Reality Cheque- Allan Moffat Racing Eggenberger Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth

 

For much of the 1960s and 1970s, Allan Moffat was one of Ford's top factory drivers. All four of his Bathurst victories came in Falcons between 1970 and 1977, with only one (1974) as a privateer.

After losing Ford factory support in the late 1970s, Allan Moffat had to seek new funding for his racing efforts. He initially ran privateer Falcons, before controversially running a Mazda RX7. Moffat retired at the end of the Mazda deal and became a commentator.

In 1986 he came out of retirement to join Peter Brock’s Holden Dealer Team. Although the pair had some success, it was a short-lived partnership. Moffat knew that to be competitive, he needed a Sierra.

With backing from ANZ Bank, Moffat leased an Andy Rouse Ford Sierra for Sandown, Bathurst and Calder Park in 1987. The latter two were part of the World Touring Car Championship that year. It was the fifth car built by Rouse, and which due to a lack of funding, had not competed in the full WTCC season. It had, however, finished sixth in the 1987 Spa 24 Hour. Moffat and Rouse were joined by Thierry Tassin for Bathurst. Rouse qualified second at Bathurst, splitting the Eggenberger Sierras. Unfortunately, at all three, the Moffat/Rouse Sierra retired before Allan got to drive it. He still believed a Sierra was the right car, just not a Rouse Sierra.

For the 1988 season, Moffat did the impossible. He managed to source a customer car from Swiss team, Eggenberger. It was the first time Eggenberger had sold a works-specification Sierra, identical to the ones they ran for Ford in the ETCC.

An Eggenberger Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth, prepares by Allan Moffat with generous ANZ Bank sponsorship. It should have steamrolled the competition. The arrival of the Eggenberger Sierra had Dick Johnson Racing concerned. Although they had experience with the Sierra that Moffat didn't, Eggenberger had a strong reputation.

Moffat debuted the Sierra in round four at Perth’s Wanneroo Park, where he retired. He continued to race in the ATCC for the remainder of the season. With the main focus being the endurance races, Moffat ran a conservative program while he became familiar with the Sierra. Even so, the performance of his car, one of the most expensive in the championship, frustrated Moffat. He struggled to keep pace with the front-running Dick Johnson Racing Sierras, despite Eggenberger’s significantly greater resources. Only Tony Longhurst managed to beat DJR in the 1988 ATCC. Moffat's best result was a credible third at Lakeside, showing that the car had untapped potential.  

Meanwhile, the Rouse car leased the previous year won five races on the way to class victory in the WTCC.

Moffat, along with most of the other Ford teams, skipped the Oran Park 250, despite the endurance race preparation opportunity it represented.

The 1988 Sandown 500 was the last one to be held on the old International layout. Moffat was joined in the #9 Sierra by Gregg Hansford. Moffat qualified seventh, four seconds behind pole sitter Dick Johnson. With Glenn Seton out with a broken gearbox, Tony Longhurst suffering a broken driveshaft, and Johnson and Bowe’s car overheating, Moffat made up ground and was fighting George Fury and Larry Perkins for the lead. Moffat won his sixth Sandown 500 by 31 seconds over Larry Perkins and Denny Hulme. Johnson limped home on the starter motor for third. Sandown 1988 was Moffat's last race win in Australia

For Bathurst, Moffat and Hansford were joined by Eggenberger driver Klaus Niedzwiedz. Niedzwiedz won the Toohey’s Dozen shoot-out, although, under FISA regulations, it was not for pole position. Despite the obvious speed, The ANZ Sierra wasn't a target for Tom Walkinshaw’s protest. Walkinshaw instead only protested against the Australian-built Sierras of DJR, Longhurst and Colin Bond. Moffat, Hansford, and Niedzwiedz lead for most of the race until a restart following a lengthy safety car period caused the engine to overheat.

In 1989, AMR did not enter a car in the ATCC. The #9’s first race for 1989 was the Sandown 500, where engine problems saw Moffat, Hansford and Pierre Dieudonné retire. Moffat secured a second Eggenberger Sierra for Bathurst. The #10 was built specifically to win Bathurst. A Bathurst 1000 win had so far eluded Ruedi Eggenberger, whose Sierras crossed the line first and second in 1987 before being disqualified several months later. To ensure the best chance of victory, #10 was rolled out as a brand new car that had never been raced. Niedzwiedz was given the choice of which car he'd start with. He chose the #10 and made the shoot-out with a 2:17:02. In the shoot-out, he was beaten by fellow Sierra drivers Johnson, Peter Brock, and Longhurst. Ruedi blamed defective tyres, but speeds recorded on Mountain and Conrod straights were well down on the Australian built Sierras and suggested a lack of power.

Moffat, Hansford, and Dieudonné in the #9 overheated on lap 30, but the #10 kept on going. It was no match for Johnson and Bowe’s Sierra, however. The #10 finished second, a minute behind Johnson and Bowe.

The #9’s next event was Japan's Fuji 500. Held on Moffat's 50th birthday, the car ran the #39, Moffat's birth year. After Moffat and Niedzwiedz won the race. Moffat quietly decided to retire again.

Although no longer racing himself, Moffat continued to operate his team. The #9 returned to Sandown in 1990, joined and by the #10 at Bathurst. Niedzwiedz and Hansford suffered a blown turbo at Sandown. It was now three DNFs from three Bathurst starts. In the #10, Niedzwiedz secured pole with a new shot out record time of 2:13:94. The race did not get off to a good start, with Niedzwiedz jumping the start and earning a 1-minute penalty. Not that starting it really mattered. Despite starting 11th, Jim Richards, in a Nissan Skyline GTR, made it to the front in seven laps. Then on lap 80, #10’s diff failed. Niedzwiedz was moved into  #9 while #10 underwent repairs. #10 returned 25 minutes later with Dieudonné driving. Following this, #9’s diff failed as well, putting it out of the race. The #10 fought back to finish 10th, despite the time penalty.

ANZ left Moffat's team in 1991 as part of broader cost-cutting measures. Without a sponsor, Moffat was late to re-sign Hansford and lost him to fellow Ford team Glenn Seton Racing. Moffat eventually found sponsorship from Cenovis vitamins. To make matters worse, Eggenberger’s development efforts had shifted from Group A Sierras to DTM Opel Omegas. Ruedi didn't attend Bathurst that year, due to a scheduling clash with a DTM race at Brno. This also meant that Niedzwiedz and Dieudonné were unavailable. A completely new driver lineup consisted of Gary Brabham and Steve Millen in the #9 and Gianfranco Brancatelli and Charlie O’Brien in the #10. The #10 and #9 started 12th and 15th respectively. A steady approach to the race saw them rise to sixth (#10) and eighth (#9), before a turbo failure put the #9 out of the race. Moffat then gave O’Brien permission to push harder to try and grab the final podium place from the GIO Nissan of Mark Gibbs and Rowan Onslow. O’Brien couldn't quite get there, finishing fourth. During post-race scrutineering, the Moffat cars’ diff ratios were found to be 0.017 out and were disqualified. After consulting with other teams, the disqualification was overturned. It was later reinstated by the CAMS tribunal.

Group A was to replaced be replaced by Group 3A 5.0L touring cars in 1993, leaving the Sierra unable to race in Australia. 1992, then was the last chance for Moffat to win Bathurst with a Sierra. The cars once again were not raced leading up to Bathurst and were upgraded with Australian six-speed Hollinger gearboxes. In the #9 were O’Brien and Brabham.The #10 was once again driven by Niedzwiedz and Hansford. The Moffat/Eggenberger cars had fallen behind DJR and this was reflected in their qualifying results. Niedzwiedz could only manage 10th and O’Brien 13th. Ruedi was unimpressed, although Moffat felt a steady pace was more important than qualifying and still believed they could win. Unfortunately, reliability issues once again plagued the Moffat Sierras. The #10, had a DNF for the first time, while #9 finished 22nd. It was actually the first time it managed to finish Bathurst.

Bathurst 1992 marked the end of both cars’ Australian professional racing careers. The #10 had only competed in four races, all at Bathurst. It was sold to Malaysian collector David Wong, who kept it in an air conditioned garage under his house and never drove it. Under its current ownership, it Is once again in active service, competing in historic touring car events. The #9 was sold to New Zealand, and it's current whereabouts remain a mystery.

Allan Moffat's Ford Sierra program never managed to live up to its potential. Reliability and a lack of speed compared with locally-developed cars held them back initially before Eggenberger seemed to lose interest. Moffat acquired an EB Falcon and continued to enter a car at Bathurst with Cenovis backing. Like the Sierras the Falcon only ever raced at Bathurst.