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Sandown’s transition from production to Group C

The next era for Sandown welcomed a new style of Australian touring car following the ‘Supercar Scare’ and at 250 miles became the form guide for the Hardie-Ferodo 500.

The first of these 250 mile races was a significant event as the 1971 Sandown 250 welcomed the new Ford XY Falcon GT-HO Phase III, but this proved a disaster for the new hero model as only one made the finish line in the hands of loyal privateer Murray Carter.

The Sandown 250 was also the third round of the Australian Manufacturers’ Championship and the results failed to aid in Ford’s bid for title success. Both factory entries for Allan Moffat and John French retired, while Phil Barnes led in the purple Bryan Byrt Falcon until its axle broke.

On the other hand, Colin Bond took the win for the Holden Dealer Team in its giant killing GTR XU-1 from Carter and Tony Roberts in a privateer Torana.

Again, the Series Production regulations played host to a variety of marques including Ford, Holden, Datsun, Mazda, Toyota, Morris, Fiat and Alfa Romeo across four classes based on engine displacement.

If Ford was disappointed at Sandown in 1971, then the next edition made up for it as the Phase III dominated. This time it wasn’t the works team, rather the privateer McLeod Ford dealer entry driven by John Goss led a GT-HO 1-2-3, with the factory entry of Fred Gibson and Carter completing the podium.

Before the 1972 event, the ‘Supercar Scare’ put an end to the high performance road models planned by the big three; Ford, GM-H and Chrysler leading to a change of direction for CAMS.

It had proved a disaster for HDT as both Bond and Peter Brock retired, but Bathurst proved a different story.

CAMS decided to essentially combine the Series Production and Improved Production regulations, so the same entries competing in the Australian Touring Car Championship now had the ability to contest the Hardie-Ferodo 1000 (now gone metric) for the first time.

The same occurred for the Sandown 250 as the slightly modified Group C entries contested the Australian Manufacturers Championship as well.

It proved a momentous occasion in 1973 as Brock secured his first victory in his home event, this providing the impetus of domination to come as the decade closed out and a new one began.

Brock led a HDT 1-2 from the new Ford XA Falcon hardtops of Goss, Gibson and Carter.

A close of era followed as the 1974 event proved the last to be at 250 miles as it too went metric the next season to align with the headline event at Bathurst. Moffat won this event in his XB GT hardtop as both HDT L34 Toranas endured developmental niggles.

Brock rounded out the 250 mile era with his second victory as a privateer after his split from HDT at the end of 1974.

This closed out the 250 mile chapter as new sponsorship from clothing brand Hang Ten came at the same time as Sandown became a 400km race.