Suzuki Swift racing in the 1990s: the carnage cup

Dean Evans
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This week, while we celebrate the latest Suzuki Swift, it’s also the perfect time to rewind almost 30 years to the 1995 Kumho Suzuki Cup. Run only one year by Ateco, Suzuki Australia distributor, it was a superbly popular one-make series that really allowed driver talent to shine.

Thirty cars: an impressively big starting grid (with very small cars).

Now catalogued from VHS onto YouTube, with almost 30 cars in the field, running as a support category to the V8 Australian Touring Car Championship, the Swift GTis visited the likes of Eastern Creek, Oran Park, Lakeside, Sandown and the jewel in the crown, Mt Panorama for the Bathurst 1000.

The cars were all identical 74kW, twin-cam, 1.3-litre second-gen Suzuki Swift GTi models, with roll cages, racing seats and harnesses, standard suspension and Kumho road tyres, all the cars stored, maintained, and transported by a single company based at Eastern Creek.

1st, 2nd and 3rd in the 1995 championship, in order, Adam Clarke (32), Andrej Pavicevic (17) and Warren Luff (2).

There were a lot of famous Christian names in the series, such as Christian Jones, son of F1 champ Alan, V8 Supercars director/manager Damien White, Darren Palmer (son of Ross Palmer Tube Mills/Dick Johnson sponsor) Paul Roman, son of Roman Autotek/Momo/Recaro importer Bob Roman, plus F3 and Swift production car champ Andrej Pavicevic, Sydney rotary specialist Ric Shaw, and many more with links to motorsport.

So competitive and closely fought was the series, that it created its own level of carnage, with some major crashes that drivers were lucky to escape alive, much less without major injury.

Tim Shaw at Oran Park: hit at the front, ended on his side.

Dentist Phil Whalley suffered a massive crash at Sandown Raceway, where he barrel-rolled his white Swift multiple times in practice, an iconic image of the car upside down, his and a later crash contributing towards the introduction of side window nets.

Phil Whalley's horrific crash at Sandown.

Tim Shaw had a major frontal impact at Oran Park, ending on his side, but the biggest incident was Glenn Mason at Mt Panorama, when turning into the chase, clipped the inside kerb, which flipped and barrel-rolled his Suzuki so violently, it jumped the concrete fence and ended up 50 metres outside the track boundaries and making the nightly news.

Biggest incident was Glenn Mason at Mt Panorama; he walked away.

Thankfully, luck meant that the driver’s compartment was the least impacted area in the many bounces of the accident and Glenn escaped with his life. And only minor cuts.

The series was won by Adam Clarke (ahead of Pavicevic and Luff), a dirt Speedway racer, who claimed many more wins and championships on dirt, after the Suzuki series was sadly not renewed after just one very eventful but successful season.

To watch the 1995 telecast rounds of the series, start at round 1, here.

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