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Garry Rogers’ unlucky Bathurst Commodore

GARRY Rogers is undoubtedly a character of Australian motorsport and it’s often overlooked just how much racing he did before focusing on team ownership.

He made 14 Bathurst 1000 starts behind the wheel between 1978 and 1993, but there’s one of his ‘Great Race’ cars that never had any good luck at the Mountain.

Rogers’ white VL Group A SV Commodore (built for him by Les Small’s Roadways Racing Services team) made two Bathurst starts – in 1988 and 1990 – and each time found itself enduring Mountain heartbreak.

This car – restored to its 1990 Bathurst livery – is one of a multitude of unique race and road cars part of the ‘UnReil Collection’ being auctioned by Lloyds Auctions this weekend and is the very same Commodore that Rogers shared with American John Andretti in the 1988 Tooheys 1000.

The ambitious Rogers had chased Mario Andretti to be his Bathurst co-driver for that year’s race, however settled for the legend’s nephew.

Andretti had broken his leg in an IndyCar crash at Pocono in late August and arrived in Australia on crutches. Things didn’t get much better in the race when the American crashed the plain white #33 Commodore at Sulman Park just seven laps after Rogers had handed it over to him.

Rogers made a handful of appearances in the 1989 Australian Touring Car Championship in the Commodore, however the car didn’t appear at Bathurst again until 1990 when Graham Moore joined him as co-driver.

The car – the first of many Rogers cars to carry Valvoline backing – didn’t even last the first lap, clutch failure leaving it stranded on the track on the exit of Griffins Bend.

Rogers sold the Commodore to privateer racer Neil Schembri in 1993, who bought it on the recommendation of Terry Finnigan.

The V8 Holden opened the door for the Sydney racer to live his dream of competing in touring car events and he and the VL ran in a variety of ATCC, AMSCAR and Sports Sedans events before the running gear from the car was used for the construction of a new VP Commodore.

The ex-Rogers VL was on-sold through a few hands in the years that followed and restored after sitting as a rolling body shell for 20 years.

Schembri liked the restoration of his old car so much that he bought it back in 2017.

The car, the last of nine Group A Commodores built by Roadways Racing Services, is eligible to compete in Heritage Touring Cars, the Historic category that caters for Group C and Group A touring cars.

Other cars being auctioned this weekend as part of the ‘UnReil Collection’ include the Torana XU-1 tribute that Peter Brock drove in the 1999 Targa Tasmania and Scott Pye’s first Supercars race-winning Walkinshaw Andretti United Commodore ZB.

Watch Garry Rogers on the V8 Sleuth Podcast here:

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