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Coping with racing's little problems


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#1 Ray Bell

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Posted 29 May 2024 - 02:19

When a driver heads off to a race meeting, depending on how preparation has gone over the previous days, weeks and months, he usually approaches it all with confidence that all things will be right. Mostly...

 

I recall Phil Ward used to use the expression, "All things being equal - which of course you know they're not!"

 

And this applied to his drive with Jim Hunter at the Bathurst 1000 in 1973. Jim had entered a Torana XU1 in the big race and along the way Phil had been suggested as a potential co-driver for the event. Phil's experience to that time had been in his Anglia, and also one run in a Mini at the Easter Bathurst that same year. He had a business where race preparation was a major part of his trade and could thus help Jim with preparation.

 

There were some conflicts and problems before the meeting. For instance, as he had to move the car about the workshop, Phil was perturbed that the steering would be locked when the ignition wasn't switched on, and he saw this as a danger on the circuit.

 

"What if you have to switch the engine off because there's a problem," he put the case to Jim, "but you've still got to steer the car until it stops?" Jim resisted the idea along the lines that the car was built with that and it was still a production-based class.

 

A circular came out from GM-H a short time before the event stating that XU1 engines should be fitted with different main bearing shells. Jim bought these and Phil fitted them, they were shells with an oil groove right around the main bearings, rather than just in the block originally. What the circular didn't say was that a higher capacity oil pump should be fitted when using these bearings.

 

Another pre-event change was a new engine bay wiring harness was put out for those racing these cars. They had longer wires so they could be tucked away further from exhaust heat, and some shielding to keep the heat out of them. Jim couldn't afford this and so Phil did his best to tuck the existing wires away and give them a little shielding.

 

And so they were ready to head to the fabled Mountain. Which Phil absolutely loved, which was the reason he built that Mini earlier in the year. But another note from GM-H advised that fine spline axles could now be fitted. Harry Firth, then running the Holden Dealer Team, notified all Torana entrants that he would deliver the axles to the circuit and at a set time they should present themselves to be given a pair.

 

So Phil went down to Harry's enclave at the appointed time and received the axles, returning to the car with a view to fitting them. "Have you got the side gears to suit these?" he asked Jim. And, of course, the answer was in the negative. So he went back down to Harry's enclave and was told, "No, we just brought the axles, you have to get the side gears somewhere else." In other words, it was a bit of a stitch-up.

 

But Jim had never broken any of the coarse-spline axles, so they went off and began their practising.

 

All was going well enough until one lap, with Phil driving, he reached the top of Reid Park, and as he began to sweep to the left the engine went sour and the oil light came on. Obviously the long climb in indirect gears proved the worth of the higher capacity oil pump they didn't have, Phil switched off the ignition and turned to coast to the edge of the road.

 

Which, of course, activated the steering lock!

 

"I had to force myself to think about how I needed to turn the wheel back the way I didn't want to turn so I could take the pressure off the lock so I could turn the ignition back on again," he recalls. It was a struggle he remembers, but he managed it and they got the car back to the pits. There they arranged to borrow another engine and they were mobile again.

 

But Phil took at that steering lock and told Jim there was no going back on that. He'd had a big fright and knew it could happen again.

 

They then went on to qualify sixteenth on the grid and ninth of the XU1s running.

 

Race day came and things were running along well enough. Phil got in for his stint and after several laps he was reaching the same spot on the climb up the mountain when the engine died. He coasted over the crest and pulled to the side, looked under the bonnet and saw that the wiring was all melted.

 

Quickly he looked for a way out of this. A tow truck was parked across the other side of the circuit and he went over and ripped some wires out of the tail light wiring for that. Then he hot-wired the ignition directly from the battery to the coil, some officials gave him a push and he was on his way again. But should he go to the pits.

 

Well, all things being equal, he could continue like this until he was due to stop again. Right? Of course, all things being equal, but then you do know, and he did too, that they're never equal.

 

A few laps later he was flying down Con-Rod Straight, over the humps, into the braking area, lifted off and the engine kept pulling!

 

This is not good, Murray's Corner getting ever closer, full power being applied, though the brakes could contain it to a degree, and you can't switch off the ignition because it's hot-wired! Ideas were racing through Phil's head, but his natural instincts saw him put in the clutch, let the engine rev, get it back a gear, and another gear, brake as hard as he could and let the clutch out again as he went around Murray's Corner. But the 'hell of a ride' wasn't over yet.

 

He had to get it back to the pits, where they'd find that the throttle return springs had overheated (like the wiring) and were no longer pulling the butterflies closed. That's right, still full power as he headed for the pits. "And I wasn't going to put the clutch in and just let it rev as I coasted up the pit lane," he says, "I drove it in, I don't know in what gear, with the front wheels locked up as I tried to get it to stop at our pit bay."

 

They shortened the return springs and took to the circuit again, but the damage had been done. A few laps more and the flywheel came loose and they were out of the race.

 

This story and others like it enliven post-race meeting discussions, gatherings among old drivers and more. I'm sure there are a number of people who could come forth with a similar tale.

 

This particular one will be a part of a book Phil is putting together about his racing life, which I'm very sure will be well worth reading.

 

Maybe we can get some discussion going with other crazy stories, stories where people have believed that all things are equal - while in their own minds they definitely knew they weren't!



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#2 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 29 May 2024 - 07:47

Hmmm, this is obviously an LJ. LCs all had the ign sw on the dash.

LJ XU1 had fine spline axles OEM. As did Bathurst 70 LC XU1s. The ign/ steering locks was on most cars by then under Govt legislation. And all that had to remain at that time. Even now 2024 if road registered.

In those days fine spline LSD side gears would have been very rare. But see above.

I have never heard of wiring harness melting but it may well have. Ign wiring however runs down the other side of the engine to the exhaust. You had the battery cable and main power wire and starter trigger wire down under the exhaust side. Accelerator springs though never. Being a 202 however they do shake the alternators off and there is a cable from the alt to the battery. Said alternators also do not like high rpm and short out. I have done that twice. Ditto with waterpumps as well. They need to be slowed down and will cool better. Falcon 6 no a/c works fine

202s shaking flywheels loose was and still is very common. You have to shrink them onto the crank flange and they stay put. The blue motor on VC 202 on with the heavier counterweighted crank do not seem to need it. But that crankshaft is 15 lbs heavier!



#3 GregThomas

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Posted 29 May 2024 - 07:50

Horribly familiar story. I had an LJ GTR Torana for a while. 36/36 Weber on it. Coming over Dyers Pass from Lyttelton to Christchurch, nice long straight uphill followed by a tight hairpin.

Backed off for the hairpin and it's still on full noise. Switched off and immediately hit the anchors as the steering's locked and I'm running out of road.

Got it all stopped without damage and refitted the return spring with tighter hooks and carried on.

 

That linked switch/steering lock is an absolute menace.



#4 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 29 May 2024 - 07:53

Horribly familiar story. I had an LJ GTR Torana for a while. 36/36 Weber on it. Coming over Dyers Pass from Lyttelton to Christchurch, nice long straight uphill followed by a tight hairpin.

Backed off for the hairpin and it's still on full noise. Switched off and immediately hit the anchors as the steering's locked and I'm running out of road.

Got it all stopped without damage and refitted the return spring with tighter hooks and carried on.

 

That linked switch/steering lock is an absolute menace.

And has been on every cars sold in Oz since 71.



#5 Catalina Park

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Posted 29 May 2024 - 09:38

The ignition switch in a Holden had multiple positions: Lock > Off > Ign > Start. The steering lock activates in the "Lock" position. 

If you want to turn the motor off you move it 1 click from Ign to Off. This can be done while wearing gloves during a race. I finished a race at Eastern Creek with a stuck throttle using the ignition switch. I was battling for position at the time. I never once hit the lock position on the switch. (not that it would have mattered as the rules required the steering lock to be disabled by then) 



#6 Ray Bell

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Posted 29 May 2024 - 11:56

Michael, I had a hard time accepting it too...

 

But apparently for a short time that's what the Holden switches did. Locked the steering when the ignition was off. Not so in HQs, apparently, but in HJs, these Toranas and in the LH Torana too.

 

Every car I've ever had required turning to the lock position AND removing the key.



#7 GregThomas

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Posted 29 May 2024 - 19:10

And has been on every cars sold in Oz since 71.

 

That was my first and last Aussie car.  Never struck it on anything else here in NZ.