MAGNIFICENT MONARO WINS FIRST BATHURST 24-HOUR JUST 500 kilometres old on Friday morning, Holden's new 7.0 litre Monaro coupe completed a near-faultless 3305 km (corrects previous report) run to win the inaugural Bathurst 24-Hour race at Mount...
MAGNIFICENT MONARO WINS FIRST BATHURST 24-HOUR
JUST 500 kilometres old on Friday morning, Holden's new 7.0 litre Monaro coupe completed a near-faultless 3305 km (corrects previous report) run to win the inaugural Bathurst 24-Hour race at Mount Panorama today.
With two-time Bathurst 1000 winner Steven Richards at the wheel, the Monaro crossed the line at 4pm, cheered from the pits by team owner Garry Rogers and co-drivers Garth Tander, Nathan Pretty and Cameron McConville.
It had survived an early-morning collision with a slower car, minor mechanical problems and a couple of flat tyres to beat Europe's best sports cars in the form of Ferrari and Porsche, plus an American-built Mosler.
The Monaro completed 532 laps and finished with a 23-lap margin over the second car, the British-entered Mosler MT900R with owner Martin Short at the wheel.
They were followed by the near-standard BMW M3 of Austria's Duller Motorsport, driven in the final stint by Irishman Howard Redhouse.
A total of 25 cars finished from the 36 starters and afterwards promoter PROCAR Australia said the race had exceeded all expectations for a first event.
Chairman Ross Palmer announced a three-day crowd of more than 21,000 people and said the next Bathurst 24-Hour would be on 5-7 December 2003, pending final approval from partners Bathurst City Council.
"It was a modest crowd, but far more than we had budgeted for. I also had been hoping for more than 36 cars, but someone told me there were only 32 in the first Le Mans race, so I''m very happy," Mr Palmer said.
"It was highly impressive that so many cars got to the finish. Some were worse for wear, but all the drivers and crew and the wonderful volunteer officials rose to the adventurous spirit of this first event to achieve a fantastic outcome.
"The atmosphere up on the mountain during the night was simply magic and all in all, it was an enthralling race and a wonderful event. We had knockers and doubters right up until this week, but we've sat them on their backsides.
"The Bathurst 24-Hour will be here at Australia's most famous track for a long time and I predict that in five years it will be one of the great motor races of the southern hemisphere."
Beyond Bathurst, the race attracted overwhelming attention.
Host television broadcaster Seven Network reported many calls from viewers asking for the live coverage to be extended, while the official website www.bathurst24hr.com collapsed a number of times under the pressure of fans around the world tuning into live results and streamed video.
With drivers competing from England, Scotland, Ireland, Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Canada and United States, as well as Australia, all eyes were alert for the unfamiliar hazards of kangaroos and venomous brown snakes that officials had warned to beware of.
But in the end, the only human or animal casualties were incurred by the Mosler team. Team manager Darrel Dixon directed the final six hours with a broken foot, after his car ran over it during a pit stop, and a tortoise was scooped into the Mosler's radiator during the final hour.
The cars, however, suffered plenty of damage and this was particularly costly for the fancied Cirtek Porsche team from Britain.
Shared by David Brabham, Allan Grice, Darren Palmer and Manfred Jurasz, the Porsche took the lead for the first time when the Ferrari 360GT of Bowe/Jones/Morris/Teulan suffered the first of two engine failures on lap 27.
It went into the lead again at lap 100 - 8.30 pm last night - and held it until 11.30 am today, from when a series of disasters steadily destroyed the team's chances.
Brabham pitted with a broken left drive shaft, which took six minutes more to repair than it simultaneously took the Monaro team to replace its third engine drive belt , check a fragile differential and race out into first position.
Then at 1.50 pm Grice smacked the wall near McPhillamy Park, while lapping Sri Lankan Dilantha Malagamuwa in the Mosler and pushing hard to catch the Monaro. The car was returned to parc ferme on the back of a truck and its right-rear suspension virtually replaced in less than 30 minutes, with third place still in hand.
However, when replacement driver Darren Palmer resumed the race, the Porsche failed to turn right at the very first corner, Griffin's Bend, and this time sustained terminal damage.
It was the end of the Holden team's most serious rival.
"It's a shame. We were one of two cars that could have won, but I've been around long enough to know that winning a 24-hour race is never easy," said David Brabham.
Other significant retirements included the Seikel Motorsport Porsche RS from Germany, which crashed with New Zealander Andrew Bagnall at the wheel on lap 62. The other Porsche RS of Graham Nash Motorsport, driven by Englishman Chris Maries, crashed in the early hours of the morning.
In contrast, the Monaro's lineup of some of Holden's most talented young contracted drivers did not put a wheel wrong.
McConville said it was the most enjoyable race he had contested.
"When we had a problem with the fuel early in the race, Garry Rogers told us not to give up and so we pushed on," he said.
Tander said: "We come here with a car that had only done 500 kms before this weekend and got it through 24 hours. That's fantastic and a real tribute to the guys who have built it over the past nine months.
The Mosler team ran a well-controlled race with a machine that was even newer than the Monaro.
"I pay tribute to the Monaro guys, but I'm very proud of what we did. Instead of factory backing, the Mosler was funded by we four drivers and we brought it to the other side of the world with just 300 kms experience," owner Martin Short said.
The car had to be driven most of today without a clutch, but otherwise came through unmarked.
Attrition among the fast Class One cars lifted some of the slower but more reliable production entrants to high outright placings.
Duller BMWs finished fourth and six outright and first and second in Class 10, VJ Angelo's Sterling Motorsport BMW M Coupe from England was fifth outright and first in Class Three, and the Australian BMW M3 of Peter Boylan, Peter McKay and Damien White was first in Class Five and seventh outright after a great battle with the biggest class group in the field.
Class Nine was won by the Holden Commodore SS of Loadsman/Luff/Sheumack/Lintott.