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Thursday, May 30, 2024


As the Sandown 500 approaches again, the V8 Sleuth goes down memory lane…

IT’S September – that means it’s finals time in the AFL and for motor racing fans it’s time for the endurance races with the Sandown 500 as the kick off.

That race holds a special place in the V8 Sleuth’s racing history given it was the first race he actually went to!

The 1986 Castrol 500 was the first race I went to – won by George Fury and Glenn Seton in a
Peter Jackson Nissan Skyline 1-2 finish with Allan Grice and Graeme Bailey’s Chickadee Commodore third from the ‘dream team’ of Peter Brock and Allan Moffat.

Growing up in Ballarat meant that the Sandown enduro became the race my Dad would always take me to – in fact since that first ‘500 in 1986 I only missed 1989 and 1995 before scoring a place in the media centre as a young cub reporter for Motorsport News in Peter Brock’s ‘farewell’ Sandown 500 in 1997.

And you could imagine how filthy I was to miss those two races as well!

The images on this Journal entry are from the 1988 Enzed 500 – 25 years ago. Bloody hell, time flies.

On the left of the shot is the #11 HSV Commodore of Jeff Allam and Armin Hahne, the very same car that Larry Perkins had been racing in the Australian Touring Car Championship as a carburettored VL but had been updated to the ‘Walkinshaw’ body kit with a fuel injected engine.

Funnily enough, I did a Saturday Sleuthing on that actual car for the V8 Supercar website a few weeks back – amazing how things work out huh!

If you look closely at the picture you can see a very young V8 Sleuth in the yellow hat on the right of the shot. Ah, memories!

And if you look really, really close you will notice a former Bathurst winner standing in the background – can you guess who it is?

On the right is the Benson & Hedges Sierra of Tony Longhurst and Tomas Mezera – the very Sierra RS500 that went on a few weeks later to win the Tooheys 1000 at Bathurst.

It didn’t win at Sandown – Allan Moffat and Gregg Hansford did in the ANZ Sierra.

So the Sleuth was there to see the last Moffat win in Australia (he won the Fuji 500 in Japan in
1989) and the Sleuth was there at Winton a fortnight ago to see the next Moffat, James, win his first V8 Supercar race!

At very quick count, the V8 Sleuth has been to 17 Sandown 500s so 2013 will be number 18.

Seriously speaking though, it’s a race that never should have left the Melbourne circuit in 1999.

It was ridiculous that a circuit that had never hosted a top-level race (Queensland Raceway) was able to take such a traditional race away and the move to Phillip Island in 2008 was one that we all knew would never really catch on.

But the race is special. Go back and watch the old videos of the 1970s and 1980s and hear the
grandstand roar when Peter Brock, Allan Moffat and Dick Johnson were leading the pack – it was a roar you don’t hear at any other circuit in the country.

It’s a traditional venue that despite being constructed in the 1960s, doesn’t feel like it.

Just as Bathurst holds so many great memories, so too does Sandown.

I was there when the five-litre rulebook we now know as V8 Supercars first appeared in 1992.

I was there for the smallest ever field in 1991 and the gripping late race dice between Larry Perkins and Paul Morris in 1992.

I was there when HRT threw a bucket of water at Tomas Mezera’s windscreen in 1993 and there when Dick Johnson and John Bowe won from the lowest grid position of a Sandown winner in 1994 (15th if you’re wondering).

I was there when Lowndes and Murphy won back-to-back in 1996 and 1997 and in 2003 when Jason Richards nearly pinched a famous victory from Mark Skaife.

I was PR man with Tasman Motorsport when it took its first podium finish with Richards and Jamie Whincup in 2005 and was with HRT in 2006 when Skaife and Tander had a rocket ship but came up short after problems.

It’s a race that deserves its own book given the amount of stories it has generated over the
year – it’s actually a project the Sleuth started many moons ago. One day it will get done!

But it’s enduro time Sleuthers – the sun is out, spring has sprung and it’s Sandown time. How could you not love it!

Feel free to post any of your Sandown memories or photos from over the years too.

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