A.V. "Archie" Turner - The Alpine Rally's inaugural winner

The Early Days of Australian Motorsport

The oldest motorsport competition record in Australia’s history is the Alpine Rally which was first staged in 1921 as the Alpine 1000 mile trial, followed by the Australian Grand Prix, which was not part of the Formula One series until 1985, in 1927.

The Alpine Rally is one of the oldest surviving motorsport events in the world, with only the French Grand Prix, Mote Carlo Rally, Indianapolis 500 and the Pikes Peak Hill Climb running longer. The Alpine Rally is also the second oldest rally in the world. Not bad for such a remote country.

Australian Motorsport is truly ingrained in our culutre with our federation only occuring 26 years prior to the first motorsport event.

Australian Grand Prix

Before the Formula One World Championship days
For Australian Motorsport, the first recorded event called the Australian Grand Prix was held on a grass surface at the Goulburn Racecourse in 1927, however, the 1928 100 Miles Road Race at the Phillip Island road circuit in 1928 is accepted at the actual beginnings of the Australian Grand Prix.

Post World War II, the competitors took to a mixture of stripped-down production sports cars and Australian “specials” to gain victory at the event which restared in 1947 at Mount Panorama and travelled around to various states on a rotational system visiting converted airfields and street circuits at places such as Point Cook, Leyburn, Nuriootpa and Narrogin before returning to Mount Panorama in 1952.

The race would undergo a series of changes over the years with the Tasman Formula era starting around 1955 with engineer-drivers such as Jack Brabham and New Zealander Bruce McLaren testing new cars and developing them to gain the edge and races being held in New Zealand.

Formula 5000 came to prominence in the 1970s which eventually led to a split between the Australian and New Zealand legs and the Australian Grand Prix became its own race again. Returning European drivers such as Alan Jonesand Larry Perkins made the race their home.

Entrepeneur Bob Jane seeing Alan Jones’ progress in Formula 1 seized an opportunity to bring the spectacle back to Australia holding an event combining the Formula 5000 and the Formula One cars racing against Formula Pacific cars.

The event held in 1980 at Calder Park Raceway saw only two Formula 1 cars come to Australia, but one of those was driven by the newly crowned champion Alan Jones.

Attempts were made to bring the World Championship to Calder Park and Sandown, however in 1985 Adelaide would finally get the rights to whole a world championship round of the Formula One.

Bill Thompson won te 1930s running of the race driving a Bugatti Type 37A
Todd Kelly's 2003 Holden VY Commodore at Wanneroo Raceway, Western Australia
Todd Kelly's 2003 Holden VY Commodore at Wanneroo Raceway, Western Australia

Group 3A aka V8 Supercars

Australian Motorsport gets its own touring car category
In mid-1991, a formula centred around V8-engined Fords and Holdens for the Australian Touring Car Championship gained traction with regulations set to come into effect in 1993.

With Holden and Ford pushing the Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS – now known as Motorsport Australia) to release the regulations early, the November 1991 release indicated the the V8 cars would be significantly faster than the smaller engined cars.

However in 1992, CAMS looked at the gap and decided to close it to keep competition alive. This decision was met with protests by both Ford and Holden as neither wanted to be beaten by the smaller cars.

The Ford EB Falcon and the Holden VP Commodore were the first two cars from the manufacturers to enter the competition in its then form with a few different options on engines with various restrictions placed on the availability of them.

The design of the cars with their distinctive large front and rear spoilers were designed to give an aerodynamic boost to the car to give them a better chance of beating the Nissan Skyline GT-Rs in the longer endurance races.

In 1993 the rules were again amended which ruled out turbocharged cars such as the Nissan Skyline GT-R and the Ford Sierra RS5000 cosworth. The BMW M3 was still eligible but with large consessions given to the new V8s and extra weight being forced on the car, the German manufacturer soon switched its attention to the 2.0 litre class.

In 1995 the 2.0 litre cars, most likely fed up with the bickering between Holden and Ford, conested in their own series the Super Touring Cars and were then made ineligible to run in the Australian Touring Car Championship.

In 1996 the series would a joint venture was formed to run the series which then adopted the name “V8 Supercars”.

In 2013 rules were amended that allowed manufacturers to enter cars in a bid to expand the appeal and longevity of the series. These changes saw Volvo, Nissan and Mercedes Benz however this expansion was over by the end of 2019 with the final “outside” manufacturer Nissan, pulling out.

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