The 1989 Australian Touring Car Championship was a CAMS sanctioned Australian motor racing title open to Group 3A Touring Cars. The championship, which was the 30th Australian Touring Car Championship, began on 5 March at Amaroo Park and ended on 9 July at Oran Park Raceway after eight rounds. The 1989 Australian Manufacturers' Championship was contested over the same eight round series.
The championship, which was promoted as the Shell Ultra Australian Touring Car Championship, was won by Dick Johnson driving a Ford Sierra RS500. Toyota won the Australian Manufacturers' Championship.
Teams and drivers
The following drivers and teams competed in the 1989 Australian Touring Car Championship.
Following on from their dominant 1988 championship 1-2, the Dick Johnson Racing Ford Sierra RS500 drivers Dick Johnson and John Bowe again finished 1-2 in the title race, winning the first six rounds with Johnson's fifth (and last) championship win equaling the record of Ian Geoghegan. Like Geoghegan, all of Dick Johnson's championships were won driving Fords.
The championship also saw long time Holden driver Peter Brock turn to Fords (after a year with BMW) in a bid to return to the top in Australia with two cars secured from British Sierra expert Andy Rouse for himself and Albury based driver Brad Jones. Brock's pole in Round 2 at Symmons Plains was his first touring car pole since the 1986 Sandown 500, while his win in the final round at Oran Park was his first ATCC win since 1986 and his first ever ATCC win in anything other than a Holden. Brock in his Mobil 1 Racing Sierra would prove to be the Shell team's most consistent challenger, finishing third in the championship, his highest placing since he finished third in 1985. Most observers felt that Brock adapted to the powerful Sierra's quicker than most, though he readily admitted his link with Rouse and the technical help he gave was a big factor in the Mobil teams revival. Also, unlike most of his fellow competitors when they started racing the Sierra's, Brock wasn't a stranger to racing turbocharged cars having raced a Porsche 956B at Silverstone and Le Mans in the 1984 World Sportscar Championship.
Other driver/team changes in 1989 included a new Ford Sierra team for former Nissan driver Glenn Seton who took Nissan's Peter Jackson cigarette sponsorship with him to his new team. Also switching from Nissan was his father Barry Seton who became the chief engine builder for his sons new team. 1988 Tooheys 1000 winner Tony Longhurst expanded his Benson & Hedges Racing to a two car team with a second Sierra for former JPS Team BMW teammate Neville Crichton. The two B&H cars had been acquired from the Wolf Racing Australasia team formerly run by Robbie Francevic and his long-time patron Mark Petch. Colin Bond also expanded his Caltex-backed Sierra team to two cars, running a second for Sydney car dealer Ken Mathews who had purchased the Bathurst winning Sierra from Longhurst. For the first time in Australian Group A, BMW wasn't represented by one of the top teams which prompted BMW Australia to pull out. The M3 was reduced to a class runner and it was left to privateers John Cotter and his regular co-driver Peter Doulman running one of the ex-JPS/Mobil M3's purchased from Brock at the end of 1988 to keep a BMW presence on the grid.
1989 also saw the last ATCC round win for long time factory Nissan driver George Fury when he took victory in Round 7 at the tight Winton circuit in rural Victoria in what proved to be the most competitive race of the championship. In fact, when Peter Brock led at the end of lap one at Winton it was actually the first time since Round 6 in 1988 at Lakeside that someone other than Dick Johnson or John Bowe had led the first lap of an ATCC race (on that occasion it was the Sierra of Andrew Miedecke leading as Johnson had been pinged for a jump start, though Johnson led on the road). Fury, who had been with the team since its inaugural year in 1981, was joined in the Nissan team by 1985 and 1987 champion Jim Richards, and the teams 1987 Australian 2.0 Litre champion Mark Skaife, each driving a turbocharged Skyline HR31 GTS-R. The Skyline, which had been late arriving in 1988 and had run short of development, was more of a force in 1989 with the team finding greater power and reliability from the turbocharged 6 cyl 2.0L twin cam engine as well as getting the cars down to the Nissan's weight limit of 1100 kg, some 70 kg lighter than 1988. Skaife made his first appearance of the series at the Mallala circuit in South Australia for Round 5, and avoided the first corner carnage (caused by an out of control Brock) to finish a fine fifth.
The 1989 championship was the first since 1970 to be contested without an appearance by a factory supported Holden team. The Holden Special Vehicles team did not compete in the series, despite entering two Commodores for highly respected British driver Win Percy and Channel 7 commentator Neil Crompton in the opening round at Amaroo Park (a fact that Crompton's co-commentators Mike Raymond and Gary Wilkinson constantly reminded him about during the race telecasts). Allan Grice was the highest placed Holden driver in the championship, finishing in a hard-fought fourth position after a one-off appearance at Winton in a privately entered Roadways Racing Commodore he had driven in the 1988 Tooheys 1000. The Winton round, which started on a wet track and was damp throughout with a couple of additional showers, saw Grice ran the race on one set of wet tyres. The highest placed Holden driver from 1987 and 1988 championship, Larry Perkins, appeared in only two rounds (Sandown and Winton) with his privately entered Commodore, the same car he had driven at Bathurst the previous year as part of the factory backed Holden Special Vehicles/TWR team. 1989 was thus the first year in which no Holden driver had finished the championship inside the top ten positions since Herb Taylor placed twelfth in a Holden EH in 1968, the last year in which the ATCC was contested as a single race. Holden's lack of interest in the 1989 ATCC was not well received either by the fans or television broadcaster Channel 7. It was Holden's lack of representation from the factory backed team or the privateers that highlighted the growing costs of Group A racing, something which would cause a change in the sport after 1992.
Venue changes from the 1988 Championship were the deletion of the round at Calder Park and the addition of a round at the 2.601 km (1.616 mi) Mallala Motor Sport Park, located 55 km north of Adelaide. Mallala returned to the championship for the first time since 1971, replacing the round at the Bob Jane owned Adelaide International Raceway. Calder owner Bob Jane had signed an agreement with "Vic Health" which saw cigarette advertising banned at his race tracks (cigarette sponsorship was prominent in the ATCC with the Seton and Longhurst teams sponsored by Peter Jackson and Benson & Hedges respectively). As Jane also owned the Adelaide circuit, this saw AIR also dropped from the calendar.
Round 3 of the championship at Lakeside just north of Brisbane was full of drama. Initially scheduled to be run on 2 April, the meeting was postponed two weeks due to almost a weeks worth of heavy rain in the area which flooded the nearby Lake Kurwongbah that gives the circuit its name. The flooding saw both the front straight and pit area under about a foot of water. The race then took place on 16 April but was marred by a fiery crash on the back straight when Andrew Miedecke's Sierra collided with the VL Commodore of Graham Lusty while Lusty was being lapped. Both cars crashed heavily into the fence, as did the Sierra of the closely following Glenn Seton (Racecam from Brock's car caught the moment out of his rear window when the pair touched). Both the Commodore and Miedecke Sierra were engulfed in flames and wisely the race was red flagged. After a delay while the clean up was on, the race was reduced from 60 to 30 minutes with half points to be awarded for the round. Dick Johnson went on to win on his home circuit for the first time since his epic battle with Brock which won him his first ATCC back in 1981.
1989 would prove to be the last ATCC contested by four-time champion Allan Moffat with the Canadian born driver retiring from driving at the end of the year.
|Rd.||Circuit||Location / state||Date||Winning driver||Winning car||Winning team||Report|
|1||Amaroo Park||Sydney, New South Wales||5 March||John Bowe||Ford Sierra RS500||Shell Ultra Hi Racing|||
|2||Symmons Plains Raceway||Launceston, Tasmania||12 March||Dick Johnson||Ford Sierra RS500||Shell Ultra Hi Racing|||
|3||Lakeside International Raceway||Brisbane, Queensland||16 April||Dick Johnson||Ford Sierra RS500||Shell Ultra Hi Racing|||
|4||Barbagallo Raceway||Perth, Western Australia||30 April||John Bowe||Ford Sierra RS500||Shell Ultra Hi Racing|||
|5||Mallala Motor Sport Park||Mallala, South Australia||7 May||Dick Johnson||Ford Sierra RS500||Shell Ultra Hi Racing|||
|6||Sandown Raceway||Melbourne, Victoria||21 May||Dick Johnson||Ford Sierra RS500||Shell Ultra Hi Racing|||
|7||Winton Motor Raceway||Benalla, Victoria||4 June||George Fury||Nissan Skyline HR31 GTS-R||Nissan Motorsport Australia|||
|8||Oran Park Raceway||Sydney, New South Wales||9 July||Peter Brock||Ford Sierra RS500||Mobil 1 Racing|||
Points were awarded on a 20–15–12–10–8–6–4–3–2–1 basis for the top ten race positions. Only half points were awarded for Round 3 at Lakeside due to the stoppage of the initial race and the reduced 30-minute duration of the restarted race. The pointscore system allowed a driver to retain points only from his or her seven best round results. Discarded placings are shown within brackets in the table below.
Australian Manufacturers' Championship
- Australian Title Conditions, 1989 CAMS Manual of Motor Sport, page 75
- Records, Titles and Awards, 2002 CAMS Manual of Motor Sport, pages 14-4 to 14-7
- 1989 Championship Results, Australian Motor Racing Year, 1989/90, pages 298 & 299
- Official Programme, Shell Ultra Australian Touring Car Championship, Round 5, Mallala, Sunday, 7 May 1989
- 1989 ATCC Rd.1 - Amaroo Park
- 1989 ATCC Rd.2 - Symmons Plains
- 1989 ATCC Rd.3 - Lakeside
- 1989 ATCC Rd.4 - Barbagallo Raceway
- 1989 ATCC Rd.5 - Mallala
- 1989 ATCC Rd.6 - Sandown
- 1989 ATCC Rd.7 - Winton
- 1989 ATCC Rd.8 - Oran Park
- Graham Howard, Stewart Wilson & David Greenhalgh, The official history - Australian Touring Car Championship - 50 Years, 2011, page 295
- Steve Normoyle and Andrew Clarke, Paint the title red, Australian Motor Racing Year, 1989/90, page 125 & 126