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When BMW slayed ‘Godzilla’ and the turbos

THE final years of Group A touring car racing in Australia are mainly remembered for the dominance of Nissan’s four-wheel-drive, twin-turbo GT-R but that wasn’t always the case, as our trip back to May 3, 1992 for the latest edition of Ryco Rewind shows.

That year marked the Australian Touring Car Championship’s final season run to Group A regulations prior to the introduction of five-litre winged V8 rules for 1993.

However, in a significant departure from previous years, CAMS altered the minimum weights and maximum rev limits of the different models of car in order to try and achieve more exciting racing and more diverse winners.

That was certainly achieved at Lakeside, where all four of Group A’s leading marques – Ford, BMW, Nissan, and even Holden – led laps and challenged for victory.

Lakeside marked the first significant in-season change to the parity measures, with the Nissans made to tip the scales at 1500kg.

It was only the two factory cars of Jim Richards and Mark Skaife that fronted for Lakeside; Bob Forbes withdrew his GIO-backed GT-R in protest, instead fielding Mark Gibbs in the squad’s little-raced Holden Commodore VN.

Another Commodore that joined the grid was that of the Holden Racing Team, with Tomas Mezera making the second of three appearances amid a part-season campaign for the factory team.

But neither Gibbs or Mezera, nor the Mobil-backed VN of Peter Brock, proved ‘The General’s leading hope.

That instead fell to Larry Perkins, making his third appearance of the year aboard his older-model VL SS Group A SV.

The new parity measures helped Perkins’ three-year-old car challenge the Ford Sierra of polesitter John Bowe, the BMW M3 of Tony Longhurst and the Nissan of Skaife in the opening race.

In fact, Perkins set the fastest lap of the race and led the most laps, while his move on Bowe for the lead at the Eastern Loop drew loud cheers from the fans on the banks that lined the circuit.

The front-running show took a toll on the big VL’s tyres, though, and Perkins faded to seventh behind race-winner Longhurst, who took his first race win of the season ahead of Skaife and Bowe.

However, Skaife and Perkins would start the second race off the rear of the grid; both elected to fit more than one new tyre which, under the rules, meant a back-of-the-grid start with a 10-second wait!

One driver that didn’t wait at the start was Jim Richards. Fifth in the opening race, the reigning champion started on the second row of the grid courtesy of his teammate’s tyre change, and he used the Nissan’s four-wheel-drive to rocket past front row-starters Bowe and Longhurst.

Richards looked on course to take his first win of the season until Lap 18, when the heavy Nissan bucked over a bump at the Kink and stepped hard right onto the grass.

He wrestled the car back under control in time to run only slightly wide at the Karussell, but it was all the invitation that Longhurst needed to nip through to a race-winning lead.

The little M3’s ability to look after its tyres was reflected in the order behind the leading duo, with Alan Jones finishing third ahead of rookie teammate Paul Morris.

Bowe rounded out the top five ahead of Shell team leader Dick Johnson, who’d endured a disastrous day.

Johnson had qualified on provisional pole but drew grid position #5 for the Peter Jackson Dash and was unable to improve it in the three-lap sprint, while Bowe drew a front-row start and secured pole.

Things went from bad to worse for the Lakeside favourite in Race 1; a broken driveshaft meant he was an early retirement.

Longhurst’s victory was a momentous one; it remains the most recent round win for BMW in the ATCC/SC.

This story is the latest in our series of Ryco Rewind stories as we take a look back through Australian motorsport history and explore the great races, drivers and cars from the past on the relevant anniversary.

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