BEFORE it became the all-conquering ‘Evil Empire’ that dominated Australian touring car racing in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Holden Racing Team had its fair share of struggles.
Its ultimate ‘Strange But True’ moment came at the 1993 Sandown 500, where the team’s quest for victory was thwarted by its unusual approach to cleaning the car’s windscreen.
HRT’s build-up to the event had been fraught, as star driver Wayne Gardner was stood down for the weekend amid allegations that he was trying to woo its sponsors for his own team ahead of 1994.
The race though begun with much promise, as Tomas Mezera led from pole in the #15 Commodore he was due to share with Mike Preston, brought into the team ahead of Win Percy’s arrival for Bathurst.
That car lasted just four laps before crank sensor failure stopped it on track and left the team’s hopes with its #16 entry of Brad Jones and Gardner’s replacement, Allan Grice.
Unlike Bathurst, cross-entering of drivers was still permitted at Sandown in 1993, and Mezera was at the wheel of #16 and running competitively in fourth as half-distance approached.
Oil though coming from Peter Brock’s car ahead had coated the HRT car’s windscreen and Mezera radioed his crew complaining of a lack of visibility.
“Because I had a bit of a spray washer, the idea was to chuck a little cup of detergent on the screen when I’m driving past,” recalled Mezera on the V8 Sleuth Podcast.
“The first time, I said ‘yeah, it’s better’. Then I come around on the second lap and I see them with a bucket. I’m like ‘oh shit’.”
The impact between the water thrown from the bucket and the Commodore, which was travelling at approximately 200km/h, shattered the windscreen.
“I always wear the full-face helmet and I managed to put my visor down before it hit the windscreen,” continued Mezera.
“I’m lucky I put the visor down and didn’t get splinters of glass in the eye. That was funny…”
Mezera immediately pitted to have the front and rear screens ripped out. The lengthy stop, and a subsequent stop-go penalty for the incident, cost the team any chance of victory.
The Czech reported the car lost 400rpm on the straights due to the drag created from the air flowing through the cockpit but handled better under brakes and in the corners due to the extra air on the wing!
Regardless, it made for a chilly experience for Mezera and then Jones, who drew the short straw and was installed in the car for the run home.
Despite being nearly two laps down, Jones was placed second when an oil pump failure put the car out for good just nine laps from the finish.
The race of attrition was won by the Peter Jackson Racing Falcon EB of David ‘Skippy’ Parsons and Geoff Brabham.