Longhurst Racing is a former V8 Supercar team. The team, based on Queenslands Gold Coast at the Longhurst family owned Dreamworld adventure park, debuted in Group A touring car racing in the 1988 Australian Touring Car Championship at Melbourne's Calder Park Raceway and made its last start in the 2005 V8 Supercar Championship Series Grand Finale at Phillip Island.
The team was formed in 1988 by racing driver Tony Longhurst after 4 years of being understudy to Jim Richards at Frank Gardner's JPS Team BMW. Longhurst, with Gardner's help, secured Freeport Cigarettes as a sponsor to run a Ford Sierra RS500 in the 1988 ATCC. Longhurst would later win his first championship race at Lakeside in Brisbane after eventual series champion Dick Johnson was given a 60 second penalty for jumping the start.
The team initially had problems securing parts for the RS500 not only because getting parts to Australia from Ford in Europe was difficult due to the amount of Sierra's in the various European championships coming first in the spare parts line but also because the teams 'consultant' Frank Gardner had led the successful protest against the factory-backed Eggenberger Sierra's at Bathurst in 1987 which had ultimately cost the Ford the 1987 WTCC Drivers' Championship. Gardner's name was effectively mud with Ford in Europe so the team re-established their association with former 1985 Australian Formula Ford Champion Tomas Mezera who was living in London (the JPS Team BMW had supplied Mezera with his engines during his successful 1985 Formula Ford Driver to Europe campaign). Mezera was able to secure parts for the team and was given the job as Longhurst's co-driver for the Sandown and Bathurst endurance races in 1988 as a reward for his work.
The team was renamed Benson & Hedges Racing in mid-1998 when the more recognisable gold and black colours of B&H replaced Freeport as the major sponsor. Longhurst qualified his Sierra on the front row for the 1988 Enzed 500 at Sandown Raceway, but a broken universal joint bearing off the start line cost the team six laps. Longhurst and Mezera then drove flat out for the rest of the day finally finishing 5th, only five laps down on the winning Sierra of Allan Moffat and Gregg Hansford.
Much better was to come for the team when Longhurst and Mezera won the 1988 Tooheys 1000 at Bathurst. The team had a built brand new left hand drive Sierra but decided that the current car was fast and reliable enough for the new car to only be there as a spare. After having to dismantle and rebuild the car on the Friday after qualifying to appease protestors (who were protesting against all Australian built Sierra's and the Swedish Sierra of Team CMS Sweden) they started 3rd on the grid and battled almost all day with the Klaus Niedzwiedz/Allan Moffat/Gregg Hansford ANZ Sierra which was prepared for the race for car owner Moffat by car builder Ruedi Eggenberger. The B&H car won by over a lap to score team owner Longhurst's first of two wins and Mezera's only win in the great race.
For 1989 the B&H team expanded to two cars with New Zealand businessman and driver Neville Crichton in the second Sierra (which was Longhurst's car from the previous year). Former Formula One World Drivers' Champions Alan Jones and Denny Hulme joined the team for the endurance races, but victory eluded the team. Jones replaced Crichton in the second car from 1990 and remained with the team until his move to Glenn Seton Racing in mid-1992.
During 1990 it was generally acknowledged that the B&H Sierra's were the most powerful in the world with a reported 590 bhp (440 kW; 598 PS) but reliability suffered as a result. Longhurst and Jones finished 6th and 9th respectively in the 1990 ATCC with Longhurst's 2nd in Round 4 at Winton being the best result. The team skipped the Sandown 500 before heading to Bathurst where Longhurst set the pace in qualifying for the Tooheys 1000 with a 2:13.84, almost half a second faster than the 2nd fastest car, the Sierra RS500 of defending race winners Dick Johnson and John Bowe, but fell to 5th in the Top 10 runoff for pole with a much slower 2:16.01. Both the Longhurst/Mark McLaughlin and Jones/Hulme Sierra's failed to finish after suffering engine failure on laps 53 and 65 respectively.
1991 saw the team ditch the Sierra's in favour of the evolution version of the BMW M3. The now 2.5 litre cars (up from the previous 2.3 litres) proved to be giant killers after Longhurst became the only non-Nissan Skyline GT-R driver to win a round of the 1991 ATCC when he won at Sydney's tight Amaroo Park circuit in round six. He subsequently won two rounds later at Lakeside. Both times he used the lightweight M3's ability to be easy on its tyres compared to the heavier GT-R's, Holden Commodore's and Sierra's to great advantage.
The team continued with the M3's for 1992 but tragedy would strike the team at Bathurst when former Formula One World Champion Denny Hulme would pass away as a result of a heart attack while driving the team's second BMW M3 on lap 33 of the 1992 Tooheys 1000. The team soldiered on under difficult circumstances and manage to salvage 4th place in the race for Longhurst and Venezuelan co-driver Johnny Cecotto. This was despite Cecotto putting the car into the wall in the morning warm-up session and the car needing hasty repairs just to make the starting grid. The teams newest recruit Paul Morris unfortunately didn't get to drive as he was slated to be Hulme's co-driver and Denny had started the race.
Longhurst had surprised everyone at Bathurst by putting the M3 into 5th in qualifying with a time of 2:15.26 despite the cars relative lack of power compared to its rivals on what is generally known as a power circuit with the 1 km climb up Mountain Straight, as well as the steep climb to the Cutting and over the top of the mountain before the 1.5 km run down Conrod Straight; although Longhurst was quick to acknowledge the time wouldn't have been possible without the tow he got from the Larry Perkins Holden Commodore both up Mountain Straight and again down Conrod. In the Toohey's Top 10 run off for pole, Longhurst, without the benefit of the tow on the straights, could only record a 2:16.932 on his lap and dropped back to 9th on the starting grid.
The team ran the M3's until the end of 1993. Longhurst also ran two extra BMW's under the banner of Diet Coke Racing. The team continued its close association with BMW by importing their top drivers from Europe for the annual Bathurst 1000. Steve Soper partnered Longhurst in the lead B&H M3 with Jeff Allam driving the teams 2nd car. German driver Joachim Winkelhock was the fastest of all the M3 drivers qualifying his Diet Coke machine in 11 place but all 4 cars had a difficult run with problems related to the cars' electrics caused by the CAMS rev-limiters.
With only V8-powered machines eligible for the 1994 ATCC, the team purchased 2 Holden VP Commodores from Perkins Engineering for Longhurst and new driver Paul Morris. While still figuring out the car, Longhurst would finish the 1994 Australian Touring Car Championship in 11th place. The teams fortunes later turned around at the endurance races. With co-driver Charlie O'Brien, Longhurst finished a respectable 4th at the 1994 Sandown 500 and the pair repeared that placing a few weeks later at the annual Tooheys 1000.
At the end of 1994, Longhurst sold his share in the team to other shareholders Frank Gardner and driver Paul Morris. With the support of Castrol and Ford, Longhurst established a new team on the Gold Coast to race in the 1995 ATCC, with the car being a Ford EF Falcon. Longhurst again finished the championship in 11th place. He then teamed with Wayne Park to finish 4th at Sandown but the pair could only manage 9th at Bathurst. The team had a new engine builder in 1996 (Barry Seton) who joined the team after leaving his son's team (Glenn Seton Racing) looking for a new challenge. In the 1996 ATCC Longhurst would finish in 11th place for the third year running. He then teamed with Steven Ellery to, coincidentally for the 3rd year in a row, finish in 4th place at the Sandown 500. The pair then went to Bathurst and finished on the podium with 3rd place in the 1996 AMP Bathurst 1000.
In 1997 the team expanded to two car operation with Steven Ellery joining the team in a second Konica-sponsored EL Falcon. The team used the numbers #25 and #52. Longhurst would finish the ATCC in 8th place with Ellery 18th. Ellery left the team midway through the season and was replaced by Charlie O'Brien, who joined Longhurst to finish 10th at the 1997 Tickford 500. They did not finish at Bathurst after qualifying a disappointing 39th.
Alan Jones joined the team in 1998 with a new number for the team's second car, #9. Longhurst and Jones finished the ATCC in 8th and 16th places respectively. Both cars failed at the 1998 Tickford 500 with the Jones (driving with Adam Macrow) failing to complete a lap while the Longhurst (driving with Geoff Brabham) only managed 7 laps before retiring. Bathurst turned out better for the team with Longhurst qualifying his Falcon in 2nd place before he and Brabham finished 9th. Jones and Macrow again had a DNF when their car broke down on lap 58 after qualifying 11th.
In 1999 the team only ran a single car again, an AU Falcon. Longhurst finished the newly named Shell Championship Series in 14th spot. Longhurst again teamed with Macrow in the endurance events of the series, qualifying 10th but recorded a DNF at the Queensland 500. At the FAI 1000 at Bathurst, the car expired late in the race with a failed differential.
2.0 Litre Touring Cars
Tony Longhurst Racing also ran two BMW 318i's and one BMW M3 in the 1994 Australian Manufacturers' Championship, for Longhurst, Paul Morris and John Blanchard. The ManChamp was a CAMS sanctioned motor racing competition for 2.0 Litre Touring Cars complying with FIA Class II rules. Longhurst and Morris would win 3 rounds each of the 6 round championship. Longhurst would win the series but not before being disqualified from at Winton after he and Morris tangled on the pit straight. Longhurst blamed Morris for the crash which put both cars into the concrete wall and famously punched Morris through Morris's drivers side window.