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Falcon GT By The Years: 1976

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The GT Falcon Story

Ford Falcon XB GT
Significant changes were made to the administration of the touring car and manufacturers championships in 1976. The two series were combined to form one long series, consisting of a scheduled eight “short” races and four "long" ones. All 12 races counted towards the touring car championship, with double points being awarded for the "long" ones.

These longer events formed what was now called the Championship of Makes, working from a complicated scoring system. The Hardie-Ferodo 1000 was no longer a part of any series, the race reversing to its former “one-off" status.

Also, the South Pacific series was allowed to die a natural death, being replaced with the “Goodrich Radial Challenge” for under 3-litre cars. This meant that the first series for the big touring cars in 1977 was the Australian touring car championship. Unlike the previous two years, the 1976 touring car championship was a highly interesting affair.

It was a close-fought contest between Allan Moffat's red Falcon and Colin Bond's Marlboro-Holden Dealer Team Torana. Several races were run over two heats, place-getters in each heat getting points and then overall positions being established by the totalling of points. Then the normal championship points were given to the place-getters.

John Harvey (Torana) won the first round at Symmons Plains, with Bond second. Moffat came in sixth after selecting the wrong tyres and Murray Carter, driving the only other Falcon, failed to finish after leading the race. Round two at Calder went to Moffat, with Bond second. Uncharacteristically, Murray Carter failed to finish for the second time in two events.

The third round, at Oran Park, was a two heat event, Moffat gaining a second and a first to take the round and the lead in the series. At Sandown Bond won, while all three Falcons (Moffat, Keogh and Carter) did not finish.

Next came a sensational Amaroo round, again in two heats. In the first heat there was a very bad accident on the first corner when Allan Grice pushed Bond sideways across the centre of the track where he was clobbered by Bob Skelton's Torana. Bond's car swung across the track, the rear end smashing into an unlucky Bo Seton's Capri. Skelton, Bond and Seton all suffered extreme damage to their cars. Grice went on to win the heat but was later excluded from the results and fined.

Moffat's was the first Falcon home, in seventh place, after making a pit stop to replace a tyre which had pitched up debris as a result of the first lap incident. The other Falcon’s, those of Carter and Keogh, failed to finish. Moffat won the second heat, taking points for second place overall. The sixth round at Adelaide was even more dramatic.

The Adelaide jinx struck Allan Moffat yet again when his transporter and car were burnt out in a spectacular fire in the Adelaide hills on the Thursday before the race. This created a lot of publicity for the race, but didn't help Moffat's championship efforts.

John Goss saved the day by lending Moffat his Falcon for the weekend, Moffat responding by earning equal fastest time in practice and by winning both heats of the round. It was a brilliant display by Moffat and one which earned him the respect of even the most hardened Holden supporters. Murray Carter picked up fourth overall with a fifth and fourth in the two heats and Jim Keogh got some consolation by winning a sports sedan race after having an unhappy time.in the championship events. The final "short" race was held at Lakeside with Moffat again driving Goss's car.

Again the round was a two-heat affair, Moffat and Bond each winning one heat, but Bond ultimately getting top points. Murray Carter was credited with fourth overall, Barry Sharp driving Garry Willmington's Falcon got eighth and Jim Keogh spectacularly rolled his car in the second heat, completely demolishing it. A feature of this round was the close and exciting dicing between Moffat and Bond.

The points score situation between these two was very close going into the "long" races, with Moffat on 58 and Bond on 54. In July, Ford released a new range of Falcons called the XC series. Again it was just a slight restyle of the previous model - but it was important because it did not have a Falcon GT model included. The replacement was the Fairmont GXL with four-wheel discs as standard equipment.

The 351 engine was available as an option and a car similar to the old GT specifications could be built up through optioning. It was sad to see the end of the Falcon GT, although as a concept it was dated by emission controls and diminishing petrol reserves. However, on the racetrack the GT carried on.

A great deal of interest was being generated in the “Championship Of The Makes” series, mainly because of the closeness of the Touring Car Championship. With points for that series counting double, it was certain to be a cliff-hanger. The first round, the Hang Ten 400 at Sandown was a promoter's dream.

Not only did Allan Moffat have a brand new Falcon, “Operation Phoenix" painted in an attractive red, white and blue colour scheme, but he also took the Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, for a couple of quick laps around the circuit. Mr Fraser was there to present the trophy to the winner of the Australian Grand Prix which was on the same day.

The winner, incidentally, was John Goss, who thus became the only man to win the Australian Grand Prix and Bathurst. There were three other Falcon's in the event, two of them new. Murray Carter had finally replaced the faithful old Superbird with a new one, complete with a striking new colour scheme.

The other Falcon was the Goss car being driven by Jim Richards. A huge crowd added to the spectacle. The race was eventually won by Peter Brock with Moffat coming in second after a forced tyre change caused by a puncture which just may have cost him victory. The final three rounds were held after the Hardie-Ferodo 1000 and all were won by Torana’s.

At Adelaide, Allan Grice was first and Murray Carter second, after both cars went the full 250 km without a pitstop. Moffat came fourth after pitting for a broken spark plug when he was in the lead. At Surfer's Paradise, Peter Brock came up trumps, with Moffat in second place. Moffat pitted because of handling problems caused by an out-of-round tyre - not an easy problem to trace. Murray Carter came in third. John Goss failed to finish, the car not having completed any race in the series so far (Jim Richards drove it in the first two rounds).

The second place at Surfer's was sufficient to ensure Moffat of the touring car title in 1976. Obviously it was a great personal triumph for him, considering the Adelaide fire disaster. He did not start in the final round at Phillip Island, which Colin Bond won. Both the Falcons which entered failed to finish, these being the cars of Carter and Keogh. But back the 1976 Hardie-Ferodo, the first time the race had genuinely attracted international interest, mainly through the entry of Australia's own three times former world champion Jack Brabham teamed with the legendary Stirling Moss, driving a Torana.

Other internationals included expatriate Australian Vern Schuppan partnering Allan Moffat and English long-distance ace John Fitzpatrick driving with Bob Morris in the Ron Hodgson Torana. There were two other Falcons entered, the Brian Wood car being crewed by Murray Carter and Ray Winter and the John Goss/Jim Richards car.

Practice looked good for Ford with Moffat getting pole position with a incredible time of 2 min 25 sec. Goss was there too, with fifth fastest, while Carter was back on 13th position. The race started on a very dramatic note when Jack Brabham's Torana was stuck on the grid with jammed gears, and was then rammed very hard from behind. This incident effectively put Brabham and Moss out of the race, but the car reappeared several hours later simply for appearances. Eventually the motor blew while Moss was at the wheel.

It was, incidentally, the first time Stirling Moss had driven on slick racing tyres! Things didn't look too bad for Ford when, at half distances, Moffat and Schuppan were 40sec in front and doing it easily. Suddenly the crankshaft pulley on Moffat's car failed, cooking the engine and putting a disappointing end to a fine effort.

Neither of the other two Falcons lasted the distance, but were still classed as finishers. Goss was credited with 29th outright after retiring with a broken clutch with 129 laps to his credit. Actually Jim Richards did most of the driving, as Goss himself was ill on the day.

The Murray Carter/Ray Winter Falcon blew its engine after 148 laps and was credited with 17th outright. The eventual winner, in a very exciting finish was the Morris/ Fitzpatrick Torana which crossed the line in a very sick state just ahead of the also ailing Colin Bond/John Harvey Torana. Fastest lap was shared between Moffat and Brock at 2min 28.4sec.

Also see:
GT Falcon Race Results 1976
Bathurst Race Results 1976
Bathurst Race Program 1976
Bathurst Memorable Moments
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