The story so far….
In 1983, having sold out of Adaps, I became the importer and assembler of DeTomaso Cars in Australia. The cars were built and sold in my Sydney business called the Toy Shop. Because we exported the Australian V8 Ford engines for DeTomaso’s production for the rest of the World, we could apply our export credits to the parts we imported which lowered our Duty from 85% to just 25%. This made our Pantera’s relatively inexpensive and also quite profitable for us.
As part of promoting both the cars and our engineering ability, we decided to build a racing version. Barry Lock, formerly a senior design engineer with McLaren F1, took my concept plans and designed and subsequently built a race car that was absolutely state of the art using parts from the worlds best suppliers. Our plan was to test in 4 or 5 races in 1985 and then commit to a full GT Championship season in 1986.
I approached a good friend of mine who ran NatWest Bank and suggested that they might like to be our major sponsor only to be told to get stuffed! So I said OK how about for free then and I was welcomed with open arms.
When we arrived at our first race looking beautiful and resplendent in NatWest livery, our competitors were “spooked” as in those days the likely sponsorship was Joe’s workshop or something similar. No one had seen the likes of an International Bank sponsoring a local racing car! Well we subsequently won that and our next four races with Kevin Bartlett who drove the car magnificently.
In our championship race at Winton, Kevin lapped the entire field. Our competitors started to grumble!
I guess I was too clever for my own good with my pretense of huge sponsorship but we certainly were having fun at the expense of our competitors. Inevitably there were calls to ban the “ground effects” design which was a considerable benefit in making our car so quick and in 1986 this was what happened. Rather that dumb down this beautiful car, I carefully put it away in a container.
Now, 27 years later, it is eligible to compete as a historic race car in all of its 1985 “ground effects” glory. We are participating by invitation at the Phillip Island Classics next week-end and then the following week we have been invited to participate in two races at the Australian Grand Prix. Our competitors are the best historic race cars from around the world, from CanAm cars from America, to Le Mans cars from Europe. 21 of our competitors are from overseas.
Normally we would not race against these cars as they are in a different and in theory, quicker class, but because of our previous giant killing efforts we are in!
Believe me we have had lots of problems which at this moment are still to be resolved but in just 4 laps at Winton (then the car had to retire with overheating problems) Larry Perkins did a 1:25 lap which was a second faster than the V8 Supercars that had practiced the day before. Larry, who is a good mate of mine, came out of 10 years of retirement to drive our car just for a bit of fun but make no mistake, the Old Larry is back, and while he has a grin from ear to ear, he is very competitive and still as blinding fast as ever. You don’t get to drive in F1 and then win 6 Bathursts without huge talent!
Barry Lock, the original Designer and engineer is back and while we are both not quite as agile as we were 27 years ago, we have hired two absolute “guns” from MKAL engineering in Steve and David.
Please feel free to come and see us at Phillip Island, at garage 16 and bring your kids and partners along. For those who are interested I will send out an email on Monday morning to let you know our progress this week-end. I will also keep you all informed as our two weeks progress. Our first serious practice will be this Wednesday at the Island. The car is not even a metre tall. It has 612 BHP, and sorry I don’t know what that is in Kilowatts!
If you have any questions, again just email me and if we are relatively successful, Larry will sign photos of the DeTomaso after the events, which can be in your name, or your kids name(s).
If you have any friends or associates who you would like to include, just send through their email addresses.
Wish us luck, I’m nervous already and there’s less than two weeks to go!