The time when Holden teamed up with a Super Touring underachiever


December 29, 2022

by Maciej Hamera

As of this year, Holden has officially been discarded into the large pile of manufacturers to turn away from touring car racing. The big distinction for Holden of course is that since General Motors has called time on the Australian operation, Holden won't be back for quite some time.  The manufacturer has been incredibly popular all throughout its time in various championships but one that gets overlooked is their participation in 1998 Amp Bathurst 1000

Now when you mention Bathurst, the images of fire-breathing, roaring V8s quickly come to mind. However in the late 90's, a dispute behind the various parties of the Bathurst endurance race meant that the drivers and machines contesting the Super Touring category would contest the famous 'Great Race'.

For 1997, the Australian Super Touring teams would be joined by some of the crème de la crème of the British Touring Car Championship. Williams would be there with their all-conquering Renault Lagunas, Tom Walkinshaw Racing would campaign their excellent Volvo 850, MSD would arrive with their vastly improved Peugeot 406 and finally, Triple Eight would bring their rather inconsistent Vauxhall Vectra.

While ultimately 1997 would be a trying year for Triple Eight with the sole remaining Vectra being 13 laps down on the winning BMW in sixth place. The team would return in '98 however, thanks to some financial benefits.

"Commererically 1998 was much better for us," explained team co-owner Roland Dane. "Vauxhall was quite keen on having us there because the TV footage would be shown in the UK but also Holden wanted us to have a car on the grid so we were paid by both to do the same job!"

With the financial side of things secured, Holden would appear on the grid for the 1998 AMP Bathurst 1000. Even though the car was just a BTCC Vectra in a Holden livery, at least the Triple Eight machine would be driven by some heroes of the V8 Supercars scene with New Zealander Greg Murphy and Australia's Russell Ingram being co-drivers.

Considering the Vectra had not been the ultimate pacesetter during the BTCC season as rear tyre temperatures became one of the car's bugbears, Murphy managed to produce an exceptional performance to qualify the car on the pole position. The top-ten shootout was a bridge too far however and Murphy could only qualify fourth as the '98 BTCC champion Rickard Rydell took pole in his Volvo S40 with an extraordinary lap. The other Vectra of John Cleland and Derek Warwick was over half a second back in fifth.

Speaking after qualifying at the time, Murphy said "It was a nice tidy lap, I made a little mistake but I don't think we could have gone much faster with the way the car is set up."

Come race day it was Ingall in the Holden Vectra for the start and an excellent getaway would see the car up to third place. That's how they stayed until the first round of pitstops. 

As the pitstops started to play out, the Holden remained firmly in touch with the leading Volvo and Nissan Primera piloted by Steven Richards and Matt Neal. At one stage it even looked like the Vectra could begin to challenge the Volvo.

Shortlived this feeing was however as Holden's demise would come on lap 84  as a split oil cooler caused by one of the Audi Sport Australia A4's forced Ingall in the Vectra to skat off into the wall at Skyline. With the Vectra shortened by a considerable margin, the Holden duo's race was run. 

Even though the race was ultimately a low for the team, Murphy still has fond memories. Reflecting back Murphy says "It was amazing, we had great fun in that car."

Considering the impact Ingall had with the barrier, it's unlikely he would agree with his teammate's views...

Image credit: Supercars

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