THIS week’s edition of Saturday Sleuthing looks at a car that has been raced by Bathurst winners and a future Supercars champion, but is probably best remembered for a very spectacular crash at Mount Panorama.
With 25 laps completed in the 1997 Primus 1000 Classic, Tomas Mezera was circulating in 14th place aboard the #47 Bottle Magic Holden Commodore VS that he was set to share with car owner John Trimbole, their car sitting in a steady second place in the ‘Special Level 1’ class for privateers running a control Dunlop tyre.
On the 26th lap, a tyre delaminated coming down Conrod Straight and the flapping rubber ripped out a brake line, leaving Mezera with no pedal as he arrived at the fastest part of the circuit.
He slewed the car sideways to wash off speed, the car then rolling and tumbling through the Chase gravel trap before coming to rest on its wheels.
Remarkably, Mezera was uninjured in the crash and climbed out under his own steam; even more remarkably, the incident didn’t trigger a Safety Car period and was instead cleaned up by the marshals under a local yellow!
While the terrifying crash stands as this car’s most memorable moment, this wasn’t its first infamous bingle at Mount Panorama, nor did Mezera’s rollover signify the end of its racing career.
Built in 1993 by Bob Forbes Racing, chassis RF 05 was the first VP Commodore constructed by the team especially for the new five litre touring car rules and replaced the upgraded former Group A car piloted by Neil Crompton in time for the final round of the Australian Touring Car Championship at Oran Park.
Crompton was joined by Mark Gibbs for the endurance races, and they briefly led at Sandown but retired from both events.
While Crompton and RF 05 stayed together for 1994, they raced in new colours and for a new team boss: Wayne Gardner purchased Forbes’ outfit over the off-season, and this car received a new livery in the colours of Coca-Cola.
RF 05 remained the team’s #7 car through to the middle of the 1995 season, having served as Crompton’s mount throughout the 1994 ATCC, been campaigned by Win Percy and Russell Ingall at that year’s endurance races, then converted into the new VR panelwork for the start of the 1995 ATCC.
Famously, the two Coke Commodores tangled at the start of the opening race of the ATCC round at Mount Panorama that year, the damage to both Crompton’s RF 05 and Gardner’s team car ruling both out for the day after just 300 metres of racing.
When Crompton received a new car for the Winton round, this car became Wayne Gardner Racing’s spare chassis until it was sold to Pinnacle Motorsport for 1996, who didn’t race RF 05 prior to its sale to John Trimbole for 1997.
Repainted in black and red ‘Bottle Magic’ colours and upgraded to VS Commodore trim, Trimbole and Mezera piloted the car in a handful of ATCC events, the Australian GP and Gold Coast Indy support races, and the Sandown 500 before the car’s spectacular crash at Bathurst.
The car can actually be spotted in a photo of the early laps of the 1997 Primus 1000 Classic that appears in our new book Racing the Lion: An Illustrated History of Holden in Australian Motorsport, a 400-page hardcover book paying tribute to the marque’s rich competition history spanning over seven decades.
It’s now in stock in the V8 Sleuth Bookshop – click HERE to order!
Despite how bad the crash looked, this chassis was actually repaired and returned to the race track several years later.
Now owned by Dave Skillender, RF 05 claimed victory in the very first race of the first round of the Dunlop Super2 Series in 2000.
Originally known as the Konica V8 Lites Series, Wayne Wakefield drove the plain white Commodore to victory in the first race in the second-tier series’ history.
Wakefield actually piloted the car to three race wins that year but missed out on snagging a round victory, although the highlight of his season for most was his memorable duel with David Besnard at the Lakeside round.
Wakefield and V8 Lites rival Ryan McLeod shared the car at the main game Queensland 500, but shared the latter’s Chiko Roll-backed Holden at Mount Panorama; instead, RF 05 was driven to 19th place by Tim Sipp and Shane Beikoff in the car’s final Supercars Championship race appearance (below left).
In fact, this car only made one more race start in period with Sipp campaigning it in the inaugural second-tier Bathurst 1000 support race in 2001 (above right).
Dave Skillender retained the car for many years after its final race, but in 2018 it was acquired by a Melbourne enthusiast who is about to embark on restoring the car back to its state in 1995 when it was Crompton’s #7 Coca-Cola Commodore.