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Monday, May 27, 2024


THE latest addition to V8 Sleuth’s YouTube channel is a rare slice of Sandown 500 history: the 1989 .05 500 that was never shown on television.

In 1989 Sandown’s promoter, the Light Car Club of Australia, was in significant financial trouble following the costly hosting of a World Sports-Prototype Championship round the previous year.

It had no cash to secure a television deal for the Sandown 500 and, while this 90-minute highlights package was produced, it never aired on TV.

WATCH: 1989 Sandown 500 highlights

In fact, the 1989 Sandown 500 nearly didn’t happen at all due to a legal stoush between the LCCA and the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport.

A month out from the race the LCCA had accepted a three-year, $300,000 sponsorship deal with the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VHPF).

Like the foundation’s deal with Calder Park, the sponsorship required Sandown’s cigarette advertising to be covered over and a similar restriction be placed on teams competing at the circuit.

The latter meant the Peter Jackson and Benson & Hedges backed Ford Sierra squads initially had their entries for the race rejected.

However, under CAMS law an individual circuit promoter could not impose binding sponsorship rules on competitors and the governing body sought a Supreme Court injunction to stop the LCCA’s actions.

Glenn Seton’s Sierra, pictured here with co-driver John Goss battling Win Percy, was at the centre of the pre-event controversy. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

The injunction was granted just a week before the event, allowing the PJ and B&H teams into the field.

Despite the presence of those two teams and ultimately trackside cigarette sponsorship too, the VHPF honoured its backing of the event; funding that was crucial to it going ahead.

The sponsorship included the .05 500 race name in reference to the blood alcohol limit for driving on Victorian roads.

The Sandown resolution was rather different to that at Calder, which did not host top-tier touring car racing from 1988 until cigarette sponsorship was outlawed nationally at the end of 1995.

The 1989 Sandown 500 was also notable for the return of the 3.1km Sandown track layout to the circuit’s marquee endurance race.

The George Fury/ Graeme Bowkett Nissan chases the wheel-spinning Sierras off the start. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

It followed five years with the unloved, tight and twisty infield loop first added for the 1984 World Endurance Championship round that added an extra 800 metres but cut out the high-speed Esses at the top of the circuit.

The Esses were reinstated for that year’s Australian Touring Car Championship round, and their use for the 500 kilometre race reduced the strain placed on drivelines by the first and second-gear infield loop.

It was a return to ‘Big Bad Sandown’ and, regardless of the lack of television and the pre-event sponsorship turmoil, a healthy 32-car grid assembled for the traditional Bathurst warm-up event.

A Top 10 Shootout that started wet and then dried as the session progressed netted a blockbuster front-row of Dick Johnson and Peter Brock, both in Ford Sierras.

The horde of turbocharged Fords though faced a real threat from the Nissan Skylines and Holden Commodores on race day…

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