A Chat with 2014 Group A HTC Champion Terry Lawlor


A Chat with 2014 Group A HTC Champion Terry Lawlor

Leading Image: Ian Welsh of Shifting Focus

2014’s Heritage Touring Car Championship was full of exciting racing, unforgettable duels and good people bringing the history of Group C and Group A Australian touring car racing to life.

The Championship wrapped up at Sandown in November, with John Douglas and Terry Lawlor winning the Peter Brock Trophies for Group C and A respectively.

As we prepare to farewell 2014 and look forward to a fresh and exciting season of competition in 2015, we thought we’d have a chat with John and Terry, to get their perspective on a season well raced.

Let’s hear from our 2014 Group A Heritage Touring Car Champion – Terry Lawlor!

TL. This was our first year with the GTR. Last year we ran the Caltex Sierra, which we really enjoyed. We knew with that car that we were going to have issues once we started pushing it to its limit, and as we started to do well with it we began to have issues with mechanicals.

We ran the Sierra for all of last year and finished with a new lap record at Sandown, but I think we finished only one round all year.

That’s when the opportunity to acquire the GTR arose! I had heard that a few other GTRs were coming into the championship and I wanted to be competitive with them so I was looking around for one. Rod Markland who had owned the GTR had been wanting to take it a little easier, and I wanted to be a bit more competitive so it worked out well for both of us.

We took on the car in January of 2014. The first round of the championship was in March at Phillip Island, so we had a few months to prepare the car to how we wanted to race it.

Terry Lawlor HTC Muscle Car Masters

Image: Robert Mochetti

HTC. Tell us a little about your season – picking up your car just a few months before it began must’ve made things exciting!

TL. The Heritage Touring Car Championship is a competitive championship, and we went into the season with the goal of winning it.

For me the opening round Phillip Island was probably the most memorable round of the season. It was our first round racing the car, and one which we ultimately won which made it very special.

My first impression of the car was that it wasn’t nearly as easy a car to drive as I would’ve thought it to be, particularly at Phillip Island!

Jim Richards was racing his ex-1990 Australian Touring Car Championship Skyline at the same meeting and the two of us were extremely close throughout the weekend. We had some great races and I learned a lot from him. Those duels were probably the highlight of the season for me.

From there we went to Sydney Retro Speedfest, which for as memorable as Phillip Island was, was equally disappointing for us. As one of the organisers of the event I was keen to participate, but then in practice I had issues and had to drop out of the weekend’s racing.

This meant we took home no points as well, which made our goal of winning the championship a little harder!

Morgan Park was next up, and that’s a brilliant circuit. We won the round there and set a new lap record.

It was here that we encountered another challenge in driving the Skyline – standing starts. This was the only standing start in the series as all the other races featured a rolling start. The Skyline really bogs down on the start trying to get all of that power through the four wheels, so although we qualified well I think we dropped five or six places from the start.

Muscle Car Masters was an interesting weekend on several fronts. Firstly we had three different circuits to race on which was a lot of fun and it was interesting to get a feel for all three over the weekend.

We also had really bad weather, which made it the most challenging round of the year. Everyone would think that a four-wheel-drive car would be easy to drive in the wet but it was really quite difficult and I had to re-learn nearly everything about how to drive it.

I actually spun it in the wet! We were sharing a garage with Jim Richards so I went to him and said “Jim, I just spun a four-wheel-drive car. How did I do that?” He explained that you have to keep power on all of the time because putting power through all four wheels actually produces grip.

We won that round as well, and it was very satisfying to overcome that challenge and achieve that success. Jim, regarded as one of the greatest wet weather drivers in the country, was my closest competitor again and it was brilliant to race with him.

It’s one of the great things about this category. Jim is a fantastic competitor but he’s more than happy for anyone to talk to him and ask advice. He drove a GTR back in the era and he’s always happy to talk to you about their characteristics – I’ve learned a lot from him and am very grateful for it.

Going into Sandown we were neck and neck with David Towe in the BMW, with both of us in a good spot to win the championship.

As I mentioned we’d set a new lap record at Sandown in 2013 in the Sierra. This year we were able to best it by a second in qualifying.

We won the first race, but I don’t think we were anywhere near the record. For the second race we had fuel pump issues and actually weren’t even able to make the start. That meant that we were at the rear of the grid for race three and with David so close in the championship race things were going to be very close!

We had to give it everything we could in race three. I think on the first lap I passed twelve cars and by lap five I was at the head of the race. During that time I beat my lap record by some two seconds.

That lap record, based on the current Heritage Touring Car series is a 1:15.9. The best time anyone has ever done in a Group A car is John Bowe in a Sierra back in 1992 and that’s a 1:14.8, so we’re now only a second off the original lap records!

After race three even though I’d won I really didn’t know what the outcome of points would be. David assured me that I would be ahead, and when they tallied everything up it turned out that we’d won.

It’s been a great season and to have achieved our goal in the first year in the car is just magic.

Terry Lawlor HTC Morgan Park

Image: Ian Welsh of Shifting Focus

HTC. What drew you to the Heritage Touring Car Series?

TL. I’m really interested in the heritage that these cars have. When I was a kid I followed the cars with my father, and have done so throughout my entire early life.

It’s what we grew up with, we saw the great battles back in the day. Now to be able to race the same cars that we grew up watching is really good to be involved with.

The drivers from the era are involved as well. We talk to them to learn about the cars and racing. They’re really keen to see the cars back on the track and are more than willing to help.

When we ran recently supporting the V8s at Homebush it was just amazing to see the V8 teams standing up on the pit wall watching us. I remember going around in practice and seeing Dick Johnson up on the wall watching us. He was there all race!

I also like that there’s a lot of respect within Heritage Touring Cars. There’s a no touch rule. Our cars have a great historical and monetary value, and we want to see them preserved and enjoyed, not ruined!

Since joining the category that respect and heritage is what keeps me racing. Also the camaraderie!

The HTC is made up of a really good bunch of blokes, and the category association is taking that to another level. I’m very grateful to be involved in it.

I enjoy the interaction with everyone. When we go to a bigger event, like at Muscle Car Masters, the amount of people who come through the pits and garage and want to explore and talk about cars and their memories is amazing.

It’s just fantastic and by the end of the weekend you don’t have a voice left because you haven’t stopped talking since you got there!

We have a good time racing, but it’s all about the cars and the people and the history.

Terry Lawlor HTC Muscle Car Masters

Image: Brent Murray of At Speed Images

HTC. After such a successful opening season with the GTR in 2014, what are you working towards going into 2015?

TL. This year I wanted to master the car. I feel that I have a good hold on the car now, but I know that there are competitive cars and drivers coming in to the series and it’s only going to get more competitive so I have to stay ahead of the game!

My main aim is to be competitive with the other GTRs. We also know that we’re going to be driving fast and pushing hard, so safety is paramount.

This is particularly true at Bathurst. We have a full field of 55 cars set for Bathurst next year and it’s very exciting and a great honour to race there. I love driving there, but look at how many professionals it catches out – we’re amateurs so we need to keep a lid on it and bring both ourselves and our cars home safely.

To win there at Bathurst would be fantastic. I know that my car was second on the grid – on the front row – in 1991 and came third in the race. I’d like to better that. That’s my goal!

I’ve really enjoyed racing with Jim and David, Craig Markland, Carey McMahon, Bryan Sala, Anthony Compton and all of the guys this year. There are some truly brilliant drivers and cars in the series and it’s an honour to race these special machines amongst them!

All of the guys are great to race with, and with all of the close racing this year we haven’t touched once!

I’d like to say thank you to Mick Mitchell of Corse Automotive who does all of the work on my car along with his team. Jim Selossi runs our transporter and is a great help as well.

And most importantly to my wife, Louise! She has attended every round and takes a keen interest in how I go. A lot of time is devoted to these meetings so I really appreciate her support and love having her with me at the events.

Thank you!

Congratulations to our 2014 Group A Heritage Touring Car Champion Terry Lawlor! Thank you to Terry for taking the time to chat with us and share the story of the 2014 Heritage Touring Car season.