HTC Competitor Profile: Steve Axisa and the Isuzu Gemini PF60


HTC Competitor Profile: Steve Axisa and the Isuzu Gemini PF60

Steve Axisa is one half of a dynamic duel that has been raging throughout the 2016 Heritage Touring Cars series. He enters the final round of the series, the immense Muscle Car Masters, just a third of a point behind current Group C class leader Russell Keam.

Steve Axisa. “I was born in the week leading up to Bathurst in 1969, so I didn’t stand a chance! I grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s watching the best era of motorsport, and TV campaigns like ‘Hey Charger’ all had an impact on me.”

“My first car was an LJ Torana, my wife and I were married in a Torana and I’ve owned a Torana in one form or another throughout my entire driving life. My passion’s always been with the Holdens.”

“I was drawn to the mechanical aspect of cars from a young age, and motorsport began for me during the ‘90s when I started drag racing. I was at Muscle Car Masters as a spectator one day when a mate of mine had some troubles changing the diff in his JPS BMW, so I pulled up my sleeves to help him.”

“That mate was David Towe, and I helped him out at race meetings for a long while after that. David introduced me to a sport that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to be a part of.”

“After a few years, David pointed out an LJ XU-1 Torana with a race history for sale. A few days later, I’d bought it sight unseen and was on my way to the Sunshine Coast to trailer it home.”

Steve Axisa and the Isuzu Gemini PF60

“While going through the Certificate of Description process for the Torana, I decided to see if I could actually race in a format that featured corners, so I bought an Isuzu Gemini that was already competing.”

“I’d not really cared much for the Geminis growing up, but the years racing mine have given me a great respect for the car’s ability, and I’ve grown very fond of it! It’s fast in the bends thanks to its low weight and wide tyres and rims. It’s also gentle on the wallet in terms of a racing budget, and that made it an excellent car in which to get started racing.”

“It got me competing and having fun with some of the best and most famous cars from the Group C and Group A era. It’s the best buzz ever!”

Steve Axisa and the LJ XU-1 Torana

Image thanks to Steve Axisa

HTC. Tell us a little about your cars’ history

S A. “Both of my cars are actually quite standard road cars outside of some suspension changes and, of course, wheels and tyres. The Toarana, for example, has standard road car brakes and disks on the front. The only exception is the drums on the rear, which are Harry Firth specials – finned drums.”

“The Torana XU-1 was originally an ex-Chaser GTR which was sold at auction to Neville Bridges in 1974. Neville campaigned it from 1975 to 1979.”

“It became the last XU-1 to claim points in the Australian Touring Car Championship when it scored sixth at Lakeside in 1977.”

“The car was then used in hill climbs through to the early ‘80s, when Neville sold it to a mate, Mick Glover, who returned it to road car spec. He sold it to another driver, but then bought it back to race in the then-new Nc class.”

“From there it went to the Emsons, and I bought it in 2010 as an ex-Group C racer. I converted it back to Group C specification, although there was not a lot to change. It just required some engine and brake mods, and a coat of paint that I did myself.”

“I’ve painted each of my cars at home in the garage. I try to do the bulk of the prep work leading up to each round myself. I also have some really good mates who help me out at the track so that I don’t have to worry about the mechanical side when competing.”

Steve Axisa and the Isuzu Gemini PF60

“The Gemini started its life as a road car in 1975, but went almost straight into competition. It ran at Bathurst in ’78 and ’79, and picked up a second in class and 22nd outright in the 1979 race, which Brocky won by six laps.”

“The car competed right through until the end of Group C in 1984 and clocked many ATCC miles along the way. In 1982 it was developed to comply with new rules, and received wider tyres, a bigger 1800cc engine, five-speed box and Detroit no-spin diff. It’s running currently in its 1984 Sandown livery.”

“The Gemini has helped me to learn the tracks, and gain experience racing with my fellow competitors. It’s done its job, and allowed me to progress into the LJ, which I have only raced twice. As much as I enjoy racing her, I’ve made the decision to move her on. If you’re looking for an awesome and very competitive Group C car to get into Heritage Touring Cars racing, get in touch!”

Steve Axisa and the LJ XU-1 Torana

HTC. Is the history of the cars and the sport important to you? What draws you to your cars, and the sport?

S A. “It’s not so much the history of the car that’s important to me, although I do want to make sure that it’s accurate.”

“For me, running around in these great cars on the track is just so cool. And the fact that we get to do it on some of the original circuits that the greats competed on back in the day is awesome. I’d love to see some of that generation of drivers on the track with us!”

“The Gemini is better suited to the smaller circuits, like Morgan Park and Wakefield, but I equally enjoy the faster flowing tracks like Sydney Motorsport Park and Phillip Island.”

Steve Axisa and the Isuzu Gemini PF60

HTC. In a few weeks we head to Muscle Car Masters for the season finale. What are your hopes or goals going in to that round?

S A. “Each time I go out, I have one thing that I want to do – bring the car home without failure or damage. If I can achieve that and maintain or improve my own times, then I’ve won. That’s my goal.”

“It’s great to race against your mates, especially in cars that have so much history.”

“The most satisfying round of the year for me would have to be the most recent, at Winton. Russell Keam, David Paterson and I battled all weekend. I think there was less than a second separating all three of us after each lap.”

HTC. What are you looking forward to doing with your car, and within the Heritage Touring Cars Series?

S A. “I am looking forward to progressing my ability and competing in the XU-1 next year once I get some spares together and a new engine for her.”

“The current engine was originally built in 2003 and aside from my two stints over the past two years, last raced in 2006. There are cracks in the block, so a new engine is on the way.”

“I’d like to continue with the series for many years to come. It brings me great happiness and a chance to get away from the day to day stresses of work life. Every time I go out it’s special to me.”

Steve Axisa and the Isuzu Gemini PF60

HTC. What draws you to the Heritage Touring Cars series?

S A. “Mainly, the big Group C cars with the fat flares and raw power! I love the V8s. They are pure.”

“There’s no better way to spend a weekend than listing to the cars I saw on TV growing up. As a kid, I never got a chance to see the cars in the flesh so, for me, it’s like growing up all over again. Only this time I am a part of what I saw on TV.”

“The competition is great. Each competitor values their pride and joy and gives racing room most of the time. We have some truly top blokes racing, and even better blokes looking after the category and doing all of the hard work off the track. They’re dedicated to us on the track so that we can have fun in a safe environment.”

“I love that everyone gets together after every meeting to have a social drink after the racing.”

“And the other side of it is the spectators. I’m always surprised at just how many people come out to see the cars. There is always someone looking at the cars, whether it be the Godzillas, the Aussie muscle cars or the imported cars.”

“We need to preserve as much of the original history of these cars as possible for generations to come. As a proud grandfather, I would love to see my grandkids enjoy these cars first hand at the track, rather than in a book or a museum. They need to be raced and their history preserved.”

Steve Axisa and the LJ XU-1 Torana

HTC. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Steve! All the best for your racing at Muscle Car Masters, and future endeavours.

S A. “I’d like to send a special thanks to my wife Tina, my children Steve and Tori and their partners for supporting me in my chosen sport.”

“I’d also like to thank the team that supports me at every race. Darren Hayward and his wife Kylie and Jason Ashcroft and his Dad. Without them, the car would definitely not run so smoothly and neither would my race weekends.”

“Thanks also to the Sydney Torana Club for their support on the LJ when I needed it.”

The Heritage Touring Cars Series will return to racing over the 29th and 30th of October at Muscle Car Masters to contest the fifth and final round of our 2016 series. Be there!

Spectator passes are now available and can be found through the Muscle Car Masters website. Head to for more details.

For more information stay tuned to

Steve Axisa and the Isuzu Gemini PF60