AMSCAR was a touring car series held in Australia between 1982 and 1997, based at Amaroo Park in Sydney.

Background

One of the features of Amaroo Park's history has been their promoted touring car series, created by Amaroo's promoters, the (ARDC). Popular with spectators and easy for Sydney's Channel 7 to telecast, it became the backbone of the Sydney touring car scene, a scene which once consisted mostly of privateers, who have largely disappeared since Amaroo closed. On many occasions these events featured larger grid numbers than did the rounds of the national level Australian Touring Car Championship. This was mostly as the large number of Sydney privateers who usually filled the grid in the nationally televised (by Ch.7) Bathurst 1000, rarely raced outside of NSW or Queensland due to limited budgets.

The AMSCAR Series had its origins in Amaroo's own Sun-7 Chesterfield Series for touring cars, first held in 1971 and was won by Sydney's driving a Morris Cooper S. This would continue, under various names relating to series sponsorship, through to 1981, with a 3-litre maximum engine capacity limit being applied from 1975 to 1980. For 1981 the Australian Racing Drivers Club increased the maximum engine capacity limit of cars competing in their series to 3.5 litres. This allowed the participation of the 3.5-litre BMW 635 CSi of JPS Team BMW, much to the displeasure of most competing teams, especially those racing the 3.0L Ford Capri's which were well suited to the tight track and had come to dominate the series since 1975.[1] Despite this, young Sydney driver Steve Masterton would win the 1981 Better Brakes 3.5 Litre Series driving his Ford Capri Mk.II from the JPS BMW of Allan Grice.

A "Rothmans AMSCAR Series"[2] for touring cars was also held at Amaroo Park in 1979 for a reported A$60,000 in prize money, about $50,000 more than for the ATCC at the time. The second round of the series saw the one off appearance of long time Ford driver Allan Moffat in a Ron Hodgson Channel 7 Racing Holden LX Torana SS A9X Hatchback.[3]

History

Fears that the growing number of Sydney-based privateers moving into outright class cars would result in a sharp decline in grid numbers prompted the ARDC to remove the 3.5-litre capacity limit for the 1982 series, which was promoted as the Better Brakes AMSCAR Series.[4] This allowed the V8 powered Holden Commodores, Ford Falcons and Chevrolet Camaros, as well as the V12 Jaguar XJS, to compete in the series alongside the under 3.5-litre cars such as the BMW 635 CSi, the Ford Capris and the growing list of rotary powered Mazda RX-7s, as well as the factory Nissan Bluebird turbo's. As the outright cars were proving more popular with spectators, it was seen as an attempt at attracting the headline ATCC teams (such as the Holden Dealer Team, Dick Johnson Racing, Allan Moffat Racing and Roadways Racing) to the AMSCAR Series.

In the early Group C years of the AMSCAR series, several Sydney based drivers who regularly competed in the annual four round, three race per round series became household names through the national telecast on Channel 7 (at the time, Seven's only touring car telecasts were from Amaroo, Calder Park Raceway in Melbourne, and Bathurst as the ABC was main broadcast host of the ATCC until the end of 1984). This was helped by most of the major ATCC teams at the time usually not competing in the series. Drivers such as Amscar series winners Steve Masterton and Terry Shiel, as well as Terry Finnigan, Garry Willmington, Brian Callaghan, Barry Jones, and the late Mike Burgmann got national TV exposure they would otherwise have struggled to get in the ATCC, or had ATCC headline drivers like Peter Brock (HDT), Dick Johnson, Allan Moffat, Allan Grice (Roadways), and Jim Richards (JPS Team BMW) been regular competitors, although Grice did win the 1982 series, Brock and Johnson contested limited rounds from 1982-1984, while Richards was a regular competitor from 1983 and placed 3rd in the 1984 series.

In Group C, the factory backed Nissan team also contested the series with Sydney-based team driver Fred Gibson (the Bathurst 500 winner in 1967 with Harry Firth in a Ford XR Falcon GT) and his wife Christine (regarded as the "fastest female in Australia") driving the team's second Bluebird turbo and its powerful, but evil handling, front-wheel drive Nissan Pulsar EXA respectively. Fred Gibson's win in Round 3 of the 1983 series was the first win in Australian touring car racing for a turbo powered car, and Nissan's first turbo charged touring car win anywhere in the world. When Gibson retired from driving at the end of 1983, he would be replaced from 1984 in the Bluebird by Queenslander Gary Scott, the son of former open-wheel star, the late Glyn Scott, while Christine Gibson continued to drive the Pulsar EXA until she joined her husband in retirement at the end of 1984.

It was only from the beginning of the "Group A" category in Australia in 1985 that the headline teams started appearing in the series on a more regular basis, with part of the reason being that as Group A was new to Australia in 1985, the AMSCAR Series gave teams valuable testing under race conditions (also because from 1985 Amaroo would hold an annual round of the ATCC). Frank Gardner's JPS Team BMW and its drivers Jim Richards and Tony Longhurst dominated from 1985 to 1987 (Richards in the 635 CSi was unbeaten at Amaroo in 1985 winning all 12 AMSCAR races, the ATCC round and the Endurance Championship race), while Gibson Motorsport, first with Nissan and later with Holden, also contested the series in the later years of Group A and into the new 5.0L V8 formula introduced in 1993, with Jim Richards winning in the team's Nissan Skyline GT-R in 1992 while Mark Skaife won for Gibson driving a Holden VP Commodore in 1993. Other top line teams to contest the AMSCAR series after the switch to Group A were Peter Brock's Holden Dealer Team (later known as Mobil 1 Racing), Dick Johnson Racing, 1988 series winner Colin Bond's Caltex CXT Racing Team, Tony Longhurst's Benson & Hedges team (evolved from JPS Team BMW), as well as Robbie Francevic's Volvo team.

Demise

The increasing national popularity of the Australian Touring Car Championship, improvements in Channel 7's ATCC telecast, and the 1991 economic recession which saw a number of privateer teams only racing in the two ATCC rounds in Sydney and the Bathurst 1000, all gradually reduced the grids until the AMSCAR Series was discontinued after the 1993 season. It was revived in 1997 and held at the ARDC's two circuits, Amaroo Park and Eastern Creek, but with the major teams holding exclusivity to V8 Supercar events, the mostly Sydney-based privateers were not numerous enough to make the series viable and the series folded after 1997.

Broadcast

During Seven's telecasts of the AMSCAR series at Amaroo, many minor race series for other CAMS categories were also telecast, including: Sports Sedans, Formula Fords, Formula Vee, Sports Cars, Appendix J Touring Cars, and Series Production cars, with many of the categories running their own series at Amaroo outside of the national championship series. Seven's commentators for the AMSCAR series generally included Mike Raymond, Garry Wilkinson, Evan Green, and later Neil Crompton and , with various guest appearances by drivers not competing on a particular day.

Winners

The following table lists the winners of the annual AMSCAR Series.

Year Series name Driver Car Team
Group C
1982 Better Brakes AMSCAR Series[5] Australia Allan Grice Holden VH Commodore SS
1983 Better Brakes AMSCAR Series[6] Australia Mazda RX-7
1984 Better Brakes AMSCAR Series[7] Australia Ford XE Falcon
Group A
1985 Better Brakes / AMSCAR Series[8] New Zealand Jim Richards BMW 635 CSi JPS Team BMW
1986 Better Brakes / AMSCAR Series[9] Australia Tony Longhurst BMW 325i JPS Team BMW
1987 James Hardie Industries Iplex AMSCAR Series Australia Tony Longhurst BMW M3 JPS Team BMW
1988 James Hardie Building Products AMSCAR Series Australia Colin Bond Ford Sierra RS500 Colin Bond Racing
1989 James Hardie Building Products AMSCAR Series Australia Tony Longhurst Ford Sierra RS500 LoGaMo Racing
1990 James Hardie Building Products AMSCAR Series Australia Tony Longhurst Ford Sierra RS500 LoGaMo Racing
1991 AMSCAR Series Australia Tony Longhurst BMW M3 Evolution LoGaMo Racing
1992 ARDC AMSCAR Series New Zealand Jim Richards Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R Gibson Motorsport
Group 3A 5.0L Touring Cars
1993 Aurora AFX AMSCAR Series[10] Australia Mark Skaife Holden VP Commodore Gibson Motorsport
1994

1996
Not held
19971 ARDC AMSCAR Sedan Series[11] Australia Holden VR Commodore
Notes
  • ^1 – Amaroo Park only hosted Round 2 of the four round 1997 ARDC AMSCAR Sedan Series, with the other three rounds held at Eastern Creek Racway.

Multiple winners

Tony Longhurst achieved more AMSCAR series wins than any other driver, with success in 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990 and 1991. Four series wins have been attained by Ford drivers and an equal number by BMW drivers. Each series win from 1988 to 1990 was attained with a Ford Sierra RS500, these three wins being the most for a single model car.

By driver

Wins Driver Years
5 Australia Tony Longhurst 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991
2 New Zealand Jim Richards 1985, 1992

By team

Wins Team
3 JPS Team BMW
LoGaMo Racing
2 Gibson Motorsport

By manufacturer

Wins Manufacturer
4 Ford
BMW
3 Holden

Event sponsors

References

  1. ^ Better Brakes 3.5 Litre Series, Australian Motor Racing Yearbook 1981/82, page 188
  2. ^ Official Programme, Rothmans AMSCAR Series, Amaroo Park Raceway, Sunday 12 August 1979, front cover
  3. ^ LX Torana Moffat Race A9X replica, australianmusclecarsales.com.au Retrieved on 25 February 2014
  4. ^ Better Brakes AMSCAR, Australian Motor Racing Yearbook, 1982/83, page 198
  5. ^ Stewart Wilson, Better Brakes AMSCAR, Australian Motor Racing Yearbook 1982/83, pages 198 to 209
  6. ^ Stewart Wilson, Better Brakes AMSCAR Series, Australian Motor Racing Yearbook 1983/84, pages 254 to 263
  7. ^ Stewart Wilson, Better Brakes AMSCAR Series, Australian Motor Racing Yearbook 1984/85, pages 244 to 253
  8. ^ Stewart Wilson, Better Brakes / AMSCAR Series, Australian Motor Racing Yearbook 1985/86, pages 234 to 237
  9. ^ Stewart Wilson, Better Brakes / AMSCAR Series, Australian Motor Racing Yearbook 1986/87, pages 230 to 234
  10. ^ Program, Amaroo Park Raceway, 20 June 1993
  11. ^ Brian Golding, Welcome, Program, Eastern Creek, 22 June 1997