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1976 Bathurst Winning Torana to attend the 2024 Phillip Island Classic Festival of Motorsport!

In a stunning last minute confirmation, we can now announce that the 1976 Bathurst Winning L34 Torana driven by Bob Morris and John Fitzpatrick will be on show at this weekend's Phillip Island Classic Festival of Motorsport, thanks to the wonderful people at the National Motor Racing Museum, adding to the celebration of 50 years since the introduction of the L34 Torana.



The car will also be on display at the Cowes Car Show on Friday March 9th between 4pm and 8pm.


This car was the last L34 Torana to win at the mountain before the dominant A9X came to prevalence the following year. But not only that, L34 Torana’s filled the first 7 winning positions of the 1976 Bathurst ace, with the Holden Dealer Team Torana of Colin Bond and John Harvey coming in second and Peter and Phil Brock finishing third. Some podium!



A special connection to this car, is our very own Ian Tate (president of the VHRR and Phillip Island Classic Committee Chairman) who was the original engine builder of this car working for the Ron Hodgson Motors Racing Team.


The race was full of drama from beginning to end. Jack Brabham had qualified 9th on the grid, sharing an L34 with Stirling Moss, but the duo were effectively taken out of the race on the start line with a with a seized gearbox stranding them on the start line, causing them to be hit hard in the rear by a Triumph Dolomite Sprint.


The duo of Brabham and Moss in the great race was such a big deal at the time, that it’s understood more then 20,000 more spectators attended the race just to see them. But the car was a mess after the start line shunt. The team did a great job to get the car back out on track a few hours later to effectively entertain the crowd, eventually bowing out of the race with engine failure on lap 37.



Alan Moffatt had started the great race on pole in an XB Falcon GT which he shared with Aussie ace Vern Schuppan with the pair leading comfortably until a crankshaft pulley failure caused the engine to overheat leading to a DNF.



The lead would then see-saw for the rest of the day, between the HDT car of Bond and Harvey and the Morris/Fitzpatrick entry in an absolute Bathurst for the ages.


Colin Bond had held a healthy lead in the Holden Dealer Team L34 Torana before pitting for new brake pads on lap 115 which would cost them a lot of time handing a healthy lead to Fitzpatrick.



The lead would change again when Morris had a slow stop and later Fitzpatrick would also have complications with a flat tyre, handing the lead once again, back to the HDT car.


Fitzpatrick however would begin closing the gap to Bond who’s car was in trouble, having to pit on lap 148 for oil and a new fan belt, costing them almost two minutes in the pits and handing the lead back to a now storming Fitzpatrick.



The lead would blow out to almost two minutes before disaster struck the seven car, with a blown gearbox seal causing the clutch to slip and spewing smoke from the rear of the car for the remaining laps, forcing Fitzpatrick to limp the car home.


Luckily for the seven car however, Bond had troubles of his own and was lapping over seven seconds a lap off the pace, giving Bob Morris and John Fitzpatrick a famous victory, and that is the story of this incredible race car and its 1976 Bathurst victory.


However, the drama didn’t end there! It was announced soon after the race, that there had been an error when counting the laps and incorrectly crediting an extra lap to the seven car thus giving them the victory.


The second placed Holden Dealer Team was given the right of appeal but decided against it. Ron Hodgson – the team's owner, was a major Holden dealer at the time, so Holden management decided against the appeal as a gesture of goodwill.


For years however, debate raged on and on, and it wasn’t until the 2000's that unseen footage was recovered from Seven’s archive which showed HDT’s lapboard system, clearly showing the HDT car in the lead before it came into the pits for its last stop, and then showing it in second place after it. Since then the debate has been laid to rest for most people, but not all!


The 2024 Phillip Island Classic Festival of Motorsport will take place on March 8-10th at the famed Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. Tickets at the gate. Patrons under 17 years of age are free to enter if accompanied by an adult.


Visit the event page here.


Author: Trent Collett

 

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