MEMORY LANE: 1987 Grice/Percy Commodore

Aaron Noonan

Wednesday 31st May, 2017 - 11:00am


The Allan Grice/Win Percy Roadways Commodore at Bathurst in 1987

Allan Grice is a legend of Australian touring car racing with two wins in the Bathurst 1000 coming both for and against the factory Holden teams of the respective eras.

Our AN1 Images Memory Lane photo today shows the car that he and Brit Win Percy used 30 years ago in the 1987 James Hardie 1000; the Roadways-run #2 Bob Jane T-Marts Commodore VL.

That race has gone down in history as one of the most memorable races in the history of the Bathurst classic. It was a race that had everything – controversy, weather, carnage and a result that was not settled until months after the race had ended.

It was also one of the most significant in the history of the event, as Australia’s greatest motor race became a round of the World Touring Car Championship for the first time and with it took on a very different look and feel for 1987.

Mount Panorama was upgraded to meet international safety standards (the most notable addition being the addition of Caltex Chase) while a modern new pit complex was another sign that Bathurst was moving into the future.

The race’s WTCC status also brought the world’s best to Bathurst, with a star-studded contingent of international drivers and cars taking on our homegrown heroes.

While the race is best remembered for Peter Brock winning his ninth – and last – Bathurst crown, the #10 Mobil Commodore he drove with David Parsons and Peter McLeod was not the fastest Holden on the Mountain that day.

That car was the Grice/Percy entry, and prepared by Les Small’s Roadways Racing team, the defending Bathurst winners.

Grice and Percy started race week strongly, setting the fourth quickest time in opening practice behind the Ford Sierra onslaught led by Allan Moffat’s ANZ team and Ruedi Eggenberger’s Texaco entries.

Roadways’ weekend took a turn for the worse – literally – on Friday when Percy lost it on the kerb exiting McPhillamy Park, which fired the Englishman hard left into the concrete wall on the approach to Skyline.

The heavy impact demolished the front of the car, but after a heroic effort from the TAFE Smash Repair Team and Roadways mechanics, the orange Commodore was rebuilt and back on track the next day for Grice to qualify seventh in the Top 10 Shootout, then known as Hardies Heroes.

Come race day, Grice kept the car in the top five during the opening stages. At the 11:30am mark, Percy reported the water level warning light had lit up while other telltale gauges also began to rise, an issue which Grice experienced more than once during the championship rounds earlier that year.

An amusing moment followed though when the Safety Car was called for the first time in the history of The Great Race as marshals removed Lucio Cesario’s crashed Alfa Romeo 75.

The Safety Car – a Nissan Skyline driven by 1976 winner Bob Morris – pulled off at the Cutting with a broken turbo hose, which led race control to bring the race back to green flag conditions before the cars got back to the start/finish line.

A confused Percy played it safe until Grice – wired for sound with his co-driver over Channel Seven’s in-car camera live on-air at the time  –got on the line and ordered the Englishman to get racing!

Percy soon moved to second and the Bob Jane T-Marts machine was the only car to take the fight to the Texaco Sierras after half-distance.

However, it was not to be as axle failure took them out of the race soon after. Percy coasted back to the pits where the team spent 25 minutes trying to rectify the problem, but eventually they called it a day when Grice tried unsuccessfully to leave the pit lane.

The Roadways team didn’t go down without a fight, and if not for this failure they may have been the ones in the box seat to take the win after the Texaco Sierras were disqualified post-race due to bodywork irregularities.

Grice and Percy remained a formidable Bathurst partnership in subsequent years, most notably in 1990 when they scored a sensational win against the odds for the Holden Racing Team.

Their 1987 Bathurst mount was eventually converted into an AUSCAR for competition at the Calder Park Thunderdome, however was sadly written off in an accident on the superspeedway.

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