Motorsport

JT’s Strange Bathurst Moments

Lowndesy can attest that it is difficult driving when you get caved in by a flying wheel

One of Murray Walker’s famous ‘Murrayisms’ was that anything can happen in Formula One, and it usually does.

Well, anything can happen at Mount Panorama… and it usually does.

The Great Race is back for another year, and while we all remember moments like Brock’s 9 wins, the Ford 1-2 of 1977, Dick meeting the rock, “You’re a pack of arseholes”, Glenn Seton’s numerous heartbreaks, the Murphy-Ambrose collision, everything about 2014, the Mountain has also thrown up some other weird moments, some of which give credence to the idea that the truth is indeed, stranger than fiction.


1971- Bill Brown’s can opener crash

Of all the frightening crashes in Bathurst history (I think of Chaz Mostert a few years ago), few have looked as frightening as Bill Brown at McPhillamy Park on Lap 43 in 1971, when he suffered a right front puncture in his XY Falcon at 160 km/h, causing him to slam into an embankment, and roll several times along the guard rail, almost splitting the car in half as if it were a knife though hot butter.

Amazingly, Brown only suffered scrapes and a black eye, and you’ll briefly notice two marshalls also cheated death by inches during the rolls.

According to a story in Cars Guide,

Bill’s survival has been attributed to the back rest of the seat breaking during the crash meaning that as the car’s roof was being crushed, Bill was actually horizontal and avoided what would have surely been a life ending impact.

And of course, with safety standards still somewhat lacking in those days, cars kept cruising around at race speed, while there was an ambulance and tow trucks on the side of the road.


1979- The first RaceCam

In a bid to continually improve their coverage of the Great Race, Channel 7 invented the novel idea of mounting a camera inside Peter Williamson’s Toyota Celica, with Williamson also commentating while he was driving, giving viewers a better feel of what it was like to tackle the Mountain.

Williamson would finish 9th overall, and 1st in the 1601-2000cc class, while quite famously, Peter Brock and Jim Richards won the race by 6 laps.

While somewhat novel at the time, as the camera weighed something close to 70kg, it caught on worldwide, and this year marks 40 years since the birth of RaceCam, and haven’t we come a long way- I remember when Channel 10 had that camera inside the front brake assembly in 2005, showing the brakes on the GRM car getting murdered at the end of The Chase.

There’s an interesting story about the origins of RaceCam by Gordy Lomas on SpeedCafe in 2016, when Williamson passed away.


1981- When Dick met the Rock

This doesn’t exactly fit into the theme of my post, because it’s become one of the most fabled moments in the history of Australian motorsport.

Then again, how many times has a car been taken out at Bathurst by a stray rock.

Of course, hilariously, Dick still owns that very same rock and regularly takes it to events.


1985- “Dig up, stupid!”

In 1985, the John Player BMW 635s dominated the first season of Group A racing in Australia, with Jimmy Richards winning 17/21 races to claim the ATCC title, the Endurance Championship title, and the short lived AMSCAR title.

They were dominating Bathurst as well, but on Lap 40, Richards slid off at Hell Corner, with George Fury remarkably joining him seconds later.

It turned out that a Commodore had suffered an engine failure the lap prior, with track marshalls not bothering to show the oil flag, leaving Richo unaware of the oil slick ahead.

Not knowing they could have received help from the marshalls, Richards and Fury tried helping each other out…. by trying to dig out the No.1 BMW by hand.

You can also hear a very young Neil Crompton

Richards got going eventually, and would finish 4th with Tony Longhurst.

In the end, the Tom Walkinshaw XJ-S Jaguars, known as the Tom Cats, took the win, with John Goss and Armin Hahne beating the BMW of former 350cc world champion Johnny Cecotto and Roberto Ravaglia, while Walkinshaw himself finished 3rd in the other Jag.

Peter Brock also provided a memorable afternoon- He had to punch out both windscreens while chasing the leading Jag, then fought back to move into 2nd… only for the timing chain to break 3 laps from the end, and take him out of the race.


1987- Brock officially wins 6 months after the race

Aside from the off-track controversy, this was the first edition of the race to include the Chase, in an effort to make racing safer around the Mountain, following the death of Mike Burgmann in 1986.

In the heat of the global Group A Wars, with BMW and Ford sniping each other with legalities during the first WTCC Championship (Both manufacturers were disqualified at Monza) the memorable Eggenberger Texaco Ford Sierras with their orange and black liveries came to Bathurst (Which was part of the WTCC Championship) and utterly demolished the field, with Steve Soper and Pierre Dieudonne winning in wet conditions, 2 laps ahead of teammates Klaus Ludwig and Klaus Niedzwiedz.

Source: whichcar.com.au

BMW lodged protests before the race about the legality of parts on the Sierras (The Eggenberger Sieeras were different to the DJR Sierras), specifically their front wheel arch guards, which allowed the team to race on taller tires- Their fuel samples were also tested, but were cleared.

Eventually, 3 months later, the Sierras were disqualified, and it took until the next year for the team’s protest to the FIA Court of Appeal to get tossed out and the race result confirmed… just on 6 months after the race had been run.

As a result, it created the weird situation of the winners not finishing on the lead lap, as the HDT car of Peter Brock, Skippy Parsons and Peter McLeod, who finished 3rd and 3 laps behind, were declared the winners, giving Brock his 9th and final win at the Mountain, and as a result of the disputes, James Hardie withdrew its sponsorship from the race.

Of course, the story behind the winners is equally as insane- The engine on the 05 expired on Lap 34, and so, Brock, Parsons and McLeod hopped into the No.10 (Described as an “old shitter” by Phil Brock), and worked up to finish 3rd.

And of course, in the background to all of this was Holden preparing to knife their beloved poster boy because of the Energy Polarizer fiasco.

23 years later, Niedzwiedz randomly spoke about the race:

We got a protest because some parts were not legal, whatever, it was all bullshit.

The whole thing was a political problem, because BMW and Ford were trying very hard to get the championship title, and BMW had some parts that were not really legal and the Ford had some parts that were not really legal, but this was in every championship race.

But finally, when we got to Australia, some of the Australian Ford Sierras didn’t have these parts, and so then they (BMW) made the protest. We lost the points and the win.

From carsales.com.au

1992- You’re a pack of arseholes

The greatest winners’ speech in Bathurst history, courtesy of none other than Gentleman Jim, after he and Mark Skaife were ‘controversially’ handed a backdated win over Dick Johnson and John Bowe, despite the notorious ‘Godzilla’ Skyline crashing out when the rain came.

4:30 for the highlight

What we also forget from that podium ceremony was Neil Crompton, who finished 3rd in the other Gibson Nissan with Anders Olofsson, giving the crowd the finger after being booed.

Ah, Crompo.

Funnily enough, that was also the last Bathurst run under Group A conditions, as fans saw the back of the dominant Skyline and the Sierra, ushering in the 5L V8 era of the ATCC, and the classic Ford vs Holden battles to come.


There was another strange, and tragic moment from the 1992 race

While Richo won the race, another legendary Kiwi, the 1967 Formula One World Champion Denny Hulme, suffered a fatal heart attack on Lap 33 while driving down Conrod Straight in his BMW M3, glancing the wall at high speed with blurred vision, but managing to roll the car to a stop at The Chase, where track marshalls found him unconscious at the wheel, and he was then taken to Bathurst Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Amazingly, Hulme was the first F1 World Champion to die of natural causes (The previous 6 had died race crashes, road crashes, or in the case of Graham Hill, a place crash).


1998- Mark Larkham’s car dying and restarting on the pit straight

If you completely forget him grabbing pole the next year, and his battle to say the word ‘Centigrade’, this was Larko’s finest moment on the Mountain.

With barely 15 laps to go, the No.10 Mark Larkham/Brad Jones Falcon, while running in 2nd, suddenly died in the pit straight after the fuel pump stopped working, and then, with Jones in tears on TV, Larko got the Mitre 10 Falcon going, and he rejoined the queue in 4th.

Drawing a long bow, it pretty much cost Stone Brothers a 1-2 finish in their Bathurst debut, with the No.4 car of Jason Bright and Steven Richards winning, although to refute that, Larkham had to pit 3 laps from the end to take on a small amount of engine oil, with a 4th placing secure.

There was supposedly due to be a safety car with 10 laps to go, after claims of a spectator on track, which were nothing more than myth.


2002- Greg Murphy’s 5 minute penalty

Go to 3:10 for “Jesus, is that a tent?”

The Kiwi known only as ‘Murph’ has had plenty of memorable moments at Bathurst- The Lap of the Gods, 4 victories… And a very memorable penalty.

Todd Kelly pitted the No.51 Kmart Commodore on Lap 70, and Murphy hopped in, but due to a miscommunication with his pit crew, left the box with the fuel rig still attached to the car, leading to a massive fuel spill, which was quickly dealt with by fire marshalls before it engulfed.

Looks like me after Pat Cummins takes a wicket

It led to one of the harshest penalties, short of a disqualification, in ATCC history- Car 51 had to stay stationary in the pits for 5 minutes, effectively a 2 lap stop/go penalty.

In disgust, Murph hoppped out of the car, got a melt out of his system, and went straight to the portaloo, which had fittingly been labelled ‘Murph’s Throne’… Unless I misread it, and it was actually ‘Yvan’s Throne’ (In reference to Kmart teammate Yvan Muller).

Murphy and Kelly finished 13th and 2 laps down, Mark Skaife won the race and sealed the championship, and fortunately, AVESCO and the stewards realised how stupid the penalty was, and it was never enforced again.


2004- Jim Richards versus The Spirit of Australia

Jim has already appeared on this list many times, but this was one was something you had to see to believe.

2004 should’ve been memorable for Gentleman Jim, once again partnering with his son Steven for the Great Race, but after multiple problems throughout the day, the Castrol Perkins car was brought undone by the improbable- Striking a kangaroo at the Cutting on Lap 111.

WARNING- SLIGHTLY GRAPHIC.

After seeing that footage, I believe that kangaroo’s nickname was ‘Qantas’.


2005- Craig Lowndes getting smacked by a flying wheel

In 2005 (In his first Bathurst with Triple 8), after winning the Sandown 500, Craig Lowndes and Yvan Muller started on pole, opened up an 6 second lead by Lap 15, and then slapped the wall at the Cutting, breaking the watts linkage in the rear axle (Which have since been removed from Supercars), sending him 8 laps down and out of contention.

Still, that wasn’t the weirdest moment for car #888.

On Lap 28, the Castrol Perkins car of Paul Dumbrell (and Steven Richards) hit the wall at Griffins Bend, dislodging the front left tyre, sending it bouncing off two walls… and somehow flying into the path of Lowndes.

The TEGA Footage of the moment

Were it not for the ‘Larry bar’ behind the windscreen (T8 were one the few Ford teams running it), Lowndes may very well have suffered serious injuries.

Under the rules, Triple 8 had to punch out both windscreens, and it was a bad day to get hit by a wheel, as wind chill atop the mountain was supposedly some of the coldest on record, bottoming out at -5 Celsius during the race.

Lowndes and Muller finished in 15th, 10 laps down, as the race was also memorable for another reason- Greg Murphy and Marcos Ambrose taking each other out at the Cutting, blocking the road, and nearly starting a punch-up on track.


2008- The imaginary driver change

While 2008 is best remembered for Lowndes and Whincup completing the 3peat, I do remember a stranger incident, when Steve Ellery in the No.34 GRM Commodore came into the pits on Lap 52, expecting to have a driver change with Greg Ritter.

Greg Ritter was there.

In spirit.


2010- The door fell off

On Lap 48, the Holden Racing Team figured out a new way to save time during Bathurst driver changes… by having the drivers door magically fall off it’s hinges while Garth Tander was getting out for Cameron McConville.

On the theme of kangaroos, GT also managed to narrowly avoid joining Jim Richards in slaughtering our national coat of arms at the Cutting.

Through it all, Tander and McConville finished 3rd.


2014- The lights go out on the Medical Car

More correctly, the lights go off on the medical car.

One of the many highlights of the most insane edition of the Bathurst 1000.


2018- Righty Loosey, Lefty Tighty

Whoop-de-doo, a car lost a wheel at Bathurst.

Wait a minute, it was Jamie Whincup’s car suffering another random case of race-destroying misfortune at Bathurst?

Do go on..

Although, it wasn’t Jamie in the car at the time though, it was his long-suffering co-driver Paul Dumbrell, who was running 2nd, until the T8 Holden was suddenly passed by his detached right front wheel.

Supposedly when T8 put the wheel on a few laps prior, it either wasn’t attached properly, or suffered a wheel clip failure, which also broke the hub on the right front, and dislodged the tyre rather spectacularly on the pit straight, forcing PD to do an entire lap on 3 wheels.

Whincup and Dumbrell went 2 laps down, but thanks to numerous safety cars, were back on the lead lap by the end, and finished 10th.

Can’t wait to see how Jamie and Craig somehow lose this year… I’m going with a stray bird destroying their radiator.


SOMEHOW, THIS IS ALSO MY 300TH 299th POST- GO ME.

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