Bathurst 1000 secure despite Holden closure

THE future of the Bathurst 1000 remains bright despite Holden’s announcement it will cease local manufacturing within four years.

General Motors yesterday ended months of speculation by confirming Australian production would cease by 2017.

The move will cost almost 3000 jobs at Holden’s Victorian and South Australian plants, but Bathurst Holden dealer principal Greg Brabham said there would be no adverse impact on the local dealership.

And the organisers of the Bathurst 1000 say the Great Race will remain Australia’s premier motorsport event beyond 2017.

While the rivalry between Holden and Ford drove interest in the Bathurst 1000 for many years, V8 Supercars Australia marketing manager Cole Hitchcock said the return of Nissan and Mercedes this year – and Volvo next year – showed there was a bright future for the race.

“It’s business as usual,” Mr Hitchcock said.

“While Holden may not make cars in Australia beyond 2017, they will continue to sell and market cars in Australia and I would think they would continue to be involved in the Bathurst 1000.

“And let’s not forget, Bathurst hasn’t always been just a Holden and Ford rivalry.

“There have been all sorts of cars race up there and they’ve all contributed to making it one of the best car races in the world.”

Mr Hitchcock said V8 Supercars’ introduction of the “car of the future” this year was a strategic response to the changing car market in Australia, and Holden’s announcement only served to support that move.

Local motor racing commentator and former Bathurst 1000 competitor Brian Nightingale agreed the race would not suffer from yesterday’s announcement.

“I would personally rather see all makes of cars on the Mount,” he said.

“I’ve always said one of the saddest days in motorsport was when they went to just the Holdens and Fords.”

Meanwhile, Bathurst Holden’s Greg Brabham said yesterday was a sad day for the Australian car industry but also one that created great opportunities.

Mr Brabham said the announcement would not adversely impact on the local dealership or its staff and would ultimately deliver benefits for buyers.

“I have mixed feelings about the announcement,” he said.

“It’s a sad day in a lot of ways, especially with quite a few people to lose their jobs in Victoria and South Australia, but I can understand General Motors don’t want to continue to lose money, so it’s a business decision.

“And if you look at companies like Mitsubishi and Nissan which have already gone to an import-only strategy, they are now stronger businesses for it.

“[The decision] means we can now start benefiting from those low tariffs that have been hurting us until now.”

Mr Brabham said changing tastes in cars – particularly the growth of the SUV and dual-cab ute sectors of the market – meant family cars like the Commodore were not selling as strongly as they did a generation ago.

But he said the current make of the Commodore, the last to be built in Australia, was one of the best – “a great model to go out on”.

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