A bold new chapter in the history of Australian motorsport begins with the unveiling of the very first Gen3 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Supercars racing. It also marks the arrival of Chevrolet Racing as the new heart for the fans who have followed and celebrated more than 50 years of Holden success in touring car racing.
As the future motorsports brand for General Motors Australia and New Zealand, Chevrolet Racing will sit alongside the company’s other business units GM Specialty Vehicles, Holden Certified Service, GM Trade Parts and ACDelco.
The new Camaro is the boldest of the breed and has been created to carry the Chevrolet Racing flag into the next generation of Supercars from 2023. Reigniting one of the oldest rivalries in Australian motorsport, Chevrolet versus Ford and Camaro against Mustang.
The Gen3 Camaro ZL1 is the result of an incredible collaboration between Supercars, Triple Eight Race Engineering and General Motors. It signals an exciting future direction for the sport when it hits the track for the first race of the 2023 championship season.
Fresh from completing the design of the next generation Camaro ZL1 for NASCAR, the GM Design team in Detroit were also responsible for the overall appearance of the Camaro racer for Australia. Similar design cues are evident in their muscular appearance and unmistakable resemblance to their road going equivalents.
This global approach signals an exciting future for Chevrolet Racing for GMANZ, with the Gen3 Camaro for Supercars now recognised as part of the GM global racing effort. 50 years of incredible on track success for Holden has led to this moment, and the Gen3 Camaro ZL1 is certain to renew the fierce on-track rivalry between Holden and Ford that has
delighted and divided Australian and New Zealand race fans for decades. A rivalry that started with Monaro versus Falcon and Holden’s first triumph at Bathurst in 1968.
As a successor to that Holden legacy, the Camaro name is new to Supercars, but not new to touring car racing, and neither is its rivalry with the Mustang. Fifty years ago, in 1971, tyre magnate Bob Jane used an imported Camaro to claim the Australian Touring Car Championship in an epic shootout with the Ford Mustang of Allan Moffat at the Oran Park circuit in Sydney. Jane and the Camaro, also wearing the classic ZL1 badge, did the job again in 1972 as touring car fans were treated to some of the most intense and exciting racing in the history of Australian motorsport.
The Gen3 regulations will reignite that classic battle with the same brands and badges, but with a new generation of star drivers at the wheel.
“The look and sound of the new Gen3 Camaro is just incredible,” said Marc Ebolo, Managing
Director of GM Australia and New Zealand. The passion and excitement of success on the track has been such an important part of our Holden brand DNA for so long. This represents an all-new era, and Chevrolet Racing and
our close alignment with GM Motorsport will be an ongoing demonstration of our passion for competition and commitment to the sport.
“The high-performance demands of racing align with our vision for GM Australia and New Zealand and will continue to be a significant reflection for all our brands, including GM Specialty Vehicles, Holden Certified Service, GM Trade Parts and ACDelco.
“Further evidence of our commitment to motorsport is our ACDelco partnership with Fabietti
Racing and the new GM designed Camaro Pro Slammer drag car.”
The announcement is particularly timely as GMSV has just celebrated 12-months of operation in Australia and New Zealand. The charter of GMSV is to bring to customers a selection of iconic and exciting GM vehicles. In addition to the already announced Chevrolet Silverado and Corvette Stingray, GMSV recently confirmed that Australia and New Zealand will be among the first right-hand drive markets to receive the new track-focused C8 Corvette Z06.
Design focus – Gen3 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
The Gen3 technical regulations called for some significant changes and a fresh approach to Chevrolet’s new Supercars contender. One of the most important requirements was that the Camaro Supercar accurately reflect the design aesthetics of the regular road-going Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
Work on the project has been handled by Triple Eight Race Engineering, working closely with the GM Design and Racing division in North America. The result is a design for the prototype racer which is immediately powerful and bristling with performance capability.
“The collaboration between Supercars, Triple Eight and GM on the Camaro has been very precise,” said Steve Byrne, the Gen3 Camaro Program Manager for GM Australia and New Zealand.
“The same members of the GM Design team that worked on the Next-Gen Camaro ZL1 NASCAR, which will be racing for America’s premier stock car championship, have been responsible for the Gen3 Supercar design.
“These synergies and that influence are evident in the purposeful stance of the prototype racer, and its unmistakable likeness to the appearance of the Camaro production road car.”
The striking appearance of the Gen3 Camaro is dominated by the new Chevrolet Racing livery and fans will see more of the new track-focussed bow tie graphic, the iconic badge for Chevrolet cars through many generations, as the Gen3 Camaro program gets closer to competition.
A new range of Chevrolet Racing merchandise is already on sale at www.gmsvstore.com.au and will be sold at Bathurst and at Supercars events next year.
Chevrolet Racing Gen3 LTR V8 engine
Chevrolet powertrain componentry has long been a core element of Holden’s success in motorsport, and this philosophy continues with the Gen3 Camaro Supercar. Powering the Gen3 Camaro from the family of the GM aluminium small block engines, is the Chevrolet Racing 5.7 litre LTR V8 engine.
GM motorsport Supercars homologation partner KRE Race Engines are tasked with the development of the engine – work which will continue throughout 2022. The engine has already undergone early testing and track laps through 2021 in a heavily camouflaged mule car, and nothing can disguise the bellowing V8 soundtrack that will continue into the Gen3 era.
50 years of racetrack success
Holden has been a winner in the Australian Touring Car Championship and at Bathurst for more than 50 years. In 1970 touring car legend ‘Stormin’ Norm Beechey took his iconic yellow HT Monaro GTS350 to a famous ATCC victory, the first for a locally-built Holden car. On the way to the title, he also won with the thundering Monaro at Mount Panorama. Beechey was one of Holden’s first racing heroes and competed in an era of charismatic champions, all racing hard in exciting and spectacular production-based cars.
It was Holden against the rest, including the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro’s and even the underdog Porsche 911.
Beechey’s greatest competitors were often driving Fords, and it was Allan Moffat who became the ultimate rival for Holden fans when he wheeled out his Trans Am Mustang and Ford Falcon.
The colourful competitors took a no-prisoners approach to racing, swapping paint and denting panels with a colourful line-up of Monaros, Camaros and Mustangs. Times and cars might have changed since the first Holden victory in the Australian Touring Car Championship over 50 years ago, but the Red Lion brand was represented through all
the different eras of Australian touring car racing.
From showroom-based Series Production cars through to the heavily-modified Group C era of locally-developed cars, then on to the international Group A regulations, followed by a return to the Australia-first V8 Supercars and now Supercars, Holden has competed in Australia and around the world.
Over the years and generations, Holden teams have taken more than 20 combined ATCC and Supercar championship series wins. Holden has also been dominant at Bathurst in The Great Race each October, with a total of 34 wins in the Bathurst 500 and Bathurst 1000. Holden cars have scored many more wins on The Mountain than any other manufacturer, with Ford trailing in second with a total of 20 victories. It’s a proud achievement and one to be applauded by all Holden fans as Holden’s involvement with Australian Touring Car and Supercar racing comes to an end in 2022.
Welcome back to the track – Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
As one chapter in Supercars closes, another opens, and it’s the 50th anniversary of the first Chevrolet Camaro victory in the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1971. But the Camaro has been a winning part of the Australian motorsport scene for more than those fifty years.
Bob Jane won back-to-back championships with his Camaro but he wasn’t the first to race the car in Australia, as Melbourne driver Terry Allen first competed in a Camaro SS in 1967. Many more racers soon saw the potential in the big American coupe and in 1968 Beechey replaced his crowd-favourite Chevrolet Nova with a Camaro SS muscle car and fellow Victorian Bryan Thomson joined the switch in 1969. But it was Jane who raised the bar – in a big way – in late 1970 when he imported two very special 1969-model Camaro ZL1s as the basis for his assault on the 1971 Australian Touring car Championship.
Only 69 of these race-only special machines were built by Chevrolet and sold by a limited number of dealers for ‘competition only’ use in both circuit and drag racing. What made the Camaro that Jane would race special was a lightweight bodyshell that, in combination with a powerful lightweight big-block Chevrolet V8 engine, delivered a fabulous power to weight ratio.
The Camaro’s performance advantage was reinforced with front disc brakes, firmer suspension, and four-speed Muncie M21/22 gearboxes driving through a 12-bolt Posi-Traction limited-slip differential. The Camaro’s ZL1 engine was a spin-off from General Motors attack on the Can-Am sports car racing series with Jim Hall’s radical Chaparral team. The all-aluminium 7-litre (427 cubic inch) two-valve V8 had 321 kilowatts (430 horsepower) the engine had big-block
performance and small-block weight. The ZL1’s powerplant in combination with the chassis features was always going to make it hard for the opposition.
Once the ZL1 had arrived in Melbourne, with distinctive ‘Hugger Orange’ bodywork and chassis number 610732, it was Australianised to the local converted ‘Improved Production’ regulations at Bob Jane Racing, based in Sydney Road, Brunswick.
The bellowing orange beast broke cover in early 1971 when it raced in the Tasman Series meeting, for visiting Formula One stars, at Sandown International Raceway in Melbourne. It was the start of a fierce rivalry between Jane in his Camaro and Allan Moffat in his Ford Mustang, as the pair swapped paint over two races in a prelude to their future touring car rivalry.
Jane won both races and the pair were notably quicker than reigning ’71 champion, Norm Beechey in his Holden Monaro GTS350. Jane’s winning form over the Moffat Mustang was a teaser to the spectacular year’s success that was to come.
The 1971 Australian touring Car Championship started at Symmons Plains Raceway near Launceston in Tasmania. After six hard-fought rounds across the nation, as Jane and Moffat each took multiple wins, the final round loomed at Sydney’s Oran Park. Moffat and his Mustang led the point score after three round wins, while Jane was a close
second after two victories.
The title decider was a battle royal between the pair, with Moffat leading early before a gear-selection issue slowed him for a few laps, handing the lead to Jane in front of a capacity crowd of more than 30,000 people. Jane withstood the constant pressure from Moffat as the pair battled through lapped traffic and, as the last lap started, the Mustang had closed to the back of the Camaro. But Jane was up to the task and, as they entered the main straight for the start of the final lap, he unleashed the power of the big-block Chevy V8 and was able to ease away from the snarling Mustang. At the finish line the victorious Camaro was not much more than a metre ahead of the Mustang. So, Jane and his Camaro had won the landmark race and taken the title with three round wins, finishing on 43 points from Moffat with 37 points and third-placed Ian ‘Pete’ Geoghegan on 36 points with another Mustang.
The 1971 season signalled that the Chevrolet Camaro-versus-Ford Mustang rivalry was well and truly underway with the early advantage to the Camaro brand. It was a great win but, as Jane and his team prepared to defend the title in 1972, the governing body of Australian motorsport (then called CAMS and now Motorsport Australia) changed the regulations to reduce the maximum engine capacity to 6.0 litres, forcing an engine change to the Bob Jane Racing Chevrolet Camaro.
For season 1972 it had to be downsized to a 5.7-litre (350 cubic inch) small-block Chevrolet V8 as Jane’s opposition, including Moffat, believed the Camaro would be easier to beat without the aluminium 427 that had worked so well in 1971. The smaller 350 didn’t make the towering numbers of the 427, but it didn’t make much impact on the competitiveness of the Camaro. Jane had a car that was just as well-balanced and, with more engine revs under his right foot, he continued to make the pace.
As time would prove, the result for 1972 was just the same when the rubber hit the track, as Jane and the Camaro took four wins from eight championship rounds to claim the title. But 1972 was the end of the Improved Production era, as a new set of regulations – focussing on the locally-built Holdens and Fords – were introduced. This was Group C, with
many local modifications, as the great Camaro-versus-Battles came to an end. For the moment . . .
Even so, the Camaro name continued to be a big part of the Australian motorsport scene through to the mid-eighties thanks to ‘Revvin’ Kevin Bartlett and his cashed-up backer, media mogul Kerry Packer. Bartlett used his bold blue Camaro, wearing the unique Channel 9 logo from Packer’s television network, to take the fight to champions including Peter Brock from the Holden Dealer Team, Dick Johnson in a series of Ford Falcons, and Allan Moffat and his giant-killing rotary-engine Mazda RX-7 campaign.
Bartlett and the Camaro were always competitive against the best, and a highlight was the combination taking pole position at Bathurst in 1981 before famously rolling the big coupe at the top of the mountain in ’82 after a puncture.
The Gen3 Supercar programme is new, but the Chevrolet Camaro has a rich and proven heritage in Australian touring car racing and it’s with much excitement and anticipation that the iconic American muscle car makes a welcome arrival in Supercars.