HTC Competitor Profile: Frank Binding and The Army Reserve XD Falcon Group C

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HTC Competitor Profile: Frank Binding and The Army Reserve XD Falcon Group C

Frank Binding’s Army Reserve XD Falcon Group C will be unleashing its magnificently-liveried muscle upon Sydney Retro Racefest this June 11th and 12th Queen’s Birthday long weekend.

The car began its life as a Ford highway patrol car, which Bob Muir bought and built up with running gear from an ex-Colin Bond Falcon XC Touring Car. The project was completed on a shoestring thanks to an interesting sponsorship idea.

When Bob saw a Formula 5000 car running under Navy sponsorship in the United States, he got the idea to approach the Army Reserves for sponsorship. At the time he was running a car yard, so he charged one of his top salesmen with the job of approaching the Army Reserves and building a relationship.

They were successful, so the team was able to get a budget together that would allow them to complete the car and run at Sandown and Bathurst. The 1980 Hang Ten 400 would be the site for the car’s debut, with Bob and Kingsley Hibbard on board as drivers.

Sadly, the Falcon would not hang ten for the full 400, and retired just seven laps into the race. The team wouldn’t go much better in the 1980 Hardie-Ferodo 1000, completing seven laps of the iconic Mount Panorama circuit before leaving the race.

Bob continued to race the car until the Army Reserves chose not to renew their sponsorship at the end of 1981, and eventually sold it in 1982.

From there it passed between a few more hands, spending time racing as a sports sedan before Frank Binding bought it in 2000.

The Falcon had maintained much of its Group C identity during its time in sports sedans, so with a bit of hard work it could be brought back to its former self. Frank treated it to a full restoration between 2000 and 2001, bringing it back to its 1981 specification.

“The car had done a lot of years as a sports sedan, and had actually been running with us before our category was recognised. It was in good condition – just run on a shoestring budget.”

“Most of the sports sedans ran pretty much as they were, so almost everything other than the engine was as it should be and it wasn’t too difficult to bring it back. A lot of the work was just re-machining and manufacturing parts that were worn out.”

“We basically took the car and built it up to its factory spec. We fully restored everything. All the mechanicals came out, we stripped it back to a bare shell and went from there.”

“It took me a year to complete the restoration, and I’ve been running it for 15 years since! Its first race meeting was at Sandown in 2001.”

Army Reserve XD Falcon Group C

Image thanks to Craig King of CarsMOsport

“It’s been a labour of love really. I enjoy driving it and I enjoy working on it. I used to do every race meeting, but the numbers are so good now I only run it two or three times a year. I’m just out to drive the car hard and enjoy it. We have a responsibility to keep these cars alive for current generations.”

“I did suggest to my wife at one stage that I may sell the car, and she decided that it would never be sold! One day it will be donated to the museum at Bathurst.”

“A lot of cars are put away in private collections and never seen again. Heritage Touring Cars racing is not really about winning, and the spectators aren’t that concerned about who wins in the end. It’s about getting the cars out onto the track for everyone to enjoy, having fun and supporting the community.”

“Not a single race meeting goes by when somebody doesn’t come up to me with a little bit of information on the car that I didn’t know, or who used to be in the Army Reserves and work on the car, or would see it out at Bathurst. Bob Muir comes out time to time and looks at the car and will occasionally have a bit of a moment for it.”

Army Reserve XD Falcon Group C

“It’s one of the things that makes the category great. People relate to it really well because most of the cars were road cars before they were race cars and you’d see cars just like them on the street. It’s very different today, when the cars are nothing like the road cars they come from.”

“Our cars are also very different from each other. They have different strengths and weaknesses that make the racing varied and exciting.”

“Eastern Creek, or Sydney Motorsport Park as it’s now known, is a good circuit. I’ve been running there since the first ever race meeting on the track! It’s a nice place to run and a good drivers’ circuit. It’s fast and flowing, so it suits the car and you can really open it up!”

Frank’s not just a long-time Heritage Touring Cars racer – he’s one of the category’s founding fathers.

“I started my racing in the mid-‘80s in a Group N Mini, which tried on several occasions to kill me. I worked out that there was probably something better in life than a Mini!”

“One morning I woke up and decided that I wanted to own a Group C touring car. I originally wanted to buy an a9x, but ended up with a Bob Holden Escort!”

Army Reserve XD Falcon Group C

Image thanks to Craig King of CarsMOsport

“We started running events with Mick Ronke down at Winton and eventually incorporated the association back in about 1997.”

“Back then we probably had a dozen cars in total, so we ran an ad in the local motoring magazines to attract more competitors. Luke West and Mark Oastler gave us a lot of recognition through their work in magazines, as did Mick, who owned Winton at the time. They sent a lot of people our way and I’m really thankful of that.”

“I remember one day Mark told me “It’s a great idea Frank, but I don’t think it’ll ever get there!” He rang me a few years back to happily admit that he’d been wrong!”

“Once we had Group C up and running we were given an ultimatum by CAMS to go historic, or go to the dinosaurs. So we did that, and then began work on Group A.”

“I was the chairman of the association for eleven years, and just stood down from the board about two years ago. It’s nice to go motor racing and chat with people and not worry about all of the logistics that go along with making it happen!”

“I don’t think I’ve ever come across a category that has as strong a camaraderie within the group. There’s a lot of respect out on the track and a lot of commitment to preserving the cars.”

“That said, there’s a fairly strong commitment to beat the guy in front of you as well! It’s just not done at the cost of that guy in front of you.”

“We got it going nearly 20 years ago and in that time we worked hard to get the category where it is. Now we’re able to enjoy what we’ve built, and the current team is doing an exceptional job of maintaining the category and moving it forward.”

“I’m confident that they’re going to keep things that way, and I’m pleased to see it in good hands. Everyone involved at the moment should be very proud of it and I’d like to thank everyone for their dedication, passion and hard work.”

“The number an quality of cars is just going to keep improving, and those of us who have custodianship of them are in a very fortunate position. We’re having lots of fun, and the camaraderie between us is better than any other category I’ve raced with in my time.”

The Heritage Touring Cars Series will return to race tracks and contest Round 3 of the 2016 series this Queen’s Birthday long weekend, over the 11th and 12th of June, at Sydney Retro Racefest. Be there!

Spectator passes are now available for purchase through the Sydney Motorsport Park website, and will also be available at the track on both days. Entry for kids under 12 is free.

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