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After being dominated by imported cars such as the Mustang and Camaro, Australian touring cars set about rewriting its rulebook in favour of locally made racers in 1973.
New rules, which were essentially the merger of Series Production and Improved Production and in response to the ‘Supercar scare’ that played out in the national media, ended the schism that had seen different variations of touring cars compete in the Australian Touring Car Championship and Bathurst 500. The result saw the foundations built for what’s often regarded as the greatest era of Australian touring cars, Group C.
Allan Moffat was the driver to beat, having parked the Mustang he had raced in previous championships for the GTHO Falcon that had dominated at Bathurst in previous years. Holden young gun Peter Brock had defeated Moffat in wet conditions at Bathurst in 1972 and would be the main challenger once again.
Moffat opened the season in commanding fashion with wins in the opening four races, setting up a championship lead he would hold onto despite the drama that would follow.
Brock won rounds five and six at Surfers Paradise and Adelaide, where Moffat’s Falcon was remarkably stolen from pitlane the night before the race. Murray Carter gave Moffat his Falcon to race, with the championship leader storming from the back of the grid to salvage second in the borrowed car.
The stolen Falcon was recovered the following week with only slight damage and Moffat secured the title with a win at the penultimate round at Oran Park. Brock rounded out the season with a win at Warwick Farm, completing a dominant season for the two drivers, who won all eight rounds between them.
This set up a fascinating showdown for Bathurst, the scene of Brock’s coming of age the previous year and where Moffat had ruled previously.
The race’s length went from 500 miles to 1000 kilometres, ruling out the solo efforts by the likes of Brock and Moffat in previous years.
Ford’s contenders had switched to the XA Falcon GT Hardtop, which would do battle up against a horde of Torana GTR XU-1s. The Falcons took an early lead but an engine failure for the Fred Gibson/Barry Seton entry left Moffat and Ian Geoghegan fighting a solo battle against the Toranas.
While the thirstier V8 Falcons needed more fuel stops, the Holden entrants tried to stretch their strategy to gain track position.
This proved costly when the Torana of Brock and Doug Chivas ran out of fuel on the approach to pitlane. The unfortunate Chivas was forced to push the car into pitlane, no easy feat for the 52-year-old in 35-degree heat. He did so but the damage was done – the leading Holden entry had lost three minutes.
Moffat and Geoghegan won by a comfortable margin for Moffat’s third win in four years and Geoghegan’s first (and only) triumph in the Great Race. Fittingly, it marked the generation change enforced by the new rules following Geoghegan’s multiple championship wins in the Mustang and Moffat’s championship and Bathurst double with the Falcon.
Brock and Chivas recovered to second place, with Colin Bond and Leo Geoghegan completing the podium. Toranas filled positions second to fifth, with a Queensland rookie by the name of Dick Johnson rounding out the top five alongside Bob Forbes.
The Falcon claimed the first battle of the locally built cars in the new era of Australian touring cars, in what became a period of extraordinary growth for the championship and Bathurst 1000.
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