Saturday Sleuthing: Skaife's SEGA Commodore

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 19/07/2014
  • By V8 Sleuth

SaturdaySleuthing's featured car for this week is best remembered for being driven by a legend of the sport and also later helped launch the V8 Supercar careers of some current star names.

Our focused car is the SEGA-sponsored Gibson Motorsport Commodore raced by Mark Skaife in 1996 and we're thrilled to tell you that it is going to return to the racetrack next month.

At the end of 1995, Gibson Motorsport was forced to reinvent itself after government legislation banned tobacco sponsorship in sport, thus costing one of the sport's benchmark teams of its major, multi-million dollar sponsor Winfield.

After a dominant period running two cars for Skaife and Jim Richards, GMS scaled back to a single car for Skaife, which is today's featured 'sleuthing' subject.

This chassis is GMS 005 and it debuted at the opening round of the 1996 Australian Touring Car Championship at Eastern Creek in a plain white livery and largely devoid of sponsorship.

Skaife was involved in a heavy incident in this event with Peter Brock, which would set the tone for a tough season. The new car was too badly damaged to head to the following round at Sandown just one week later but it returned in time for the 'sprint' round at Bathurst.

It contested the remainder of the ATCC until it was again damaged at Mallala, and then rested for the final round at Oran Park and the Sandown 500

GMS 005 returned for Bathurst, where it took on a new livery and increased backing from Holden's Network Q Used Car program. Skaife shared the car with Scottish ace John Cleland and the duo finished seventh.

Skaife and Cleland, Bathurst 1996

Remember too that this was back in the 'open tyre' era of the category, where multiple tyre manufacturers competed against one another.

In 1996 there was no doubt Bridgestone (used by the Holden Racing Team, Glenn Seton's team and Alan Jones' Pack Leader squad) were the tyre to have and Skaife's Yokohamas weren't competitive.

He ended a trying year - his first without a win since 1990 - in ninth on the points table in the ATCC.

Gibson sold the car to Garry Rogers Motorsport for 1997, who updated it to VS specification and it became Steven Richards' #34 Valvoline car.

Richards was caught up in a multi-car pile-up at the Gold Coast Indy event (then held in March), which necessitated a major rebuild, though the car soon returned to the track.

Richards missed Symmons Plains due to a date clash with a two-litre Super Touring round at Lakeside and was replaced by Jason Bright who made an impressive debut in wet conditions.

Richards was joined by his dad Jim for the enduros at Sandown and Bathurst, and the pair recorded history by finishing second at Bathurst. This marked the first time a father-son combination stood on the podium in The Great Race.

Jim and Steve Richards, Sandown 1997

GRM continued with the chassis for 1998 with Richards contesting the opening three rounds before he headed to England to join Nissan as a test driver in the British Touring Car Championship.

This paved the way for a 20-year-old Garth Tander - then the reigning Australian Formula Ford Champion - to make his championship debut at Phillip Island.

Tander's entry was numbered #134, but reverted back to the traditional #34 for Sandown and Bathurst where Cameron McLean joined him.

Tander, Phillip Island 1998

For the next two years GRM retained ownership of the car but leased it out to privateer outfit Ultra Tune Racing.

Mick Donaher drove the car during the 'sprint' rounds before Dean Lindstrom and Melinda Price shared it for the Queensland 500 and Bathurst 1000 enduros.

Donaher, Adelaide 1999

There were reportedly plans for the Lansvale Smash Repairs team - led by current Brad Jones Racing engineer Wally Storey - to take over the running of the car for 2000, but this didn't eventuate and the Ultra Tune team ran it once more with Donaher returning to the team.

Donaher moved up to an ex-Perkins VT Commodore mid-year, allowing Formula Ford driver Tyler Mecklem to step into the VS at Winton. Lindstrom and Price paired up again for Bathurst only.

The car returned to GRM in 2001 and it was soon put up for sale. It was then stripped of most of its major race components, which went into the unique Thunder Ute that GRM built as a ride car and marketing exercise for Holden.

The shell was sold to David and Travis Langman in the early 2000s, and they began a major project to restore the car to its 1996 Skaife SEGA livery.

With assistance from former Gibson Motorsport and GRM staff, they completed a fantastic restoration of the car some years ago.

The re-born Sega machine has been displayed at race events around the country in recent years and was sold last year to Milton Seferis, who has added this car to his growing collection of Commodore racecars.

It will return to on-track action on the August 9/10 weekend at Winton as part of the Australian Five-Litre Touring Car Association's demonstration runs at the Winton Festival of Speed Historic event.

2013

There's nothing better than seeing a memorable V8 Supercar being returned to its former glory, and this old racer looks just like it did back in 1996.

GMS 005 represented a new chapter for Gibson Motorsport, who would endure a lean period in the following years before bouncing back to win Bathurst with Greg Murphy and Steven Richards in 1999.

It's a car that did a fair bit of racing in its life, with no less than five Bathurst winners - past and future - all racing this chassis at some point.

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If you have a suggestion for a car story, some information or want to give some feedback, contact the V8 Sleuth via the following methods:

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