Changes To Bathurst Rules
The Hardie-Ferodo 500 did not represent the world's biggest bag of gold, although in overall prize money it was the richest race run in Australia. The outright winner of the 1969 could take home around $4000, including the value of an overseas trip. The Australian Racing Drivers Club predicted a total prize pool of around $30,000. So why did the manufacturers, importers and dealers try so hard to win this six-and-a-half hour, 500-mile race around the most daunting circuit in Australia? Why did they subject driver and car to the rigours of one of the worlds toughest circuits? The answer was, of course, that they didn't.
The car makers and their retailers only entered if they thought they had a chance of winning. The oddball cars were invariably entered by small dealerships or private individuals. The only exceptions were the cars that were deliberately entered - knowing they had no chance of winning - to tour around with impressive regularity, like the Fiat semi-works entries did during the 1967 Bathurst
and 1968 Bathurst
events. With this history, you can understand why there was an uproar when the regulations for the 1969 Hardie-Ferodo 500 were announced. The cries of anguish came only from those who felt they had been hard done by. Most upset was Chrysler, who had been planning a dealer-assisted entry into motor sport with the hard-running youth-market oriented Pacer, which stood a good chance in Class C if the V8s were restricted.
When the Class C limit was put not down, but up to $3100, Chrysler told the press in so many words that the race was farcical. Chrysler's lively Pacer was considered a certainty in Class C - that was until the limit was upped to $3100 - letting the manual V8 Falcons in the door. Unfair, said Chrysler. Chrysler's main point - and a point hard to argue against - was that 51 percent of the market at that time were six-cylinder and only 9 percent V8, yet the regulations apparently made the thought of a six-cylinder entry laughable. The V8 models dominated Class C, D and E, particularly given that Ford's GT Falcon came in at $5000. "If you haven't got a Ford or a Jap car you might as well stay home," said one well-known entrant grimly. It was hard at first to see why the ARDC framed Class C to let in the three and four-speed 302-inch engined Falcons.
The only possible reason was that Ford, typically, supplied only its base prices to the pricing authority - the Automobile Chamber of Commerce - and the ARDC committee may have decided on the basis of those prices that it couldn't keep the V8s out of C anyway, so they went to $3100 to allow in the Valiant V8 automatic and the Fiat 125, for which a recent price rise had spelled exodus from the old Class C limit of $3000. If the ARDC's idea had been to allow for the maker's building cheaper, smaller V8s, then it should have realised that the 253-inch Holden with its 3.08 final drive was no match for a 302 Falcon. This reflected the growing difficulties of framing this unique race - providing for the incredible spread of pricing of not only models but options as well.
And what of the other classes? Class A turned up an immediate anomaly; the Mazda 1200 sedan, at A$1899, fell into Class B, which was more unfair than allowing the Fiat 125 to stay in Class D, as the 125 was not competitive even in Class C. If the Class A ceiling had been posted at $1900 instead of $1860, it only would have moved from Class B to Class A the Mazda 1200, Volkswagen 1300 Deluxe Daihatsu two-door, Colt 1100 fastback and Datsun 1000 four-door. Class B remained exactly as it was, and as there was no hope of the six-cylinder Toranas being released in time, then it left the class entirely to the Datsun 1600. It seems that Class A will be mostly Corollas and Datsun 1000s, Class B primarily Datsun 1600s, Class C a reasonable mixture of cheap V8s, the odd Pacer, and the ever-faithful but now outclassed Cooper S, Class D mostly Falcon GT and Holden GTS 350, and Class E the sneaky Ford.
For the 1968 Bathurst
event there were six cars in Class E (five Alfas, one Citroen), 20 in Class D (nine Falcon GTs, eight Monaros, one Studebaker, one Valiant V8, one Fiat 124S), 14 in Class C (eight Coopers, four Fiat 125s, one Falcon V8, one Holden Kingswood), 10 in B (seven Datsun 1600s, two Hillmans, one Morris 1 1 00 S), and 1 0 in A (four Corollas, two Cortinas, two Datsun 1000s, one Hillman Imp GT, and one Mini Deluxe). Eighteen different models in 60 entries. Despite the apparent formality of the result - Datsun or Toyota Class A, Datsun Class B, Class C the exciting unknown, Holden or Falcon Class D, and Falcon Class E - it will still, of course, going to be a tiger of a race. The fantastic speeds produced by these production cars on this vicious 3.8 mile mountain circuit will turned the 1969 Bathurst race into a sort of 130-lap Australian Touring Car Championship. In all truth, the 500 was actually more of an Australian Touring Car Championship than the six-heat title is itself, bestrewn as it was with Mustangs and Porsches and Lotus-Cortinas and fuel-injected Minis.
Gone now were the days when the 500 was a wearying grind between family sedans far removed from the velocities and handling of the modified tourers. The pressure of the regulations forced the manufacturers to build superb-handling, better stopping super cars that were far and away superior to the so-called super cars of the USA - the R/T Chargers and Z-series Chevvies and the like. The fact was that the race had, by 1969, now reached a divine pinnacle where the manufacturers and distributors simply couldn't afford not to be in it. They had to take part not only for the chance of winning, but of gaining a measurable increase in sales.
Ford Confident of Class D Victory
Ford were understandably confident of their chances at Bathurst in 1969
. The GTH0's looked like winners and 14 of them contested Class D ($3100-$4500) against seven of Holden's new 300 bhp, 350ci Monaro GTS 350’s. Three works cars were there again, headed by Moffat and Alan Hamilton, plus the Geoghegans, and Fred Gibson and "Bo" Seton together again. The race started in an extremely spectacular, if unfortunate, manner when at Skyline on the first lap, Bill Brown's Falcon, while lying seventh, appeared with everything locked up, hit the dirt bank and flipped upside down onto the middle of the track, with no way around it. Cars ran into cars as drivers came around the blind corner. Before the thing was sorted out, all except the first dozen cars were affected, if not damaged, or even put out of the race (see: Bathurst Memorable Moments
It was not to be a good day for the Falcons. Al Turner had decided to use untried racing tyres
for the first time and it proved a disastrous mistake as Falcon after Falcon came in to the pits to change tyres
. Barry Seton respected Bill Brown's roll-over trick when, while lying in second place, a tyre
blew at McPhillamy Park and the Gibson/Seton works car's race was over. The eventual winner was a Holden Dealer Team's Monaro GTS 350 driven by Colin Bond and Tony Roberts, while the McPhee/Mulholland GTHO saved some face for Ford with its second place on the same lap as the Monaro. The Moffat/Hamilton GTHO came in a creditable fourth, with the Geoghegan brothers one place behind them. The fastest lap of the day went to the Gibson/Seton Falcon at 2 min. 52 sec. (average 81 mph) and the MePhee/Mulholland Falcon was fastest on Conrod Straight at just under 136 mph.