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When Group C racing reached its zenith

Reflecting back on Australian touring car racing 40 years ago, it was a controversial era as concessions were made by CAMS on a regular basis to manufacturers during one of the most competitive times in history.

Holden and Ford were joined by the likes of Chevrolet, Mazda, Nissan/Datsun, BMW in what was as diverse battle for outright honours.

This peaked at Sandown 1983 as Allan Moffat was allowed to run a bigger 13B rotary engine featuring fuel injection in his Peter Stuyvesant-supported Mazda RX-7.

Peter Brock was driving a Holden Dealer Team VH Commodore built 10 days prior, with improvements including the addition of lightweight MOMO wheels, lowered front air dam, suspension components and the addition of a movable section on his rear wing.

The last modification was deemed illegal following a protest by CAMS to the race stewards prior to the event, so the Commodore featured a large fixed rear wing instead.

Ford’s lead runner Dick Johnson also featured changes including a new inlet manifold, 19”x14” rears, in addition to cylinder heads, larger front brakes although he wasn’t keen to change much more.

“We’re quite happy with the car, as long as the governing body settle themselves down and give us some yardstick to work by,” said Johnson.

“Every time we go out somewhere, we’ve got to change something and just keep changing things all the time, and I’m sort of fed up to my eyeballs with it. I’m not going to change anything anymore, I’ve had it.”

In turn the BMW spearheaded by Frank Gardner and driven by Jim Richards didn’t receive as many changes compared to its rivals. Wider tyres on the rear and a 24-valve head on the six cylinder fuel-injected unit ensured it was the sleeper of the pack.

Finally, the Nissan had dominated the Australian Endurance Championship before Sandown, winning both prior rounds. It came after the Bluebird was elevated to the outright class mid-year, leading to later concessions including a stronger turbocharger and different gear ratios.

In what highlighted the rapid nature of development in Group C, the top eight fastest qualifiers were under Moffat’s mark set in March.

It was Brock from Johnson, Allan Grice, David ‘Skippy’ Parsons, George Fury, Moffat, Richards, Steve Masterton, Peter McLeod and Garry Rogers forming the top 10.

The race was dominated by Moffat in his Mazda RX-7, putting the prospect of a win in Australia’s Great race for Japan as a real possibility.

In what was its best showing so far, Richards was second in the BMW leading to the JPS team entering Bathurst calculations as Holden privateer Warren Cullen took third partnered by Ron Harrop.

And what for the favourites?

Brock ran out of brakes, Johnson’s race ended on the opening lap with clutch problems and as for Fury in the Nissan, a turbo dropped him out after 11 laps.

As far as Bathurst was concerned, the Japanese had to wait eight years to win in The Great Race.