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The forgotten ‘undriveable’ Monaro that took on the Brits

THE arrival of PROCAR’s Bathurst 24 Hour in 2002 arrived with much fanfare and Holden created plenty of controversy with its Garry Rogers Motorsport-built and developed Monaro 427C.

The somewhat more liberal rules of PROCAR’s Nations Cup were quite different to that of Europe’s N-GT regulations and the GRM-built Monaro won the inaugural 24 Hour race and repeated the dose with a 1-2 the following year.

But often overlooked is the fact that there was another Monaro built to conform with Europe’s N-GT ruleset that headed to England to compete.

Greg Stevenson’s Monaro Performance Centre was enlisted to construct an N-GT version of Holden’s sports coupe in 2004 for Emotional Engineering headed by Australian expat Allen Orchard.

A shakedown was completed by former Superbike ace Aaron Slight at Calder Park before the Monaro was shipped across to the UK ahead of its British GT debut.

Slight was enlisted to drive the entry alongside young gun and future Ferrari factory pilot Matt Griffin. Sponsorship came from Valvoline, Cummins and Vauxhall itself as it launched the Monaro properly in the UK where it gained plaudits from motoring journalists.

The main differences between this Monaro and GRM’s was that the N-GT version used more stock components, including the 5.7-litre V8 engine used in the CV8 producing 550 horsepower, a Holinger sequential gearbox, Supercar-level braking system, MoTeC electronics as well as an aero package similar to its Nations Cup sibling.

Aaron Slight at the wheel of the N-GT Monaro during testing at Calder. Photo: Supplied.

Launched at the opening British GT Championship round at Donington Park, the Emotional Engineering Monaro made its proper debut at Ireland’s Mondello Park where it finished eighth among a crack field of Porsche, Ferrari, Corvette, TVR, Mosler and Ultima entries.

Slight only contested its debut before being replaced by Matt Manderson for the following rounds as the Monaro finished a best of seventh in its debut season at Oulton Park, but it proved a tough campaign.

Entering its second season in 2005, an engine malady forced the Monaro to miss the opening round before winning the G2 Class for nationally homologated models in the FIA GT Championship event at Magny-Cours, with Ryan Hooker joining Griffin behind the wheel.

From then on, the Monaro struggled for the rest of the season as reliability proved a major problem.

The third year of the program in 2006 again proved troublesome as Griffin left the program after Round 2 at Donington Park and the Monaro didn’t appear again until Rockingham four events later with a new driver line-up of Steve Hyde and Anthony Mott. The duo scored a second and third in class at Rockingham, but Brands Hatch and the penultimate round at Silverstone proved the end of the N-GT Monaro’s campaign.

New GT3 regulations were gradually being introduced as the top tier of British GT, so the Monaro program came to an end. A tilt at Le Mans and its famous 24 Hour involving some Holden V8 Supercar stars was hinted during the time of this program, but nothing came to fruition.

Slight’s stint with the Monaro was short. Here’s the car at the Calder shakedown, note the Vauxhall badge. Photo: Supplied.

Griffin reflected on the Monaro in, let’s just say unfavourable terms, and nominated the N-GT spec car to dailysportscar.com in March 2020 as the worst race car he’s ever driven.

“The plan was basically to run a V8 Supercar in British GT for two years, then European Le Mans Series then Le Mans,” Griffin told dailysportscar.com

“Sounds great, doesn’t it? But it was a sack of shit. It wasn’t quick, the team were not particularly put together well. I was left driving this V8 saloon car that was blowing engines left, right and centre, watching the GruppeM Porsche winning the British GT Championship while I was snapping driveshafts.

“The power steering was awful too, it would fail a lot and when it did it was just undriveable. You’d go to a corner and take deep breaths because it was like weightlifting.”

Read the full story on the dailysportscar.com website here.

The N-GT Monaro does still exist though and is owned by Andy Wilson.

This story also appears on the Repco Garage website.

For more news and content like this story, as well as videos competitions and podcasts, visit the Repco Garage here.

Andy Wilson aboard the Monaro at Brands Hatch in 2021. The car behind is Andy Robinson’s ex-PWR Falcon AU in 00 Motorsport tribute livery. Photo: Max English.
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