Kevin Bartlett's Z28 Camaro
Kevin Bartlett's Z28 Camaro
A meeting in 1979 between media mogul Kerry Packer and two times gold star champion “Big Rev” Kevin Bartlett hatched one of the most iconic and best remembered cars in Australian Touring car history. The car was the Z-28 Camaro raced in the livery of the Channel 9 television network. Packers apparent main aim with his sponsorship was to get his good mate "KB" racing again, after horrendus crashes in the F5000 series. Another reason for the deal was for the major airtime the Camaro was to get each year, on on his main rival channel 7’s telecast of the annual Bathurst 1000 race.
The Camaro's first showing was at Bathurst in 1979. KB was still in plaster from his recent crash, so his good friends Bob Forbes and John McCormack filled in for him. It was not a great start, with a lot of issues found with the new car, especially with the useless rear drum brakes that were fitted as he was not allowed to have his homologated 4 wheel brakes fitted. It was finally parked it on lap 60, but a lot had been learned from the exercise.
KB was to first race the Camaro in 1980, after recovering from a major accident in the 1979 Formula 5000 championship. The Camaro was further developed in the rounds of the Australian Touring Car Championship, he did well that year, having its maiden win in round 4 at Sandown Raceway, where he placed second behind Brock's Commorore. By the end of the season he was rewarded with consistant places and a second overall in the championship.
Going for the first win, against tough opposition at Sandown.
However, its main purpose was always to win the Bathurst 1000 race. KB was forced to run with drum brakes on the rear of the car in 1980, which hampered the car in the Bathurst race. He managed to get pole position but the brakes stopped any chance of a good placing, even causing him to nudge a Gemini and forcing it too roll. After this incident CAMS allowed him to use the disc brakes on the rear of the car.
In the 1981 Bathurst race KB cemented his reputation as one of our nations best wet weather drivers, by snaring pole position in the wettest shootout ever seen on the mountain. He was 2 seconds faster than anyone else, picking up a good $10 000 for the pole, but that was as good as it was to get for the weekend...
They were the car to beat that Sunday, having one hell of a battle with Dick Johnsn for the lead, but then a famous mid race collision with the Ron Wanless Commodore. A heated KB came back to the pits for repairs and gave one of the classic Channel 7 interviews, " Its just a complete and utter nincompoop got in the way and turned right, just went straight across my path and put me straight into the fence and I took him, mate, that guy has to be black flagged, I'm going to punch him in the mouth when the race is over". KB of course did not realise that Wanless was a former Australian boxing champion... The Camaro got running again and was later caught up in the multiple car pileup that was to end the race on lap 121. if it was not for the Wanless incident, it could have possibly been the Camaro's finest hour.
1982 was perhaps the most notoriously well known year, with the Channel 9 becoming known as the Channel 6, after a spectacular roll over on top of the mountain. The car was fitted with new 13" wide rear rims and while in 3rd position on Lap 27, the left hand side rear split, causing the tyre to deflate instantly and it spear the Camaro into the concrete barrier at Reid Park, propelling it onto its roof, where it came to a spectacular finish on the side of the track. Channel 7 caught the incident and you can be guaranteed that in each year of the Bathurst telecast, you will be shown a replay of the Channel 9 Camaro heading onto it's roof.
David Bowden bought the car from KB back in 1998 and asked him to come to Qld to help sympathetically restore the car to how it raced in its strongest form of Bathurst 1982.
The now restored Camaro, still attends many different historic racing events, always being driven quite enthusiastically by the still hard charging KB.
If you have some time, here is a great video compilation of the Camaro's racing appearances throughout the years at Bathurst.