Rover 3500 SD1: British V8 muscle on the Mountain

08 July 2014
Double trouble. The pair of Mobil-backed Rover Vitesses that stormed Mount Panorama in 1984 left a lasting impression of TWR’s battle-hardened speed and efficiency. The winning Rover V8 crushed its feeble Group A competition to win by four laps.

Tom Walkinshaw Racing delivered Jaguar’s first and only Bathurst 1000 victory in 1985 with its howling XJ-S V12 coupes. Perhaps less known is that TWR also ran booming V8-powered Rover SD1s there the previous year, which dominated the new Group A ‘preview’ class and showed that the muscular British sedan was poised to become a serious contender in Aussie tin-top racing.

However, the Rover V8 threat never emerged when Australia dumped its home-grown Group C rules in favour of the FIA’s international Group A class in 1985. There was no factory presence by Jaguar Rover Australia in the Australian Touring Car Championship that year, as the company’s energies were focused on TWR’s three-car Jaguar assault at Bathurst in October.

Only one privately-entered SD1 driven by WA’s Tim Slako appeared in the 1985 ATCC at selected rounds and only two competed at Bathurst that year with mixed results. The Rover V8 presence in local touring car racing was almost non-existent in 1986. The promise shown by the SD1s at Bathurst in 1984 went nowhere.

The 1985 ETCC battle between the works Rovers and Volvos was a cracker. The speed TWR was able to extract from these naturally aspirated 3.5 litre V8 machines was remarkable given the increasing power outputs of the turbocharged Swedish cars. It was an ominous sign of things to come. Image: www.roversd1.nl

In stark contrast, the factory-backed Rovers campaigned by TWR in the European Touring Car Championship in 1985 and 1986 were highly competitive.

The fierce combat between Rover, BMW, Volvo and Ford works teams during this exciting period produced some of the best tin-top racing ever seen in the ETCC, with gripping contests also fought out in the courtrooms over vehicle legalities.

Unfortunately, despite their prodigious speed and durability, the works TWR Rovers were narrowly denied victory in both the 1985 and 1986 ETCCs, despite taking each title fight right down to the final bell.

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