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Every Australian touring-car season has controversies but wind back the clock exactly 30 years and our sport – already on uncertain ground after several seasons of BMWs, Volvos, Nissans and funny European Fords doing all the winning – was being turned inside out and upside down by some previously unthinkable scenarios.
There was Tom Walkinshaw’s Holden Special Vehicles outfit choosing not to contest any Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC) rounds, making 1989 the first and so far only ATCC since 1970 not to feature a factory-supported Holden on the grid.
In any other year this might have been the most talked-about aspect of the season – just imagine it happening now – but it wasn’t. For 1989 was also the year when Holden demi-god Peter Brock, out on his own following his bust-up with Holden and after an uncompetitive season racing BMW M3s, went and planted his bum in a Ford.
Bond, Lowndes and Ingall to Ford, Moffat and Winterbottom to Holden. Big moves and big news. But Brock shackling up with the Blue Oval was the move to end them all.
Brock’s Mobil 1 Racing team of 1989 was an operation in transition, having recently sold off its BMW M3s and bought two Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500s built by British Sierra guru Andy Rouse.
“There was a lot going on,” says Mobil 1 Racing second driver Brad Jones. “He’d been through so much stuff; it was the third different car in three years, and we probably weren’t quite as well-funded as a lot of people thought. We didn’t have a lot of spares and we used to blow a lot of engines, so it was a little murkier from the inside than probably looked from the outside. But in the end I got to do most of the rounds and, while there were disappointments, we got some really good results.”
Jones’ succinct assessment of how 1989 panned out is pretty bang-on. Contrary to pre-season expectations, Brock would quickly get on top of the Sierra and become the prime challenger to the Dick Johnson Racing team that had cleaned up all but a single ATCC round in 1988 and would again wrap up top two title positions in 1989.
At the season-opener at Amaroo Park, Brock qualified on the front row alongside reigning champion Johnson before retiring early in the race with turbocharger issues. At round two at Symmons Plains, Brock scored pole (his first since the 1986) before finishing second behind Johnson. Then, after two fourths (Lakeside, Wanneroo) and a DNF (Mallala), he was back at the front at Sandown, shadowing Johnson the whole way to second.
After another pole and second at a wet Winton, it all came together at the season finale at Oran Park, where he landed another pole before finally beating Johnson over a race distance. It was his first win since the previous year’s Pepsi 250 enduro at Oran Park and first ATCC victory since Surfers Paradise in 1986.
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