UNLIKE many ATCC/Supercars champions of the modern era, Glenn Seton’s path to the top level of Australian touring car racing did not include a stint in open-wheelers.
After his time in karts ended with a heavy crash at Oran Park in which he was knocked unconscious, Seton opted for the relative safety of sedans for his move into car racing.
But his stint as a factory Nissan touring car driver in the 1980s did include an often overlooked, two-event open-wheel interlude in which he took a stunning win on debut.
His chance to sample single seaters came in the 1988 Australian Formula 2 Championship thanks to Nissan and team boss Fred Gibson.
Seton told the story in his book ‘Seto: The Official Racing History of Glenn Seton’, which is currently on sale in the V8 Sleuth Bookshop.
“Nissan had a Group C sportscar program at that point and there was the potential for me to become involved,” wrote Seton.
“Because of that, Fred thought it was a good idea that I get some open-wheel experience in 1988, especially without much touring car racing to do during the year thanks to the troubles with the HR31.
“A guy Fred knew, Dave Thompson, had a Nissan-powered Ralt RT4 that I ended up doing two Australian Formula 2 Championship rounds in.
“My first time driving it was a test day at Winton and with the set-up it had, it just understeered like crazy. We kept cranking rear wing off and just went faster and faster!”
The Pulsar powerplant was around 30bhp down on the VW Golf engines that were dominating the category, but his ability to drive the car with very little wing helped make up the deficit.
Seton’s debut came at Round 4 of the season at Adelaide International Raceway, where he qualified on the outside of the three-car front-row and set the fastest lap on the way to victory.
“That result got everyone hyped up to do another round, this time at Sandown (Round 7), but the throttle cable broke while I was leading and that was the end of my time in that car,” he wrote.
“But I remember it fondly, it was great fun to drive. It brought me back to my karting days, it was just amazing to drive something again that was purpose-built for racing.”
While Seton was undeniably impressive aboard the Ralt, a decision to leave Nissan and set up his own touring car team for 1989 put paid to any international opportunities with the Japanese manufacturer.
“[Mark Skaife] ended up doing a fair bit of open-wheel racing while driving for Fred in the early 1990s with the idea of creating international opportunities, just as the plan had been for me,” added Seton.
“It would have been nice to do more myself, but touring car racing was the way to make a career in Australia.”