Holden raced legendary cars for over half a century and produced a veritable pride of icons doing it! The brand is indelibly linked to Australian motorsport and the history of supercars in our country. But what does the future of Australian motorsport look like with the end of Holden still fresh in fans’ memories? Before we can consider Aussie motorsport in a post-Holden era it’s important to look back at the role Holden has played in the evolution of Australian racing.
Holden’s legends and the golden years of Australian racing…
The early 1990’s – 2020 represented the heyday of motorsport in Australia, characterised by the epic rivalry of Holden vs Ford. Whether you were red or blue, you loved every part of it! Huge crowds gathered all year round to watch legends like Peter Brock, Dick Johnson and, more recently, Craig Lowndes. A distinctly Australian phenomenon, the incredible longevity of the V8 era saw over a quarter of a century of jubilant crowds, mammoth TV / sponsorship deals and megastars, as well as its fair share of drama, crashes and unforgettable moments!
In Toranas, Commodores and Monaros, Holden’s superstars have celebrated a total of thirty-four Bathurst victories, twenty-one ATCC/Supercars championships, four Australian Rally Championships and two Bathurst 24 Hours! The spiritual home of the iconic ‘Holden Lion’ has undoubtedly been the Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst, with Peter Brock effectively crowned ‘King of the Mountain’ with 9 record Bathurst wins in Holdens!
The first and final roar…
The 2020 Bathurst 1000 brought the curtain down on more than half a century of Holden’s distinct influence on motorsport in Australia, which began with an effort led by noted journalist and driver David McKay. In 1968 McKay formed the Holden Dealer Racing Team - the first factory backed Holden team that ran 3 brand new Holden Monaro GTS 327's in the 1968 Hardie-Ferodo 500 at Mount Panorama, Bathurst. The winning Monaro being that of Bruce McPhee and Barry Mulholland.
The final round of the 2020 Supercars Championship, however, was a race like no other, marking the end of an era, with very few fans in attendance as a result of the COVID pandemic. Shane van Gisbergen and Garth Tander from Triple Eight Race Engineering started in fourth place and won the race, with Van Gisbergen securing his first Bathurst 1000 and Tander his fourth.
Life after the Commodore?
The sad fact remains - there will never be another factory Holden team in motorsport. This not only leaves the sport with an uncertain future, but also begs the question as to what happens to the substantial, and important, fan base that has been built up over the years. Mark Skaife, five-time champion of the V8 Supercar Championship Series, believes that these fans are essential to the future of motorsport in Australia and every effort should be made to re-engage them. “My dad told me it's much easier to keep a customer than it is to find a new one", Skaife has been quoted as saying. Skaife, who raced to three of his five Supercars victories in Holdens believes the way forward lies in bringing an ‘affordable’ yet ‘aspirational’ GM product into the series.
It’s not just Skaife who will be feeling Holden’s absence! It seems the old adage of keeping one’s friends close, but ‘enemies’ closer, rings especially true for Ford. Mark Rushbrook, Ford’s global head of motorsport, believes that his brand’s continued involvement in Australian motorsport as a factory-backed manufacturer hinges on the sport’s ability to re-create the old red vs. blue rivalry anew, with another manufacturer taking up Holden’s mantel. After all, Ford’s legacy in Australia was partly secured because they had a fantastic sparring partner!
Bring on Gen3!
With the introduction of Gen3 in 2022 just around the corner, Supercars has been feverishly working on what the next generation of V8 racers will look like, as well as overhauling the rules to make it easier, and cheaper, for manufacturers to get involved in the sport. Supercar’s head of motorsport Adrian Burgess says the Gen3 specification Supercars will now have even more relevance and ‘road car’ styling than initially planned. Boss Sean Seamer hinted the new design would result in better racing and safety.
The new V8 powered, front-engine, rear wheel drive cars will have smaller chassis, opening up the playing field and allowing a greater range of cars to compete in the future. This can only be good news. It is hoped that an emphasis on driver skill, as opposed to copious funds poured into R&D, will increase competitiveness and reduce costs. There’s also the idea that Supercars will start ‘homologating’ the cars – this means they will be developing the panels themselves - effectively allowing Supercars to represent the manufacturer’s product on the track.
"These are incredible looking race cars that give a nod to the supercar of the past, with as much attention given to the design and appearance of the cars as the new technologies. The Gen3 project will support the longevity of Supercars by increasing relevance to our fans and partners, reducing operating costs, and making the racing even fiercer.” Supercars CEO Sean Seamer.
What about this year’s Bathurst? The iconic 6.2km Mount Panorama track has seen plenty of drama over the years, no less so in 2020 and 2021! The ‘Great Race’ will be shifted for the second year in a row from its early October start, as a
result of the effects of the pandemic. New South Wales is battling one of the more serious COVID-19 outbreaks Australia has faced – effectively putting a lid on the annual Bathurst pilgrimage and fan experience. Supercars announced it will delay the Bathurst 1000 to November 4-7 to enhance the chances of a sizeable crowd at Mount Panorama.
For the fans! The Final Roar Enamel Penny Set…
If you are a Holden, or motorsport, super-fan and want a memento of racing’s golden years to revel in then the HOLDEN’S FINAL ROAR collection is not to be missed! An official Holden product, it includes seven GOLD PLATED genuine Australian pennies - featuring unforgettable cars from Holden’s racing history. From the first Holden to take part in an international racing event in 1953, through to the ‘Final Roar’ of the 2020 Bathurst win - this collection encompasses Holden’s triumphs through the decades! The perfect conversation starter, to reminisce about the good old days, as we wait to see what the future holds. Click here to view the great range of Holden and motorsport memorabilia at Downies Collectables and grab your HOLDEN’S FINAL ROAR collection today!