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Monday, May 27, 2024


THE Nissan Bluebird in which George Fury scored a record-setting pole position for the 1984 Bathurst 1000 is set for its first race in almost 37 years.

The Group C machine is among a healthy line-up of entries for the Heritage Touring Car races at Sydney Motorsport Park’s Sydney Classic on June 11-12.

It will be campaigned by owner and Nissan enthusiast Brian Henderson, who has previously competed in Heritage Touring Car events aboard Group A Skyline DR30 and Gazelle machinery.

Henderson’s Bluebird was the last of three built to Australia’s Group C rules during the early 1980s and made a winning debut in Fury’s hands at the 1983 Oran Park 250 enduro.

The car suffered mechanical issues at Sandown and Bathurst, the latter after a front-row qualifying effort, before victory in the touring car support race at Calder’s Australian Grand Prix meeting.

In 1984 Gary Scott raced the car in the AMSCAR Series, the final round of the ATCC in Adelaide and the Silastic 300 at Amaroo Park (which he won), before sharing it with Fury at Bathurst.

Fury qualified this car on the front-row at Bathurst in 1983. Pic: an1images.com / Dale Rodgers

There Fury stunned the Holden and Ford V8 heroes by rocketing to pole with a 2:13.85s lap, which stands as the quickest-ever for a touring car on the pre-Chase layout.

It was the first Great Race pole for both a Japanese and turbocharged car, and a stunning 24 seconds quicker than Fury’s previous Bluebird managed in qualifying on its Bathurst debut in 1981!

The Bathurst race though was a disappointment as the Fury/Scott entry lost many laps with differential trouble and finished 16th.

Fury through Forrest’s Elbow in 1984. Pic: an1images.com / Dale Rodgers

This car’s racing life with the factory team ended on a high note however, as Fury again won the Calder AGP support race, which was the last major event of the Group C era.

It was also the only time the legendary Holden Dealer Team VK ‘Big Bangers’ were defeated.

This Bluebird was leant to Scott to race as a Sports Sedan in 1985 before being restored by Gibson Motorsport, which had taken over the Nissan team from Howard Marsden.

This car won the final major Group C race at Calder. Pic: an1images.com / Dale Rodgers

It was retained by Gibson until being sold in 2001 to collector Terry Ashwood, who displayed it in his Trackside Restaurant in Gosford on New South Wales’ Central Coast.

Henderson bought the car in 2013 and the following year it was utilised by Nissan’s Supercars team, which celebrated the 30-year anniversary of Fury’s pole position lap with a retro livery.

The promotion involved Fury getting back behind the wheel of the car for a filming session at Winton and demonstration laps at the Bathurst 1000.

Fury ready to take to the track at Bathurst in 2014. Pic: Supplied

Henderson’s subsequent attempts to race the car at Sandown in November that year and at Bathurst in 2015 were quashed by mechanical trouble and the car remained idle until this year.

“The car hasn’t raced at all since the last race meeting it did in Sports Sedans with Gary Scott in 1985,” Henderson confirmed to V8 Sleuth.

“Mechanically it’s all been fully refreshed with a new engine, new gearbox, new everything, all built period-correct.

“We did a practice day at Ipswich in February and everything ran well, and we were meant to race at the Morgan Park historic meeting (in May) but got caught in the floods on the way up there.”

Henderson also prepares the sister Bluebird – the second of the three built and driven by Fury/Fred Gibson at Bathurst in 1981 and ’82 – for owner Adam Workman.

Run as a Sports Sedan in Western Australia under a previous owner and later a regular in Heritage Touring Cars in Workman’s hands, that car has also been refreshed.

It too will be in action at the Sydney Classic, marking its first race since 2016.

“It’ll be the first time since 1984 the two Bluebirds will have raced together,” noted Henderson.

“The cars will look a treat and hopefully reward us with some reliability. I’m looking forward to getting the cars out and allowing people to enjoy them and see them on track.”

The two cars appeared together at Sandown in 2014, but only one made it to race day! Pic: Facebook

The Australian Bluebird racing program is perhaps best remembered for two things: Fury’s Bathurst pole lap and the unreliability of the engines.

There are plenty of wild stories about just how much horsepower the 1.8-litre turbocharged engines made at their zenith, as well as the tricks the factory team employed to alter boost on the run!

Henderson though has consulted with those involved in the original Bluebird racing program and is well aware of the limits of the motors.

The three Bluebirds side-by-side. The third is currently being restored. Pic: Supplied

“They’re an honest 350-400 horsepower engine, pending on the temperature of the day. They’re only a crossflow Z18ET engine, that’s about what they make,” he said.

“The sort of results we’re getting, the horsepower and torque are very similar to what they had in the day, but probably just a bit safer because we’ve got better engine control.

“Adam and I have both got Motecs so we’ve got a bit more safety in our engines than what they had, it was a bit of a Hail Mary for them!

“The engines have really good torque characteristics though, they come on really hard, really early, but then it’s all over before 7,000rpm, so we don’t need to rev them.

“They’ve got big tyres and they’re not very heavy, so they’re quite nice to drive, as opposed to the DR30…”

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