18 June, 2022
Steve racing ahead
FRESH from his latest appearance at the renowned Mt Panorama track, Caboolture racer Steve Hay is already planning his next campaign in his iconic Holden VK Commodore.
“The car is in for a full rebuild, we suffered electrical issues in the Bathurst 12 Hour support races, it turned out moisture got into a sensor and fried the electronics,” Mr Hay said.
Fixing the problem saw Mr Hay making a rush trip to Sydney on the Friday, to have the electronic control unit rebuilt and reprogrammed, before returning to Bathurst for the Saturday races.
“The car is iconic, it attracts plenty of attention everywhere we go, even at Bathurst, the car was a real people magnet, fans were coming from everywhere to see it, walking past Porsches, Audis and Lamborghinis to get to our car.
“I wasn’t going to go, but then I got a call and was invited to attend as the reigning champion, because there was no 2021 race.”
Mr Hay said he had been into motorsport his whole life, with his first car another attention grabber, this time a Torana SL/R 5000.
“I was working at a Bob Jane tyre shop in Victoria, and in 1980, I got to drive the Bob Jane ute around Calder, with the reigning World Champion, Alan Jones in the back sitting on the huge wing they used to have, waving to the crowd.
“After that, I decided I had to get involved myself, so I started doing sprints and hillclimbs in the Torana.”
A succession of cars followed, including a ‘Brock’ HDT Commodore road car, before he moved to Queensland in 1996.
“After arriving up here, I built a VX Commodore to enter at Targa Tasmania, and then Lakeside Park re-opened, so I decided to convert it into a Queensland Touring Car Championship (QTCC) ‘Big Banger’.”
With the racing bug well and truly in his blood, Mr Hay decided to run in the ‘Excel Cup’, a series for identical Hyundai Excels, and won the series in 2012.
“The Excels were great, for race craft, it taught me a lot, how to run with other cars, and techniques like how to hold corner speed.”
Despite being a big fan of the Excel Series, Mr Hay said he decided to leave the class when he was also driving a V8 Commodore.
“I decided to get out of the Excel when I was driving the Commodore at the same time, they are totally different driving styles, and I decided to focus on the QTCC.
“I won the championship in 2016, then came second in 2017 and third in 2018, I sort of did it back to front!”
A decision to change categories and build a new car followed in 2019, with the construction of the VK Commodore for the ‘Replica Touring Car’ class.
“I always liked the ‘old school’ cars, I had a VK at home, it was already caged, I had actually bought it to turn it into a road car, but then I started to build it up, and the bug bit again.”
An ex-police BT1 model, the VK Commodore had spent time as a a race car, but Mr Hay decided he would build it into a replica of the dominant VK HDT Commodores from 1984, complete with the famous ‘Dayglo Orange’ paintwork.
“It has developed over the years, now it has a Supercars differential, a strengthened Holinger six-speed sequential gearbox and an 800 horsepower Chevrolet LS-X motor.
“It also has Supercar brakes, Murray Coote suspension, and the roll cage was replaced by Garry Rogers Motorsport in Melbourne.”
With the car performing at its peak in 2020, Mr Hay took it to Bathurst for the first time, winning the 12 Hour race’s support category.
“I also took it to The Bend in rural South Australia to run as a ‘Super Tin Top’, where I claimed the pole position with fastest qualifying lap.”
With the rebuild now underway, Mr Hay said the goal is to have it complete and ready to run in the Supercar 1000 support races at Bathurst in October.
“It shouldn’t take too long, it is mostly the electrical and fuel system we are focusing on now.”
Describing the car as ‘amazing’, Mr Hay said it sounds like a Supercar from the driver’s seat.
With a business building replica Group C and Group A touring cars, Mr Hay said this pays for his racing.
“We do a lot of Peter Brock and Allan Grice Commodores and Brock A9X Toranas, as well as a replica of the VK Commodore ‘Blue Meanie’ HDT VK Commodore road car.”
While there are plenty of Holden projects, Mr Hay said they have also built a number of Dick Johnson replica ‘Tru Blu’ Falcons from the early 1980s.
“My car cost about $100,000, winning isn’t cheap.”
Although he has raced mostly Holdens and Hyundais, Mr Hay said there have been a number of ‘one off’ or short term drives in other cars.
“I raced a Toyota 86 and an Excel at Bathurst as well, there has been quite a big variety, we also built a current model Mustang to go Series Production racing, but it doesn’t give the same feeling.
“I have thought about returning to the Excel Series, I think I am driving better than ever, and I have done some driver training with Porsche racer Bailey Hall, I think I could give them a shake up.”
While the other categories are enjoyable, Mr Hay said he always comes back to the VK Commodore.
“The look and the sound of it, an iconic looking car, people remember Brock having one, I thought about changing it, but everyone loves it, it is a definite crowd pleaser.”