Monday, 04 March 2013

Famous old Ford to race again

Colin Bond (left) gives ‘his’ Sierra’s new owner, Terry Lawlor, the benefit of his experience driving the car. Colin Bond (left) gives ‘his’ Sierra’s new owner, Terry Lawlor, the benefit of his experience driving the car. (Good Publicity photo)

A 20 year-old racing car with a septuagenarian driver doesn't usually attract a crowd of admirers, but that’s what happened at Sydney Motorsport Park last week.

The car was the Caltex Group A Sierra RS500, and behind the wheel was the man who raced it all those years ago – Colin Bond. Having just celebrated his 70th birthday, Colin made a cameo appearance at a test day as a favour for the Sierra’s new owner, Terry Lawlor, who was giving the car a shakedown run before the Phillip Island Classic on March 9-10.


Terry has contested the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge, Touring Car Masters and Group S Historics, winning his class in the latter category in 2008 and finishing runner-up in 2009-10. He’d had his eye on the famous Ford for a while, but it was only in 2012 that he acquired it in rather unusual circumstances.


“The Caltex Sierra was put up for sale a few years ago, but I missed out and bought a BMW M3 instead,” he said. “Then at the Phillip Island Classic last year it put a con-rod through the block, and the owner agreed to swap it for my BMW!”


Having passed through several owners’ hands since it retired from top level racing at the end of 1992, the turbocharged RS500 was due for a thorough overhaul. Terry entrusted the job to Corse Motorsport’s Mick Mitchell, who has a personal connection with the car.


“Mick was a mechanic in Colin Bond’s Caltex CXT team that ran Sierras in the Australian Touring Car Championship and the long-distance races, which were separate events back then,” he said. “So obviously he knows the car inside-out.”


The born-again Sierra now looks exactly like it did at the 1992 Tooheys 1000, right down to the door decals and Bond-(John)Smith names on the windows. Terry will wear a Caltex-badged race suit and a replica of Colin’s open-face helmet at Phillip Island.


According to Mick Mitchell, the project involved more than getting the Sierra mechanically fit for racing.


“Historic racing cars have to be virtually identical to their original specifications, which is rarely straightforward,” he said. “Some of the parts aren’t made any more, and you can only substitute them with CAMS’ permission.


“We consulted with Frank Lowndes – father of V8 Supercars star Craig – who was the chief scrutineer back in the Group A days, and is now a CAMS Historic Eligibility Officer. It turned out fine, but it wasn’t a simple process.”


Mick was amazed at the response the car received at the Sydney Motorsport Park test.


“People came from everywhere to have a look – we could hardly move!” he said. “The Group A cars still have a great following, and so does Colin, who’s a living legend in Australian motorsport.


“Terry hadn’t driven a Sierra before, so Colin generously agreed to do a few laps first to make sure everything was okay. It must have brought back some great memories, judging from his grin when he got out of the car!”