THE BATHURST 12 Hour grid may be a little bigger this May with the news this week that Super3/V8 Touring cars will be allowed to enter the Invitational Class – but it won’t be the first time a V8 Supercar has raced in both the Bathurst 1000 and Bathurst 12 Hour.
That honour goes to GRM VX03, the ex-Garry Rogers Motorsport Commodore that enjoyed a long life both in V8 Supercars and since its time in the category.
The chassis is also notable for welcoming several of the biggest names into the sport and has also tackled some of the world’s most revered race circuits.
The car started its racing life as Jason Bargwanna’s #35 Valvoline Cummins Commodore VX for the 2001 V8 Supercars season.
The car’s most notorious moment in Valvoline colours came at Phillip Island in 2002 when Bargwanna was tipped into a spectacular rollover crash soon after the start of the opening race of the weekend.
Despite being severely damaged, the car was rebuilt for Bargwanna to use for the following round and the remainder of the season’s single-driver races, scoring a race and round win at Surfers Paradise.
That round was also the final time that Bargwanna claimed the top step of a V8 Supercars podium.
The chassis remained as the #35 Valvoline car for the enduros, where it was co-driven by Jamie Whincup in the future seven-time Supercars champion’s first points-race starts.
The then-Formula Ford racer was joined for the Queensland 500 by Sprintcar hero Max Dumesny, while Mark Noske joined Whincup for his first Bathurst 1000 but did not see the chequered flag after Whincup crashed at Griffins Bend.
Whincup retained the car for the bulk of his rookie season in the championship in 2003. His best qualifying result in the car came at Winton with ninth on the grid, while his best race finish was an 11th placing in the final race of the Hidden Valley weekend.
With Whincup pairing with Garth Tander at Bathurst, Nathan Pretty and Allan Simonsen took over GRM VX03 in the 1000 but also failed to finish the race.
Pukekohe in 2003 marked GRM VX03’s final V8 Supercars appearance because of heavy damage sustained at the New Zealand sprint as Whincup was forced into another car (a newer model VY) for the season finale at Eastern Creek.
Unlike many ‘main game’ cars of the era, it didn’t have a second life in the Super2 Series.
The car was retained by GRM into 2004, who used it as a ride car and pit stop practice car, and it was then updated to VZ specification.
It was then purchased in 2007 by former Supercars privateer Mal Rose, who campaigned the car at some of the world’s greatest race tracks.
The Commodore has the Nurburgring 24 Hour, Spa 12 Hour, Sepang 12 Hour, Dubai 24 Hour and even the 2010 World Time Attack event at Sydney Motorsport Park on its racing resume before returning to Australia permanently.
A decade after failing to reach the finish in both its tilts at the Bathurst 1000, the car took on the Bathurst 12 Hour in a livery that featured maps of the iconic circuits that the Commodore had raced at all over the world.
The car was entered in the Invitational class for vehicles over three litres in which Rose, Aaron Tebb and Adam Wallis finished 12th outright against a host of GT3 machinery, plus a trophy for first in class.
This race-winning Garry Rogers Motorsport-built Holden Commodore is currently on display at the National Motor Racing Museum at Mount Panorama and is expected to still be there for visitors to view on the Bathurst 12 Hour event weekend this year of May 13-15.