The Holden Commodore that did the Bathurst 1000/12 Hour double goes on display…
STORY: WILL DALE
IMAGES: SUPPLIED, AN1 IMAGES (DIRK KLYNSMITH)
THE only Supercar to have tackled both of Mount Panorama’s premier endurance races is the latest exhibit to go on display at Bathurst’s National Motor Racing Museum.
Along with being a Supercars Championship race-winning car, this Garry Rogers Motorsport-built Holden Commodore has welcomed several of the sport’s big names into its driver’s seat and raced on some of the most revered circuits around the world.
It also remains the only car to have competed in both the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 and the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
The car started its life as Jason Bargwanna’s race car for the 2001 Supercars season.
But Bargs wasn’t the first person to drive it – that honour went to Rogers himself, who took the car for its initial shakedown laps at Winton late in 2000! Leanne Tander completed the remainder of the day’s running in her first test for GRM.
The car’s most notorious moment in Valvoline colours, however, 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 in his final victory for the team.
The chassis remained 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 sprint car hero Max Dumesny, while Mark Noske joined Whincup for his first Bathurst 1000.
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 raced the car at Bathurst.
Damage from a crash in the last race of the Pukekohe round forced Whincup into another car for the season finale at Eastern Creek, with the New Zealand sprint marking the car’s last Supercars race.
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, using it as a ride car and pit stop practice car, and updating it to VZ specification. After one offer on the car fell through, it was finally purchased in 2007 by former Supercars privateer Mal Rose.
Rose campaigned the car at some of the world’s greatest race tracks, the Commodore racing in the Nurburgring 24 Hour, Spa 12 Hour, Sepang 12 Hour and Dubai 24 Hour.
The Commodore even lined up for a tilt at World Time Attack at Sydney Motorsport Park, Rose taking on a host of turbocharged rivals in the 2010 event.
A decade after failing to reach the finish in both its tilts at the Bathurst 1000, the car returned to Mount Panorama in 2013 to race in the Bathurst 12 Hour, its livery featuring maps of the iconic circuits the machine had raced at.
Entered in the Invitational class for vehicles over three litres, Rose, Aaron Tebb and Adam Wallis finished 12th outright against a host of GT3 machinery and first in class.
Rose still owns the car and delivered it to the National Motor Racing Museum this week, the car still bearing the livery it carried in its Bathurst 12 Hour appearance – complete with battle scars on its front bumper.
The National Motor Racing Museum at Mount Panorama, Bathurst is open from 9am to 4:30pm every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Head to their website for more details.