Australian Touring Car Championship Rd. 9 Grand Finale
Oran Park July 15-17 1988.
Most racing fans will have a number of days that spring to mind when a track they often visited is mentioned. For me one of those days was way back in 1988 at the so very much missed Oran Park Raceway. OP had positioned itself as the local for the Grand Finale of the ATCC and in the Bicentennial year July 17 was round 9’s raceday. With the title already decided at the previous round at Amaroo Park you’d think that Oran Park would have attracted just a crowd of diehard fans, yet it was a packed house (20,000+) on raceday that witnessed the last sprint race before the enduros.
There are many reasons why I have fond memories of that day, a great family day out which was the younger half of On The Redline’s first visit to the Park, Dick Johnson was “officially” crowned champion, a great atmosphere amongst a big crowd and an incredible display by Army aircraft and helicopters.
We arrived reasonably early on race day to find the spectator areas already swelling. Grassed areas were still muddy from Saturday’s showers and getting a large Esky and other gear up the slope behind the grandstand was a struggle, believe me. We’d hoped to get a spot on the fence but that was all taken so it was on the flat area just in front of the open grandstand we setup, a solidly built esky makes a good stand to help see over the crowd in front and we needed it. Incredibly I still have that esky (don’t make ‘em like they used to …), it still gets used at Christmas every year. Was a great atmosphere there with a packed in crowd and I was able to get a few pics.
The ATCC Entry List stretched to 36 but only 27 cars would face starters orders on race day. Top of the pile was the Tricky Dickie and JB show in what were considered the fastest Sierras Down Under. Andrew Miedecke had been given a last minute injection of cash and fronted in a white Sierra with little more signage than its make and model. 1987's champ, the always-popular Jim Richards, was in one of Brock’s Mobil 1 M3s, Brock was in the 05 bimmer and a third for sometimes Channel 7 TV commentator Neil Crompton. Lakeside’s round 6 winner, Tony Longhurst, returned with the Freeport Ford. Colin Bond, Allan Moffat / Greg Hansford (what you ask, driver combos? this is a sprint race), Andrew Bagnall and Murray Carter were also in the freaky Fords. Carter’s black beast was as new as it was possible to be as it was still being assembled just before the warm-up lap on Sunday. Nissan had two ‘Young Guns’ in flatmates Glen Seton and Mark Skaife in the Peter Jackson sponsored GTS-R31s. This was Skaife’s first event in the outright class. Garry Scott piloted the lone Mitsubishi Starion entered. Larry Perkins was front man for the General’s posse with Barry Graham, Steve Reed, Bill O’Brien, Gerald Kay, Grahame Lusty and Steve Williams backing him up. Phil Ward entered his Mercedes 190E. Joe Sommariva fronted in a BMW 635CSi. The small car class had a pair of Toyota Corollas for John Faulkner and Drew Price and one each Toyota Sprinter for Mark Ducquet and a Holden Gemini for Daryl Hendrick. Amazing the number of names that still feature in some way in meetings in 2013!
The ATCC race itself wasn’t that memorable, the Shell cars mostly had it their way, other than for Johnson having a fuel pickup problem which cured itself, and every one else fought over the scraps but it was great to cheer Dickie over the line. The Moffat/Hansford situation was revealed when Moffat pitted mid race to hand over to Hansford and have 4 tyres changed and fuel added in a practice driver change with the upcoming enduros in mind.
The Army put on a show with one of their Turbo Porters landing and taking off in front of the pits and a Bell Kiowa doing a lap of the short circuit just metres off the ground. This was one of many special promos the armed forces put on for the Bicentennial, don’t think we’d see anything like it these days due to safety concerns.
Support categories were Formula Ford, Group N, Sports Sedans and Classic Commodores. Round 6 of the Motorcraft Formuls Ford Driver to Europe was memorable for Kris Matich’s (yes Frank Matich’s son) rollover coming onto the main straight after contact with Garry Jones. Dave Roberts took the win with one Mark Larkham finishing 5th.
For SS the feature race was the 25 lap Paul Wakeling NSW Sports Sedan Championship. A good field was led home by Keith Carling followed by Bob Tindal and Barry Jameson. Tindal’s Commodore was an absolute stand out in presentation and was said to be the beginning of a new ‘Group A’ style SS, built without flares and the body looking very stock. I for one am happy that the class stayed with the flares and wild wings.
Group N was a battle between the Minis and Mustangs with Bruce Allen winning both races in his Mini from Mustang mounted Laurie Donaher. Notable names in the field being Brad Tilley in a Valiant and Frank Binding in a Mini.
Classic Commodores saw Steve Williams take a pair of wins from the other 7 cars in the field. Don’t recall too much on this class other than they were fairly stock and possibly were the ancestors to the present day Commodore Cup.