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Eastern Creek’s Australian Touring Car Championship debut

Although Eastern Creek had hosted touring car races before in the form of the previously mentioned Nissan Sydney 500 and the Winfield Triple Challenge, it’s time to host an Australian Touring Car Championship round came in 1992.

The 1992 season was one of significant change as new regulations were being devised for the next season and it appeared the turbocharged beasts of Group A were to be laid to rest. Many conversations were being had about the future direction of the ATCC including handicapping the V8 Commodores and Falcons to be equal among the 2.0-litre contenders from Europe and Japan.

While this was going on, the boost, weight and ride height restrictions placed on the dominant Nissan R32 Skyline GT-R had closed the field up a bit, but by Round 6 Mark Skaife led Winfield Racing teammate Jim Richards in the Japanese thoroughbreds nearly 30-points clear of Glenn Seton in his Peter Jackson Racing Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth.

Of course, the unluckiest of drivers during the draw of the Peter Jackson Dash in John Bowe indeed kept his pole position in this one, but teammate Dick Johnson won it in the lead Shell Ultra Hi Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth.

The first story of the weekend was Tomas Mezera writing off the Holden Racing Team’s Commodore Group A SS approaching Turn 2 during qualifying after running wide at the exit of the fast first corner. A spare chassis was built into a race car for the round.

Race 1 started the same as most races in 1992 with Skaife making a rocket of a start to lead the two Shell Sierras and Larry Perkins in his privateer VL Commodore entering Turn 1.

But with a weight disadvantage compared to the Sierras coming into play, Skaife had his hands full with Bowe, while Perkins locked up and spun at Turn 2 taking out Johnson as Tony Longhurst in the pesky Benson & Hedges BMW M3 remained in touch.

With Bowe already passed, Longhurst kept the pressure on Skaife and found away through at the halfway point of the 16-lap opening heat.

It was a thrilling conclusion to the heat as Longhurst’s giant killing performance extended to leader Bowe, but the Shell Sierra proved too hard a challenge to overcome as the Tasmanian held off the Queenslander by less than a second.

The second heat again highlighted the Nissan’s four-wheel-drive strength off the start line as this time Skaife and Richards split the front row. Longhurst made a poor start to drop into fifth.

Richards soon dropped behind Bowe to lead a pack comprising Seton, Mark Gibbs in the GIO GT-R, Longhurst and Peter Brock driving his Mobil 1 Commodore.

Longhurst came strong by the second half of the heat, but this proved too late as Skaife continued to hold Bowe as there was worrying signs for the GT-R with smoke coming out of it. It didn’t take long for Bowe to pass Skaife entering the front straight as soon Longhurst was soon pressuring the Nissan, but this time the championship leader held on.

So, Bowe took the double at Eastern Creek’s first visit and it took until 1995 for break a run of clean-sweeps at touring car rounds.