Bathurst blast from the past: 1992, triumph, tragedy, and a pack of arseholes

Despite the best efforts of CAMS to avoid the Skyline domination of 1991 with weight handicaps and pop-off valves in the turbo (Which were thwarted thanks to Shell), the Gibson Motorsport team of Jim Richards and Mark Skaife, now donned with sponsorship from Winfield, once again dominated the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1992 with the ‘Godzilla’ R32, with Skaife winning the first of his 5 championships by 20 points from Richards, although the handicaps did work in the sense that the Skyline ‘only’ won 4 races, while Ford Sierras also won 4 races in the hands of John Bowe (3) and Glenn Seton (1), and the BMW M3 of Tony Longhurst won at Lakeside.

Of course, the major news prior to the endurance races at Sandown and Bathurst was that 1992 would mark the last year of the FIA’s Group A regulations in the ATCC, with CAMS introducing bans on turbocharging, thus removing the Skyline and the Sierra from the ATCC, to be replaced by Group 3A racing featuring 5-litre V8-powered Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores, plus 2-litre BMW M3s and Toyota Corollas, the beginnings of what became the V8 Supercars and the Super Tourers.

So after Larry Perkins and Steve Harrington won the Sandown 500 in a VL Commodore (No Skylines competed), it was on to Bathurst for the 1992 Toohey’s 1000 (as it was known) and the last Mountain appearance for the turbocharged Group A cars, while the Ford Falcon would return to the Mountain for the first time since 1984, and the race was also noteworthy in that it featured multiple World Champions on two wheels and four wheels.

1967 F1 World Champion Denny Hulme, unknowingly in his last race, drove with Paul Morris in a Benson & Hedges BMW M3, 1980 F1 World Champion Allan Jones drove with Glenn Seton in Seton’s new EB Ford Falcon, 1975 350cc World Champion Johnny Cecotto drove with Tony Longhurst in the lead Benson & Hedges M3, and 1987 500cc World Champion Wayne Gardner made his touring car debut with Graham Moore in a Commodore, only a month after riding in his last Grand Prix in South Africa.

Formerly the Woolongong Whiz on two wheels, Gardner was set to earn the nickname Captain Chaos on four wheels.

When it came to qualifying on Saturday October 3, as expected Mark Skaife set the pace in the Skyline from Larry Perkins and Dick Johnson, but in the Top 10 shootout Johnson would demolish the field in the Shell No.17 Sierra, setting a 2:12.898, a full 1.533 seconds faster than Perkins in 2nd, with Skaife 3rd, and Seton 4th in a promising start for the EB Falcon, which had only debuted at Sandown.

On the morning of Sunday October 4, the race started with the looming threat of rain, with Johnson jumping and leading from Skaife and Mark Gibbs in the GIO Nissan, with Peter Brock’s day instantly ruined when the tailshaft broke on his new VP Commodore, leaving the 05 stranded on the grid as he spent 15 laps in the pits for repairs, during which he gave a running commentary on Channel 7.

Brock would suffer another broken tailshaft during the race, and also lost his front spoiler when spun at Forrest’s Elbow by Allan Grice (Who had just been elected the MP for Broadwater in the Queensland Parliament), causing Brock to give Grice a verbal bashing on Channel 7.

With the Top 2 bolting away, Skaife would pass Johnson for the lead at Murray’s Corner to end Lap 2, never to be caught again, as the rain would set in within the first hour, with the track still dry enough to stay out on slicks for a couple of laps, before eventually everyone swapped over to wet tyres, with fog setting in on top of the Mountain.

On Lap 33, the tragedy of the day occurred when Denny Hulme complained of blurred vision at Forrest’s Elbow, kept driving down Conrod until he suffered a massive heart attack, clouting the left-hand wall at 230 km/h but managing to roll the car to a stop at The Chase, where track marshalls found him unconscious at the wheel of his M3, and the 56-year-old Kiwi was then taken to Bathurst Hospital, where he would be pronounced dead that afternoon, the seventh Formula One World Champion to pass away (Ascari, Hawthorn, Farina, Clark, Rindt & Hill were the first 6), and the first to die of natural causes.

After an appearance by the pace car, the enormous advantage of the R32 Skyline’s all-wheel drive in the wet conditions was soon on full display, as Richards built a huge lead over Bowe & Johnson, but the race would again come to another halt when the No.7 Caltex Sierra of Peter Hopwood (On his 55th lap) drilled into the back of the No.29 Marathon Foods Commodore of Ed Lamont while attempting to pass the Commodore down Conrod, being caught out by the spray and spearing both cars into the wall at high speed, causing massive damage on all four corners and a fire in the rear of Car 29.

During the pace car, Channel 7’s Mike Raymond announced the news that Denny Hulme had died at Bathurst hospital, while the rain would become torrential, with John Bowe describing it as the “Worst conditions I’ve ever seen” in his years of motor racing.

That was the kerb camera out of Turn 2… That’s how much water was on the circuit.

Eventually the visibility and the conditions improved enough to go green again, albeit for a couple of laps as Trevor Ashby (driving with good mate Steve Reed) got caught wide at Forrest’s Elbow in the No.3 Lansvale Smash Repairs car on Lap 66, and went into the tyre wall and out of the race from 15th overall.

Conditions continued to improve as Skaife hopped in Car No.1, while Johnson now had to fend off the sister Gibson Skyline of Anders Olofsson and Neil Crompton to retain 2nd overall, in what was one of the last examples of a wheel-to-wheel fight between the Sierra and the Skyline in Australian racing, with Olofsson taking 2nd from the Shell Sierra, giving Fred Gibson’s team with a huge chance of scoring a 1-2 on their Nissan farewell to Bathurst:

With a sufficient dry line formed, Skaife pitted car No.1 for slicks, with Richards taking over for the run to the flag with a lead of well over a minute, Johnson took over from Bowe and eventually retook 2nd place when the No.2 Nissan had to change brake pads, during which time Crompton replaced Olofsson, as another massive storm closed in on Mount Panorama, setting the stage for one of the most memorable finishes in the history of the Bathurst 1000.

On Lap 143, the heavy rain returned and most of the field had already made the sensible decision to pit for wet tyres, which conceivably ended any hopes Johnson & Bowe had of catching the Skyline with it’s AWD advantage in wet weather, but Richards in Car No.1 was stuck out on slick tyres, as other drivers that had stayed out on slicks were becoming victims of The Mountain, including the No.13 Ampol Max 3 VL Commodore of Bob Jones and Peter Janson that stopped at Reid Park, and the No.76 Toyota Sprinter of Mike Conway, Calvin Gardiner and Geoff Forshaw, which wound up on its side after spectacularly smashing into the wall at Griffin’s Bend.

Then, much to the delight of the crowd, on Lap 144, Richards slid the No.1 Skyline into an earth bank at the Cutting, causing terminal damage to the front left corner of the car, and after touring through the top of the mountain, the Nissan aquaplaned out of Forrest’s Elbow, straight into the heap of crashed cars that had built up in the storm.

And for good measure, right as the red flag came out to end the race, the No.71 Toyota Corolla FX-GT of Jason & Scott Bargwanna, which was leading Class B, aquaplaned straight into the boot of the No.1 Nissan.

Having inherited the lead, Dick Johnson crossed the line first overall and triumphantly raised his arm in the air thinking the No.17 Shell Sierra had won the race:

But the rules at the time stated the results must be declared from the last full lap before the red flag, which was Lap 143 when the Richards/Skaife No.1 Skyline was still in the lead, thus, despite crashing and returning to the pits on a flatbed truck, Jim Richards, Mark Skaife and Gibson Motorsport had won the Bathurst 1000 for the second year running, as the Great Race finished short of full distance for only the second time, after 1981.

“After I passed Jim up the hill I thought we’ve got to be number one, surely, but obviously you can be beaten by a crashed car.” – Dick Johnson.

Ironically, Johnson had been the beneficiary of the red flag that ended the race in 1981.

Thus, the podium read:

1st = Car No.1 Jim Richards & Mark Skaife, Winfield Team Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R

2nd = Car No.17 Dick Johnson & John Bowe, Shell Ultra-High Racing Ford Sierra RS5000

3rd = Car No.2 Anders Olofsson & Neil Crompton, Winfield Team Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R

The most memorable podium ceremony in Australian motorsport

“There hasn’t been anything like that podium at Bathurst since, but the reality is it was a miserable end to a miserable day” – Neil Crompton

As expected, Ford fans (And Holden fans) didn’t take the result too well seeing Nissan not only win again, but win despite crashing out of the race, chucking beer cans against the pit wall, booing Richards & Skaife + Olofsson and Crompton on the podium, chanting “We want Dick” which had nothing to do with Dick Johnson appearing on the podium, chanting “Nissan cops it up the arse, doo-dah, doo-dah”, firing up a “BULLSHIT!” chant when the winners appeared…

At which point Richards took the microphone from Seven’s master of ceremonies Garry Wilkinson, and delivered a winner’s speech that will never be forgotten, primarily for the parting sentence.

“I’m just really stunned for words, I just can’t believe the reception, I thought Australian race fans had a lot more to go than this, this is bloody disgraceful, I’ll keep racing but I tell you what, this is going to remain with me for a long time. YOU’RE A PACK OF ARSEHOLES.

If the stories are correct, the lack of loudspeakers on the podium meant the fans on the track never heard Richards’ Pack of Arseholes speech when it happened, and it was only Channel 7’s broadcast that helped make it a memorable moment.

What we also forget from that podium ceremony was that before Richards had called the crowd a pack of arseholes, Neil Crompton gave the crowd the finger after being heavily booed.

Also, surely there’s a hint of irony in the Ford crowd being so angry that a crashed Japanese car won the race, because unlike the Godzilla Nissan Skyline, the Ford Sierra was never sold in Australia.

A couple of other stories later emerged from before the drivers walked out:

Gentleman Jim, who was a good friend & compatriot of Denny Hulme, only found out about Hulme’s passing shortly before stepping onto the podium, which in part caused his outburst at the crowd.

Skaife later revealed he’d stuffed a heap of Tooheys Draught cans in his pocket and was prepared to pelt them at the angry crowd, until Richards had to talk him out of it.

And while all that was going on, Nissan Australia managing director Leon Daphne was down at ground level whacking unruly fans with his umbrella.


Both the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000 of 1992 ended short of the full distance; Sandown was stopped on Lap 136 out of 150 due to a 5pm curfew on the circuit’s operating time, and Bathurst was ended on Lap 144 of 161 due to torrential rain.

As of 2022, this is the most recent edition of the Bathurst 1000 to finish short of Lap 161.

The Nissan Skyline and the Ford Sierra would make one last appearance at an official Australian Touring Car event, the Group A Finale at the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide on November 8, with Richards winning the event from John Bowe & Larry Perkins.

While the Skyline would never race again at Mount Panorama, Nissan eventually made a comeback in 2013 when they returned to V8 Supercars with the Nissan Altima, with their best result being 2nd in 2014 with James Moffat and Taz Douglas, which was their only Bathurst podium before leaving the category again in 2019.

After weighing up a reunion with Ford, Fred Gibson would ultimately accept Holden’s offer to race VP Commodores from 1993, with Richards winning the final 2 races of the season before himself & Skaife finished 2nd to Perkins & Gregg Hansford at Bathurst – Gibson Motorsport would eventually swap to Ford at the end of 2000.

Richards recalled returning to Bathurst in ’93 after his outburst and signing shirts for fans that said, ‘I’m an arsehole, Jim Richards told me!’

10 years later, Richards and Skaife would win Bathurst for the third time as a pairing, this time in an Holden Racing Team Commodore to secure Skaife his fifth ATCC title (And third in a row), and in a nod to his past actions, Richards described the mostly pro-Holden crowd as “A pack of lovely, lovely people”

So there you go, Bathurst 1992 – A triumph, a tragedy, and a pack of arseholes.

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