ONE of the most popular cars in Touring Car Masters history will finally return to the track this weekend as part of the Bathurst 1000 support program.
Brad Tilley’s bright green Ford Falcon GTHO will return to the track for the first time in years having undergone a lengthy rebuild over the last two seasons.
Having last raced at Bathurst in 2014, Tilley was testing the car ahead of the 2015 season opener only to endure a tyre delamination and a hefty crash at Sydney Motorsport Park that badly damaged the car.
The lengthy, ground-up rebuild will see the car return for the first time this weekend, to a circuit where it has had plenty of success.
The Sydneysider powered the big Falcon to an enormously popular race win at Bathurst in 2012, doggedly holding out John Bowe and Jim Richards in a stunning drive to win on Sunday morning.
It was only the second time a GTHO had scored a TCM win at Bathurst – Tilley winning for the first time there in 2009.
The Sydneysider is responsible for 10 of the XY Falcon’s 16 TCM race victories, and also won the first ever TCM race at the beginning of the 2007 TCM season.
Bathurst will be a scene for another ‘from the ashes’ story as Bruce Williams returns in his AC Delco Torana SLR.
In his first full year of competition in the category, Williams’ car was badly damaged at Queensland Raceway in July this year however has been comprehensively rebuild by Les Small and the Bendigo Retro Muscle Cars team.
“It’s been a big effort by a number of people to get Tess back on track for Bathurst this week and I’m grateful to all that helped out,” Williams said.
“Having the support of ACDelco has been great motivation to get the car repaired and back on track and I can’t wait to feel the speed that a modern TCM car is capable of on the mountain.
“Gary O’Brien who built and runs John Bowe’s Torana did a great job to fix the chassis and Les Small his team have been putting in the hard yards over the past weeks to get Tess back on four wheels.
“Gary’s team at Bendigo Retro Muscle Cars have done a brilliant job on the repair, Tess is as good as new and I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel after missing the Sandown round.”
This weekend also marks Williams’ first start at Bathurst since he contested the 1997 race, driving a VS Holden Commodore with journalist, Paul Gover.
Another notable returnee will be the Ford Falcon XB Coupe of Keith Kassulke – another car that has undergone a significant rebuild over the last few years.
Kassulke is a two-time TCM race winner however has driven his existing HQ Monaro in recent rounds after his Falcon was badly damaged in a Queensland Raceway crash several seasons ago.
The car, prior to Kassulke taking ownership, was a Bathurst race winner in the hands of Glenn Seton.
The 30-plus Bathurst field includes the Jesus Racing entry of Andrew Fisher, finally back on track after a lengthy wait for a brand-new engine for his similarly new Falcon GTHO.
Fisher made the debut of his newly built Falcon earlier this season however a series of engine dramas has delayed further running until this weekend, the team completing a shakedown of the car recently.
Allan Boughen is also set to bring his enormously popular Ford Mercury Comet back to the track having missed the Sandown round.
Popular Newcastle driver Cameron Mason will debut a fresh new livery on his Mustang coupe’, while Paul Freestone (Camaro) and USA driver Dave Roberts (Camaro) are also entered.
The Bathurst round will be critical to the TCM title race with the top four drivers now covered by just 56 points.
John Bowe leads Adam Bressington by just 13 points, while Steven Johnson is a further five back in third place with the Mustang coming on strong in the second half of the year.
Two practice sessions will be held on Thursday ahead of qualifying Friday morning, with two races making Saturday an all-important day on the mountain.
Sunday will include the traditional morning sprint race as a key curtain raiser prior to the Bathurst 1000.