MONDAY 15 FEBRUARY 2010
SIMONSEN STARTS SEASON WITH CLASS WIN AT BATHURST 12 HOUR
Allan Simonsen had only just finished racing at Bathurst in a V8 Supercar, last October, when the phone rang. It was his Australian friend Marcus Zukanovic.

"Hey Allan, said Marcus, how you like to come back to Bathurst in a completely untested car for the 12 Hour, in February?"

It was a slightly bizzare request, but Allan knew the reason behind it.

Zukanovic was making his racing return after a year following a huge Winton testing crash, in his V8 Supercar. The car was destroyed and Marcus had been badly injured. Now it was time to assemble the best team and debut a very unusual Mustang.

No one anywhere in the world had raced a Mustang of this type before, with its supercharged 5.4 litre V8 engine.

Sure, there was the Multimatic FR500C and a bunch of variants used in America, to great success, but they were normally aspirated and used a 302 cubic inch engine. They'd also had the benefit of significant testing on a four-poster rig!

Yet, against all odds including the weather, a large contingent of EVO's and an enormous tree, Allan Simonsen and his two co-drivers – Jason Bright and Marcus Zukanovic, brought the slithering 2WD car home to take honours in the invitational class.


Let us rewind a little.

Three Shelby Mustangs arrived by container, from America, in November 2009 and were, once the typically difficult customs precedures were dealt with, delivered to the Marcus Zukanovic's Action Racing HQ, in Sunshine, Melbourne.


There had been a small delay getting the items through the import authorities – it centred around two halves of a Mustang, which were simply allocated for spares. But with the powers-to-be getting an inkling that perhaps a fourth car could be welded together, avoiding duty, the process slowed.

The problem was soon solved, and the GT500's were quickly dispatched to their final destination.

As Christmas approached, things had progressed, but only slightly. This was due to the amount of research required to determine the best components to be used.

Initallly the suspension package was to be built around the Dynamic Suspension product, but after chats with experts in England and Canada, it was established that the FR500C's had not yet used the DSSV dampers, rather a Sachs variant. Consequently a local shock builder was engaged.

With the engine development already under control, major efforts were shifted to braking and safety systems.

Christmas was soon upon the team and everyone, quite rightly so, deserved a good rest, before the new year started. It would be a very busy January.


Marcus and Allan had become good friends during season 2005 where they raced against each other in V8 Utes. Simonsen was now a veteren of 24 Hour races, with three Le Mans, Dubai, Daytona and Britcar 'around the clock' sportcar challenges, along with the '03 Bathurst 24 Hour – experience vital for enduro events.

As the build continued, the search for a third driver went on.

Marcus was determined to have a star line-up – he knew that his return would be scruitinised by others and having a pay driver, who was off the pace, was not a suitable option. And so Jason Bright accepted the offer to drive the Mustang and relished the chance since he'd no experience in production based machinery to date.

Fast forward to Wednesday 10th February. The race car is now complete and is taken down to Rob Herrod's operation and put on the dyno. It's then packed in the Action Racing transporter and settles in for a night trip to Bathurst.

Marcus is up early on Thursday morning and flies to Sydney, meeting Allan Simonsen, who has flown in from Copenhagen for the short flight to Bathurst.

Arriving late morning, they find Car #71 looking splendid in pit bay #21 and at 1.3pm it is unvieled to the gathered media alongside previous winners. Lots of attention is on the 'Stang! Applause from everyone.
The weather forecast did not look promising, as the team enjoyed their first dinner together. Wet practice on Friday and heavy rains predicted for both Saturday and Sunday. Not at all ideal conditions, which seemed to diffuse some of the anticipation from the dozen or so 4WD turbo teams.

Friday practice was more of a familiarisation session than anything else - a chance to iron out the bugs and fine tune the setup.

Marcus was first out and turned a 2.38.52 in wet condition, equating to 13th. There were 9 EVO X's in front of him - not a bad effort!

By P2, the trio had elevated themselves to 7th (2.34.13) with benchmark EVO's dominating the first six places. The Mustang was now showing what a force it would be in the dry. And this was day one of its race career.
Marcus Zukanovic (L), Allan and Jason Bright

The encouraging pace of the Mustang on its very first day was the talk of pitlane that evening and as the Action Racing team sat down to a delicious meal of roasted pork belly, prepared by the team in-house chefs, spirits were high.

Saturday's forecast was not, however, so positive and that was confirmed as morning approached.

Heavy rains through the night had washed what little rubber had been laid down during Friday's practice. On top of that, Mount Panorama itself, was shrouded in fog.

With qualifying set down for mid afternoon, there was no point in doing anything silly in P3.

Jason Bright ventured out first before Allan took over. It was extremely wet indeed and with Marcus finishing off the session, the best time they could achieve was 2.57.21 – over 14 seconds off the lead Mitusbishi EVO X RS of Bob Pearson, Jason Bargwanna and Targa Tasmania winner Steve Glenney.

The lack of pace was also attributed to a misfire, traced to fuel contamination.

By a stroke of luck, the gods shone down on Australia's favourite track just in time for qualifying.

Marcus then put in a sterling effort to record 10th fastest (2.32.38) – almost 7 seconds quicker than the day before. Pole went to Steven Owen in an EVO X RS. Only the Gary Holt/Paul Morris/John Bowe BMW broke the all wheel drive stranglehold. To qualify 10th was an enormously satisfying result.

Sunday morning dawned overcast and whilst it was not raining, the track remained wet from earlier drizzle.

Zukanovic took the start, losing a few place to the more nimble 4WD cars, as the big Mustang tried desperately to put its power down. By the end of lap one he was 13th and continued on for five laps before pitting to change tyre compounds. The team took the time to make a few changes, and check various components.

Returning in 38th, the weather changed for the worst and the team resigned itself to focussing on the event as a test session with the possibility of a class win.

As the race progressed, one by one, the EVO's ran into either mechanical trouble or themselves.

Around lunchtime the entire field was forced into a siesta after a huge tree fell across the track at the start of Conrod Straight.

It was a very unusual moment indeed for Australian motor sport.

And as the final moments of the race came to pass, it was the John Bowe BMW that had risen to the top, to take a most unlikely victory against the might of the EVO's.

Post race scruitineering would see the 2nd place EVO of Wall/Wall/Symonds excluded for a technical breach, elevating Glenn Seton and Co. to second place - yet another bridesmaid story for Seto, who seems destined to never win at The Mountain.



Marcus brought the Action Racing Shelby Cobra GT500 home in 32nd place, after several lengthy pitstops, to claim the win in the invitational class. No, it wasn't the outright victory they had hoped for, but to simply finish was a top effort all round. The driver lineup had been right but the car simply too new and untested. It did however fire a warning salvo to everyone else, that come February 2011, things will be very different.

As Allan Simonsen flies home to Denmark to start his Le Mans Series campaign with Farnbacher Hankook in a Ferrari 430 GT2, Jason Bright wings his way to debut his new BJR prepped V8 Supercar at Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina circuit, Marcus has his attention focused on the 2010 Fujitsu Series, where he'll return to full-time competition at the sensational street circuit that is the Clipsal 500 Adelaide. It's a busy time to everyone.