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Throughout its history, GM Holden Ltd, commonly known as Holden, has been involved in a range of motorsport activities, mostly in Australian touring car racing. Drivers of Holden products have won the Bathurst 1000 thirty times and have claimed the Australian Touring Car and V8 Supercars Championship nineteen times. Holden is currently active in V8 Supercars with two factory-supported teams, the Holden Racing Team and Triple Eight Race Engineering.

Early history[edit]

A replica of the Holden 48-215 driven by Lex Davison, Stan Jones and Tony Gaze in the 1953 Monte Carlo Rally, taking part in the 2013 Monte Carlo Historic Rally.

Holden was represented in Australian motor trials as early as six months after the Holden 48-215 was released in November 1948. In July 1949, Stan Jones, father of future Formula One world champion Alan Jones, drove a 48-215 in the Winter Midnight Trial in Victoria, but failed to finish. Another Holden, driven by H. Curtis, finished fourth in its class. Holdens were regularly entered in motor trials throughout the 1950s, including the Redex, Ampol and Mobilgas Trials.[1] A Holden was even entered in the 1953 Monte Carlo Rally, driven by Lex Davison, Stan Jones and Tony Gaze. The car finished the event in 64th place overall.[2]

Holdens also appeared in circuit racing in the early 1950s, with drivers finding that the 48-215, and later the Holden FJ, could be easily modified. Common modifications included Repco heads, increased engine capacity, non-standard gearboxes, streamlined bodywork, special wheels, disc brakes and weight reduction. Dick Shaw entered his 48-215 in the 1954 Mount Druitt 24 Hours Road Race and finished in fourth place outright, completing 547 laps at an average speed of 80 km/h (50 mph). Notable Holden drivers of the period included Shaw, Stan Jones, Jack Meyers, Ray Long, Leo Geoghegan and John French.[3]

"It was that this car had to be an example of Australian workmanship, that nothing should be skimped, and no short cuts taken, as one of the main reasons for us making this journey was to endeavor to show that industrially, Australia has come of age, that we have an engineering industry, quite a capable one, and that we are no longer entirely a country of aborigines and back country sheep herders."

Lex Davison explaining why he, Stan Jones and Tony Gaze drove a Holden in the 1953 Monte Carlo Rally.[2]

Factory teams[edit]

1968 saw the formation of the Holden Dealer Racing Team (HDRT), an unofficial factory team of Holden set up by journalist and racing driver David McKay and funded by the Holden dealer network. The team entered three HK Monaro GTS327s in both the 1968 Hardie-Ferodo 500 and the 1968 London-Sydney Marathon.[4] The Hardie-Ferodo 500 saw two of the HDRT cars finish second and fifth, while the other was disqualified. Australian rally driver Barry Ferguson finished the London-Sydney marathon in twelfth place outright for the team, with Doug Whiteford finishing 14th and McKay failing to finish.

The HDRT was a precursor to the Holden Dealer Team (HDT) which was formed in 1969.

In 2016, it was announced that the "Holden Racing Team" brand would be moved from the Walkinshaw Performance group to Triple Eight for the 2017 Supercars Championship, with two of the Triple Eight cars to compete under the name of Red Bull Holden Racing Team.[5]

Cars[edit]

Holden produced various cars for use in motor racing, or cars which were the basis of racing cars.

EH S4 and HD X2[edit]

The first Holden designed with racing in mind was the EH S4, featuring a 179 cubic-inch six-cylinder engine, hardened gears, a larger fuel tank, metal-lined brake shoes and a larger tailshaft.[6] It was introduced in September 1963 with the intent of being raced in the 1963 Armstrong 500 in October.[7] There was controversy surrounding the eligibility of the S4 as it appeared that Holden had not built 100 cars (as required by the race regulations) by the time entries for the race closed. Additionally, the race organisers were unable to obtain a price list, to determine the class in which the S4 competed, or a workshop manual for the scrutineers. The day before entries for the race closed, Holden produced the price list and workshop manual and the race organisers announced that the S4 would be eligible for the race.[8] More eligibility concerns arose at the circuit, with all of the S4s appearing to have an incorrect carburettor jet size. However, it later turned out the jets were the correct size but had been stamped incorrectly.[9]

Monaro GTS[edit]

Torana[edit]

GTR and GTR XU-1[edit]

The LC was replaced by the LJ series in 1972, and the Holden Dealer Team developed a V8 version of the GTR XU-1 with the intent of racing it in the 1972 Hardie-Ferodo 500. However, the project was abandoned due to the "supercar scare", which stemmed from the fact that Holden, Ford and Chrysler would be selling cars that had been designed primarily for racing to the general public.[10]

L34[edit]

A9X[edit]

The A9X was available in both sedan (SL/R 5000) and hatchback (SS) body styles.[11]

Commodore[edit]

Group C[edit]

Group A[edit]

Holden introduced the VK Commodore SS Group A in 1985 to meet the homologation requirements of the new Group A formula, with plans to have the car homologated in August and be ready for use in the Australian Endurance Championship, which included the Bathurst 1000. The SS Group A had a smaller engine capacity than the standard Commodore, 4,987 cc (304.3 cu in) compared to 5,044 cc (307.8 cu in), which allowed it to race with a lower minimum weight. However, Holden failed to produce enough cars before the homologation deadline and the SS Group A would not be eligible to race until 1986. Holden runners instead continued to use a modified version of the standard Commodore for racing.[12] The Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS) allowed some concessions for Bathurst, such as the use of a five-speed gearbox and the lower minimum weight.[13]

V8 Supercars[edit]

Touring car racing[edit]

Bathurst 1000[edit]

1960s[edit]

No Holdens were entered in the 1960 Armstrong 500, the first running of the race which would later become the Bathurst 1000. A single EK was entered in the 1961 race, driven by John Lanyon and Ian Strachan. The pair was disqualified for using replacement parts. Bob Brown, David Catlin and Barry Foster drove an EJ in he 1962 event, finishing fifth in Class B behind four Ford XL Falcons.[14] Six EH S4s took part in the 1963 race along with a single FB.[15] The S4 of Ralph Sach and Frank Morgan finished second in Class C, and second outright, behind the Ford Cortina GT of defending race winners Bob Jane and Harry Firth. The rest of the S4s experienced various problems, with the car of Kevin Bartlett and Bill Reynolds breaking two wheels while Spencer Martin and Brian Muir lost multiple laps due to a broken tailshaft.[16] Holden runners switched to the HD X2 in 1965, X2 denoting a high performance version of the 179 engine. The best result for a HD X2 was fifth place in Class D in the 1966 race.[17]

The Holden Monaro was introduced in July 1968 and would give Holden its first Bathurst win the same year, with Bruce McPhee and Barry Mulholland taking their HK Monaro GTS327 to victory in the 1968 Hardie-Ferodo 500. The Holden Dealer Racing Team entered three Monaros in the race, the best of which finished in second place, driven by Jim Palmer and Phil West.[18] Holden won again in 1969, this time with Colin Bond and Tony Roberts in a HT Monaro GTS350. This was the first victory for the Holden Dealer Team, which would go on to achieve a further eight Bathurst wins throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Peter Brock made his Bathurst debut, finishing third with Des West in another of the three Holden Dealer Team Monaros.[19]

1970s[edit]

"In Peter Brock's car the cornering forces were so high when going across the mountain that it started to suffer extreme surge in one side of the carburettor and this made four cylinders run lean – with the result that holes were being burnt in the tops of the pistons. On the other car we found that some untraced period vibration worked the bolts loose on one side of the sump. Unfortunately, the affected bolts were up behind the extractor where they were very hard to see and get at."

Then-Holden Dealer Team manager Harry Firth on the problems experienced by the team at the 1974 Hardie-Ferodo 1000.[20].

The Monaro was dropped in favour of the six-cylinder LC Torana GTR XU-1 in 1970, the idea being that the smaller, lighter Torana would make up for its lower power output with fuel efficiency, less brake wear and better handling.[21] However, it failed to match the pace of more powerful Ford Falcon GTHO in 1970 and 1971,[22] with the best outright result for a Torana in those two years being a third place for Don Holland in 1970.[23] Brock took his first of nine Bathurst wins in 1972, driving an LJ Torana GTR XU-1 for the Holden Dealer Team. Brock took advantage of wet conditions at the beginning of the race which negated the power advantage of the Falcons and went on to win the race by a lap. Teammate Bond had a major accident early in the race, rolling his car at the top of the circuit.[24]

The XU-1 was replaced by the V8-engined LH Torana SL/R 5000 L34 for the 1974 race. At two-thirds distance, the Holden Dealer Team L34s were running first and second and were multiple laps ahead of the field. However, Bond was black-flagged as his car was dropping oil due to loose sump bolts. The car lost several laps while repairs were carried out and eventually finished fourth. The car of Brock and Brian Sampson retired from the race with a holed piston. The car of Bob Forbes and Wayne Negus finished as the highest placed L34, running second to the Falcon of John Goss and Kevin Bartlett[25]. The L34 would go on to take two Bathurst wins, with Brock and Sampson winning in 1975 and Bob Morris and John Fitzpatrick taking victory in 1976 despite a broken gearbox seal and halfshaft slowing the car in the closing laps.[26][27] The 1976 race also saw three-time Formula One world champion Jack Brabham paired with Stirling Moss, another former Formula One driver, in an L34. Their race was unsuccessful, with Brabham stalling the car on the grid and getting hit from behind. The car was repaired and rejoined the race multiple laps off the lead, eventually retiring when the engine blew after completing 37 laps.[28]

The L34 was succeeded by the LX Torana A9X heading into the 1977 Hardie-Ferodo 1000, with the majority of Holden runners choosing to race the SS A9X hatchback. Allan Moffat's Ford team scored a 1–2 finish in the race, with the best placed Holden being the SS A9X of Peter Janson and Larry Perkins in third place.[29] In 1978, Brock and New Zealand driver Jim Richards took the first in a hat-trick of wins for the pair, driving an SS A9X for the Holden Dealer Team.[30] They successfully defended their win in 1979, taking victory by a record margin of six laps. The car also led every lap of the race and Brock set a new lap record on the final lap.[31]

1980s[edit]

Brock and Richards completed their hat-trick in 1980, now driving a VC Commodore.[32] In 1981 Alan Jones, then the reigning Formula One world champion, contested the race in a Commodore shared with Warren Cullen. The car retired after 48 laps, with Jones completing just a single lap in the race.[33] Brock took another hat-trick of wins from 1982 to 1984, driving with Perkins in VH and VK Commodores. The 1983 win was shared with John Harvey, with Brock and Perkins taking over the second Holden Dealer Team Commodore after their own had an engine failure in the opening laps.[34] The Holden Dealer Team scored a 1–2 formation finish in the 1984 race, with Harvey and David Parsons finishing second.[35]

The international Group A regulations were introduced to Australian touring car racing for the 1985 season and saw European marques such as BMW and Volvo come to the fore. Brock was running in third position in the closing stages of the 1985 race when his windscreen shattered, forcing him to pit and have it removed. He was then black-flagged, with regulations stating that the rear windscreen must be taken out if the front windscreen is removed. Brock returned to the pits and a member of the pit crew famously kicked the rear windscreen out. The car retired from the race with three laps left due to a broken timing chain.[36] An SS Group A took victory in the 1986 race, driven by Allan Grice and Graeme Bailey. The Holden Dealer Team car of Harvey and Neal Lowe finished second. Brock had paired up with former rival Moffat but only finished fifth after losing multiple laps with a leaking oil cooler.[37]

Brock took his ninth and final Bathurst win in 1987, sharing a Holden VL Commodore SS Group A with David Parsons and Peter McLeod. In similar circumstances to 1983, Brock and Parsons took control of the second team car when their own suffered an engine failure early in the race. The trio originally finished third behind two Ford Sierra RS500s, but the Sierras were later disqualified for illegal body modifications. For the 1988 season, the VL Commodore SS Group A SV was introduced for the endurance races. Brian Callaghan and Barry Graham were the best placed Holden runners at Bathurst, finishing in sixth place.

1990s[edit]

The Holden Racing Team took its first Bathurst win in 1990, with Grice and Win Percy taking their VL Commodore SS Group A SV to victory. Perkins and Tomas Mezera finished third in another SS Group A SV. Grice and Percy finished second in 1991, now driving a VN model, before finishing fifth in 1992, being the best performing Holden in both years. The 1992 race saw the introduction of the Group 3A specification VP Commodore, with two entered by the Holden Racing Team and one by Brock and his co-driver Manuel Reuter. Perkins qualified second in an older VL but finished only ninth in the race.

Australian Touring Car Championship and V8 Supercars[edit]

1960s[edit]

The Holden 48-215 driven by Des West in the 1960 Australian Touring Car Championship, pictured in 2015.

Multiple Holdens were entered in the inaugural Australian Touring Car Championship, held at the Gnoo Blas Motor Racing Circuit in Orange, New South Wales. Max Volkers, driving an FJ, finished fourth outright, one lap behind the Jaguars of David McKay, Bill Pitt and Ron Hodgson, and first in the 2001–2600cc class. Holdens filled positions five to eleven outright and Des West broke the lap record for the 2001–2600 class.[38] While Jaguar drivers dominated the championship from 1961 to 1963, Holden continued to be represented in the minor placings, with the best outright results for Holden drivers in those years being fifth place, achieved by Bob Holden in 1961 and West in 1962.[39]

Holden's first real chance at winning the ATCC came in 1964, with Norm Beechey and Brian Muir driving EH S4s. Both drivers led for some part of the race, with Beechey ultimately finishing in second place behind Ian Geoghegan's Cortina GT. Muir finished seventh, two laps down on the leaders, after pitting to change a tyre while leading. Three 48-215s also took part in the race, Barry Seton finishing ninth while West and Warren Weldon both failed to finish.[40]

The championship was dominated by American V8 cars, in particular Ford Mustangs, from 1965 to 1968, the best result for a Holden in that period being a third place for Muir's EH S4 in 1965.[41] The championship stopped running Appendix J regulations after 1964, instead using the then-new Group C Improved Production regulations. This change did not help Holden runners, as the allowable increase in engine capacity was reduced, costing power, and wheels had to be closer to standard width.[42][43] Having run a Mustang and Chevrolets in the ATCC from 1965 to 1968,[44] Beechey switched back to a Holden product for the 1969 championship, the first to be contested over a series of races. Driving a HK Monaro GTS327, Beechey won the final two races of the season to claim third place in the points standings.[45] Reliability issues hampered him in the first three rounds of the series, with blown engines at both Calder Park and Mallala.[46]

1970s[edit]

Beechey updated to a HT Monaro GTS350 for the 1970 ATCC and went on to win the title, taking victory in three of the seven races during the season.[47] Future champion Dick Johnson made his ATCC debut during the season, scoring a single point at Lakeside driving a LC Torana GTR.[48]

International[edit]

GT racing[edit]

The Holden Monaro 427Cs which finished first and second in the 2003 Bathurst 24 Hour.

Rallying[edit]

Australian Rally Championship[edit]

Colin Bond and George Shepheard competing in the 1972 Warana Rally.

Round Australia Trial[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 293
  2. ^ a b Wilson (1988), p. 20
  3. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 19
  4. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 59
  5. ^ Bartholomaeus, Stefan (16 August 2016). "HRT brand moves to T8 in new Holden deal". speedcafe.com. Speedcafe. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  6. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 37
  7. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 42
  8. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 42–43
  9. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 45
  10. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 119–122
  11. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 178
  12. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 217–221
  13. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 247
  14. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 329
  15. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 329
  16. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 46
  17. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 330
  18. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 61
  19. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 74
  20. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 155
  21. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 101
  22. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 106–108
  23. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 332–334
  24. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 124–125
  25. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 156
  26. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 164
  27. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 174
  28. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 173
  29. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 185
  30. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 192
  31. ^ "1979: Brock blitzes Bathurst". Motor Sport Retro. 8 October 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  32. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 226
  33. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 231
  34. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 234–244
  35. ^ "Holden Racing Team celebrates the Last of the Big Bangers". Holden Racing Team. V8 Supercars. 8 October 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  36. ^ Barnett, Josh (5 October 2012). "Peter Brock switching cars to Jim Richards spraying fans, the top nine Bathurst 1000 controversies". Speed TV. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  37. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 255–256
  38. ^ Greenhalgh, Howard, Wilson (2011), p. 12–21
  39. ^ Greenhalgh, Howard, Wilson (2011), p. 22–36
  40. ^ Greenhalgh, Howard, Wilson (2011), p. 48–56
  41. ^ Greenhalgh, Howard, Wilson (2011), p. 63
  42. ^ Greenhalgh, Howard, Wilson (2011), p. 58
  43. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 47
  44. ^ Greenhalgh, Howard, Wilson (2011), p. 69–81
  45. ^ Greenhalgh, Howard, Wilson (2011), p. 88
  46. ^ Wilson (1988), p. 64
  47. ^ Greenhalgh, Howard, Wilson (2011), p. 99
  48. ^ Greenhalgh, Howard, Wilson (2011), p. 96