VALE: BATHURST CLASS WINNER ROD STEVENS

Rod Stevens hard at work in the 1978 Hang Ten 400. Pic: an1images.com / Ian Smith

Former privateer Australian touring car racer and Bathurst 1000 class winner Rod Stevens has passed away following a battle with cancer.

He is best remembered for driving a Brian Wood Ford-backed Escort RS2000 during the 1970s, winning the 2-litre class of the Bathurst 1000 in 1978 with co-driver Bill Evans.

Stevens first gained prominence in Sports Sedan competition in his home state of Victoria during the early 1970s, showcasing his skills in a pale blue Mini complete with large wheel flares.

A big accident at Sandown in the Mini resulted in a broken leg and a sabatical from racing before returning with a Ford Escort touring car.

Stevens also campaigned the Mini in hillclimbs. Pic: Facebook

Alongside his racing, Stevens ran a highly successful business in his native Ferntree Gully, Rod Stevens Rollbars, which pioneered alloy rollcages in Australia.

Local Ford dealer Brian Wood backed Stevens’ touring car efforts, sporting the dealer’s blue and yellow colours on his Escort – mimicking the look then being run on Murray Carter’s Falcon.

He made seven Bathurst starts between 1975 and ’81 and finished in the top 10 outright with the Escort in 1977 and ’78.

Stevens’ best season with the Escort came in 1978, where in addition to the Bathurst class win, he utilised the class-based points structure to finish third in the Australian Touring Car Championship.

He also helped Ford to that year’s Australian Championship of Makes title.

Stevens driving the Falcon XC the 1979 ATCC. Pic: an1images.com / Ian Smith

Stevens subsequently switched to a Falcon XC with Brian Wood Ford backing but struggled with reliability issues with the car throughout 1979.

His last of 20 ATCC race starts came aboard the Falcon in the 1979 season finale at Adelaide International Raceway.

After parking the Falcon, he appeared twice more in the Bathurst 1000 – in 1980 aboard Roger Cartwright’s MK2 Escort and in ’81 sharing a Mitsubishi Lancer with Craig Bradtke.

Stevens returned to Mount Panorama in 1992, co-driving a Honda CRX with John Pollard and Ed Aitken in the Bathurst 12 Hour, although the car retired after just four laps.

Stevens continued racing into his final years, campaigning a CRX in club events and was named the Phillip Island Auto Racing Club’s Clubsport Competitor of the Year in 2016.