HSV creates a desert storm HSV’s profile and reputation as a dynamic, world-class niche performance vehicle maker continues to grow unabated. Hot on the heels of the company’s recent export triumphs in the UK (the Vauxhall Monaro VXR aka the HSV GTO Coupe) and China (the Buick Royaum Luxury Sport based on the HSV Grange), comes another pivotal success story, this time in the Middle East. With Bahrain International Circuit set to host the opening round of the Formula One season on 12th March 2006, organisers were keen to include a high excitement one-make ‘Pro-celebrity’ race category as part of the support program. Given the smorgasbord of global manufacturers to select from, they chose HSV. Tom Walkinshaw of Holden Motor Sport played a crucial role in negotiating the landmark venture, with strong support also coming from both Holden and General Motors regional staff. “It was clear that we needed to add a real ‘once in a lifetime’ talking point to the track activities”, says Martin Whitaker, General Manager of the Bahrain International Circuit. “People in the Middle East love their cars and the bigger the engine and the more power and noise it makes the better so these cars fit the bill very well, indeed.” Initially, an evaluation vehicle was developed and built at HSV’s Clayton headquarters before being shipped to Bahrain in August 2005. Circuit management was so impressed they immediately ordered a further two cars and, once plans for the category were finalised, placed an order with HSV to build another 17 cars, bringing the total to 20. Each is identically specified with the only difference being three cars also boast a passenger’s seat which makes them suitable to be used for ‘hot lap’ sessions. The speed with which HSV was able to respond to the challenge of developing and producing this unique run of vehicles on a tight schedule is a clear testament to the diverse expertise, versatility and ‘can do’ attitude of the company’s staff. Indeed, from within its ranks HSV was able to call on engineering and production staff who boasted motor sport experience from diverse disciplines including V8 Supercar, rallying and Formula One. An engineering team was formed to design the unique specification of the car and coordinate with specialist external suppliers. Inside HSV’s Clayton manufacturing facility a dedicated area was set up to handle the production process. Here, each base vehicle – essentially a cross between a left-hand drive Chevrolet Lumina and an HSV ClubSport R8 – was virtually stripped to a bare shell before being hand-built to new specifications. Each is fitted with an HSV Z Series body styling package but is badged as a Chevrolet Lumina. With prodigious engine performance on tap from the 5.7litre HSV enhanced LS1 V8 the modifications centred on creating an exhilarating track car that would remain reliable and durable in the often harsh Bahrain desert climate where ambient temperature can reach up to mid 50 degrees centigrade. Naturally, safety was also a priority, as was the ability to cope with constant high lateral ‘G’ force loadings. A host of modifications – such as the FIA compliant roll cage – were developed in-house by HSV engineering, while many others drew on V8 Supercar and GTP racing technology. HSV staff worked throughout the Christmas holiday period to ensure the tight deadline of late January was met. Any production process involving extensive strip down and hand rebuilding opens the potential for ‘bugs’ that need to be ironed out. However, with one car having been operating constantly around the Bahrain International Circuit since August 2005 the team was quietly confident that all would go well. Indeed, shake down testing for the remaining vehicles revealed a reassuring lack of drama with only minor adjustments required. With all 20 vehicles having been built and tested they are scheduled to be shipped to Bahrain around the end of January, arriving in plenty of time to be ready for their debut race. The atmosphere should be electric as these 20 identically specified vehicles, complete with unmuffled V8 soundtrack, fight for racing room into the first corner. Following the Grand Prix support race it’s planned to use the cars as the basis for a regional V8 series, says Martin Whitaker. “I expect the interest in motor sport to grow rapidly in the years to come as a consequence in these cars.” The catalyst to launch Walkinshaw Performance Products The attention generated by this high profile project has the potential for exciting implications both overseas and locally. Indeed, it heralds the formation of a new organisation, Walkinshaw Performance Products (WPP), which is separate from but remains closely linked to HSV. WPP has been created with a multi faceted brief in mind: To develop further programs that will take the HSV brand beyond the Australasian market. To develop and make available to the local and international market an exciting range of premium performance technology. To reinvigorate and manage the Holden-By-Design (HBD) product portfolio. Driven by a proven formula of passion and driver focused high performance engineering it promises a very exciting future ahead. Stay tuned!