Were did it all begin for Volvo?
Some say the 50's, some say the 60's, some (the younger ones) say the 90's when Volvo burst back onto the world's motor sport stage after a long absence. In fact, the association of the Volvo marquee with motor sport started in a very small way the year Volvo started. In that year (1928), a Volvo Jakob OV4 participated in the tough 1360km Moscow-Leningrad-Moscow Rally. The Volvo was the only car to finish without penalty points! However, apart from a few isolated events, Volvo's were not seen in racing or rallying again until the late 40's. One of Volvo's two founders, Assar Gabrielsson, was quoted as saying that "car rallies are as useful to the industry as dog racing". It makes you wonder if much has changed?
Nevertheless, a small black PV444s began to appear in European rallies. In the decade from 1949, Volvos were to appear in rallies all over the Western Hemisphere. By 1958, the privateers have so impressed Volvo that the then President, Gunnar Engellau gave official approval to help the most promising. In those times, the Volvos were amongst the fastest of the rallying saloons. In 1958, the legendary Gunnar Andersson won the European Rally Championship. The car was the PV544 of which none ever made it to Australia other than a single example of the wagon version, the 210. In 1959 Ewy Rosquist won the European Rally Championship for Ladies, while Gunnar had gone to Buenos Aires to win what Swedish motoring author Per Erik Lindh described in his book "Volvo - The Cars" as the world's toughest rally. The Grand Premio International of Argentina in 1960.
In 1963 and 1964, Volvo won The European Championship Again! This time Andersson drove the new 122 (Amazon) winning the British RAC Rally's in 1963. Sylvia Osterberg also drove a 122 while Tom Trana campaigned in a 544, winning the Championship in 1964. If the PV544 were the car that had spread the Volvo name through Europe and America, it would be the 122 that would sow the seeds in Australia.
At Sandown, a 122s grabbed the class win in a 6-hour race. Drivers were Ivan Sedgedan, old friend to Robbie Francevic, and Colin Giltrap. The same year, five Volvos came in the top 20 in the Ampol Trials
More rally wins in 1965. The Singh brothers of Kenya made history in a well run in Exworks PV544, taking first place in the African Safari Rally. By now Volvo had become an institution in rallying. Tom Trana had won the Acropolis, the Midnight Sun and the RAC. These were just three of six international rallies won in Volvos in 1965. Strangely, this year of many successes was to mark Volvo's temporary withdrawal from motor sport in Europe (so what's new). But the story was different in Australia. A Volvo 122 driven by Monaco Motors, Gerry Lister won three of the first four Touring Car races to be held at Amaroo, and their was more to come.
In 1966 Volvo took first blood in endurance racing at the old Lowood circuit near Brisbane. The pundits had to swallow their predictions as an exworks 122s, entered by Scuderia Veloce and driven by David Mackay and Greg Cusack took on Harry Firth's factory entered Ford GT and won the 4 Hour Race by a substantial margin. Inspired by this success, the Scuderia team entered an 1800s in the grueling 12-Hour Race at Surfers Paradise, winning the production sports car section. Some up and coming peddlers were seen at Mount Panorama in near stock-standard 122s cars. Names like Kevin Bartlett, John Harvey, Gerry Lister and David Seldon were behind the wheel of those unfamiliar Swedish machines. The following year, 1967, saw the first major wins in rallying. The Rothmans Snowy, The Shelly's 300 and The KLG 300 were all added to Volvos winning list.
The 140 takes out the Southern Cross in 1968. In the backwoods of coastal NSW and Victoria, the new generation Volvo, a near stock standard 142s, driven by John Keran and navigated by Peter Meyer, bumper and slid its way around the 3000km route to win Australia's toughest annual rally. The same year, Ken Tubman, NSW Rally Champ and Volvo importer Max Winkless and eight other drivers ran a total of 4 Volvos in the London to Sydney Marathon. Elsie Gadd's all girl crew won the Ladies Class. In 1970, John Laws, Bill Nolan and Monaco Motor's Gerry Lister entered the Ampol Around Australia Trial, finishing a creditable 12th out of 232 starters in a 144. That was the last major motor sport event Volvo's would enter for a long time (yes again). Observers said that Volvo had abandoned its race heritage for stolid crash safety.
1979 the rally to beet all rallies. A 20000kms long, right around Australia. They claimed it was tougher than the Redex/Ampol trials. It was called the Repco Around Australia Reliability Trial and Volvo Dealers entered six 240's. The first time these new "safety" models had been tried in serious competition anywhere in the world. The car driven by Australian Champion, Ross Dunkerton and journalist/race driver Peter Mckay came fourth outright and first in their class. Another Team Volvo won the Ladies Prize. Four of the six Volvos finished and all placed in the top 30 of a field of 170 starters.
1980 and the 343 takes off the European Rally Cross Championship. That lusty infant, the 300 series Volvo hatchback, has knocked off the Swedish Championship. There was a new generation of Volvo race-boys at the wheel of two turbo-charged 340's, names of Per Engseth and Per-inge(Pi) Walfridsson. The wiry Pi had been delighting the Australian rally crowds in earlier years in Datsuns and Mitsubishis. The competition was tough, with Golf GTi, BMW, Ford Escorts, etc. But in the end the Volvo's won the European Rallycross and take notice. Meanwhile in Australia. Robbie Francevic with John Bowe at the wheel of the 240T, was winning more than his share of races in the Australian Touring Car Championship. The series was taken by BMW but from that time on, Australians stopped thinking of a Volvo as a conservative up-market car. Volvo had resumed its rightful place as one of the world's best in open competition.
In 1986 the Australian Touring Car Championship went to Francevic driving a Volvo 240T. That year, the Turbo Volvos have been up front both in Australia and in Europe. Race victories continued to fall to Volvo in Europe. The Valvoline Volvo Dealer Team has won The Australian Championship. Francevic and the brilliant new full-time recruit John Bowe, the Valvoline-sponsored Dealer Team is set for 1987.
1987 unfortunately did not deliver as requested. Major changes to the rules saw the Volvo nobbled by the organizers. With pressure on the budget blowing out just to stay competitive, Volvo run the 1987 racing program in most countries around the world in the hands of privateers and then pulled out of all Motor Sport events Worldwide at the end of 1987.
Volvo Back On Track.
In 1993 Volvo released in Europe the 850 T-5. A 166kw 5cy high-pressure turbo charged stormer. Later that year Volvo started playing with the idea that maybe it's time to get back in to international motor sport. The European manufactures since 1992 were talking about a hot new series in the UK called the BTCC. This series was going to be an off shoot from the International Touring Car Championship, which was loosing momentum. Instantly Volvo, BMW, Audi, Alfa, Peugeot, Renault, Ford, Voxel, ETC expressed strong interest in joining. In 1992 the series was born. All the other manufactures in 1993 were testing and developing hot sedans, Volvo decided that it's time to smash the stayed old attitude towards the brand and Volvo entered the hot new 850 Estate, to be run and developed by TWR. Late 1993 saw the launch of the 93/94 BTCC series. 1992/3 was a transitional year from the old to the new series. Manufactures use it to sharpen their car for a committed assault in late 1993.
1994 launched with a bang - literally. The BTCC was very quickly recognized as a close, competitive and highly entertaining. It set the benchmark for world racing. 1994 saw furthered development by TWR with the Volvo 850 Wagon. The 850 ran strongly all year being driven by Rickard Rydell and Jan Lammers, but lacked the strait line speed of the sedans but TWR started to find speed in the 850 late in the year. The vehicle started to consistently pick-up 5th and 6th and a couple of 3rd places. But Volvo for that year at lease achieved its goal. Develop, improve and build a platform for future 850 race cars. It also started to change the mind set towards the brand. The 850 wagon was voted most popular car on the track and was recognised as having the fastest corner speed. Volvo was "BACK ON TRACK".
The Australian rebirth of Volvo racing.
In 1994 Volvo did not officially enter a car in the Valvoline Australian Manufacturers Championship. But there was an ex-BTCC 850 wagon driven by Tony Scott running around turning heads. Instead we had to wait to get the BTCC Super Turning cars from TWR at the end of their season. But Volvo Australia could not wait. So late 1993/4 Volvo signed off on building a couple of local vehicles. George Sheppard Racing was contracted to build three cars. 1 x 850 GLT, 1 x 850 T-5 and 1 x 850 T5R.
Volvo Australia got the jump on the Brits by 1 week. On 27th of February 1994 at Amaroo (in the Production Car Championship) Tony Scott brought the first official factory built Volvo to the start line since 1987. It was the 850 GLT. That year also saw the introduction of the 850 T-5 and later the 850 T5R.
That year also saw the TWR / HRT contracted Peter Brock join Volvo. With Tony Scott, Kent Youlden and Jan Lammers Volvo put together a strong and experienced team. Triple MMM and Bridgestone came onboard as the teams major sponsor and Volvo took on the best.
The following years saw huge success with these cars. 1994 saw Volvo have the 850 T5 campaigned by Scott and Brock and the 850 GLT by Lammers and Youlden in the James Hardie 12-Hour at Bathurst. The vehicles were strong all day. The 850 T5 by the 11th hour was up in to 4th and the GLT was leading its class. Unfortunately in this hour saw the GLT have an incident with another car putting it out of the race and the T5 experienced gearbox problems but still managed to finish the race.
The same drivers and Volvo cars also competed in the Sandown 500 endurance support race both finishing in the top 5, the Cannon Ball Run in a 850 T5 wagon and the Production Car Championship coming a very credible 3rd overall.
1995 saw again the Volvo doing the 12-hour this time both cars went all the way. The T5 finish 3rd behind the RX7's and the GLT won its class. We were also joined full time by Macalister Racing campaigning the factory built 850T5R in the Improved Production / Manufactures championship Class right up till when Volvo again pulled out of racing internationally in 1998. Volvo in 1995 also campaigned in the Phillip Island Classic Endurance Race, the Winton Endurance Race, the Calder Night Endurance Classic and the Production Car Series. Results were very good with the Volvo's finishing in the top ten in all races. 1995 was the last year the T5 and the GLT was raced. But by then Volvo had proved it's point.
Volvo enters the Australian Super Touring Championships.
1994 also saw the arrival in to Australia of a single retired BTCC Volvo Super Tourer Wagon. This wagon was being tested by TWR / George Sheppard in the Valvoline Australian Manufacturers Championship. Strong results proved to Volvo Australia that this class of racing was worth investing in. The car proved to be competitive based on the current cars being tested for the Australian Super Touring Championship that will start in 1995. So Volvo Australia committed to entering and running the car in the newly set up 1995 Championship.
1995 saw a full assault by the Volvo factory / TWR, Tony Scott driven 850 wagon. A mixed season saw a top 10 finishes. Volvo finished the year with 57 points in 8th spot. The wagon proved a crowd favourite and a fantastic marketing exercise for the brand.
1996 was the introduction of a new car and a new championship. BOC Gases came aboard and the class was renamed as the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championships. TWR sent over from the BTCC one of the 850 sedans they campaigned that year. The car was automatically more competitive and generational better. Volvo also nailed the services of Peter Brock to driver for that year. The 850 unfortunately was held back with reliability issues and Peter never coming to grips with the high-powered front wheel drive concept. But Volvo still put in a strong performance in every race, usually sitting in the top 5.
Volvo finished the year in 6th spot with 71 points. But there was a change in the wings. 1996 their was a rift developing between Volvo / TWR and Holden / HRT, TOGA and TEGA, Channel Seven and Channel 10. There were some serious issues involved but seam to be centred on Peter Brock. Holden was going to pull support from HRT unless Peter Brock dropped his commitment to Volvo and only concentrated on Holden. In the Bathurst 1000 it came to a head and to keep the peace Volvo / TWR agreed to release Brock out of the Volvo Support race drive. Jim Richards through was uncontracted to anyone. He had been looking at the development of the Volvo's for a couple of years, so he approached Volvo for a drive. Volvo / TWR quickly arranged the re-entry of the Volvo to be driven by Jim Richards and a legendry relationship was born. In that support race Jim in horrendous wind and rain, instantly fell in to a grove with the 850. He put the car on the front row for the support 30-lap race on Saturday and then in identical conditions for the race as qualifying mowed down first the BMW's then the very favoured for the conditions, Audi AWD's to take a stunning victory in the race.
1997 saw Jim Richards sign fulltime with Volvo. Volvo Australia also got the updated BTCC 850 that Jim Richards drove and Tony Scott campaigned the old 1996 vehicle. The cars were repainted to the new Silver and blue Prime sponsored colours. With a new car to have to develop again and an aging second car the year again was challenging. But the 850 suddenly in the hands of Jim started to get very fast indeed. In fact in the last 4 races of the year Jim got podium finishes. The year's results ended up with Jim in 5th spot and on 111points in the championship and Tony in a credible 16th with 7 points. Volvo finished in 3rd spot with 154 points in the Manufacturers Championship and in 5th for the Teams Championship with 25 points.
The V8's and the Super Tourers also were split apart at the start of the year as well. So in 1997 the Super Tourers and the V8's ran their own Bathurst 1000 races. Jim Richards with Richard Rydell took the 850 to 3rd spot in the race and Tony Scott with Ed Ordynski in the older 850 unfortunately had a racing incident with a competitor that put them out. But a fantastic effort from Jim and Richard made people sit-up and take notice of a new breed of Volvo on track.
1998 again saw a new Volvo arrive from the BTCC championship. It was the highly successful, compact and sexy S40 that Richard Rydell took out the BTCC championship with. So again Jim had to learn to drive a new car and development had to be put in. But unlike the 850's the S40 was instantly competitive. Basically the Volvo was suddenly giving the BMW's and Audi's a real hard time. Jim finished the year in 3rd spot with 163 points (only a hand full of points separated the BWM's, Audi's and Volvo) and Volvo got second place in the Manufacturers championship with 186 points.
But if the Championship results weren't already impressive then the results Jim and the S40 nailed at the Super Turning Bathurst that year was stunning. Jim and Richard teamed up again. The S40 was sitting on the front row and right from the drop of the flag just made competitors play catch-up. A second car was entered being driven by A Morbidelli and Win Percy. This car too was as quick as the leading car. Volvo scored a stunning 1 + 2 victory in the 1998 Bathurst 1000 race. Unfortunately 1998 was the year again Volvo pulled out of Motor sport. But in Australia we were given one more year to race and what a way to finish.
1999 ment no more Volvo's racing internationally. So Australia got all the remaining BTCC cars. 1999 saw a flood of S40's in the championship. Stunning results followed. In the Drivers Championship 2nd was Jim Richards with 262pts, 6th was Mark Adderton with 75pts, 13th was Cameron McLean with 23pts and 14th was Mark Williamson on 17pts. But in the Manufacturers Championship 1st went to Volvo on 294pts. Also, in the teams event, 1st when to Volvo Racing on 407pts. Jim Richards was 2 points of first in the Drivers Championship and unfortunately in the last race a pit stop incident put him from first to second in the race and he ended up loosing the race by only ½ a car length to the BMW. In Bathurst that year the S40's attached and came up again with top 3 finishes and all cars finished in the top ten.
Unfortunately the fantastic results in the BTCC, the German Turning Car Championships, the European Car Championships and in Australia / Asia, was not enough to convince Volvo Car Corporation and Ford USA to keep the Volvo Racing Program running. The 1999 season in Australia was the last races Volvo did internationally under their racing program and the 850's; S40's were placed in to storage or crushed. Currently Volvo is campaigning the S60 R's in the European Touring Car Championship under the hands of privateers.
They are also currently running a GREEN Car that runs on 85% Ethanol which is a C30 in the Swedish Touring Car Championships. This is a Factory backed program. So who knows what the future holds.
But as far as the 850's / S40's / S60's and C30's are concerned a REVOLVOLUTION is about to occur. It's called VSV RACING.
To find out how to become a sponsor of VSV Racing jst go to our Sponsor VSV link from the racing Program tab.