THE ANNUAL TORQUE TROPHY, scheduled for Barbagallo Raceway this Saturday, is up there with the most prestigious of titles among Street Car racers in Australia.
The event was named after the popular ’70s ABC-TV motoring TV show “Torque” – hosted by the extraordinary Peter Wherrett – and as good in its day as Top Gear.
Wherrett (1936-2009) was an Australian motoring journalist, racing driver and all-round fascinating character.
He raced Bathurst several times and even had a car named after him – the 1981 Peter Wherrett Special GH Series Mitsubishi Sigma sedan (see featured image, above).
Mitsubishi built 1000 examples that bore his signature after Wherrett supposedly complained about the basic Sigma’s handling and challenged him to do better.
He converted the Sigma into “one of the great family cars of the decade”, with extractors fitted to the standard 2.6L four to lift power from 72.9-76kW, a five-speed manual, revised shock tuning, discs all round, 15-inch alloy wheels with Pirelli tyres – all painted red, with specific striped decals along their flanks.
The transformation was completed by Recaro front seats and an autographed Momo steering wheel.
Wherrett – who was fortunate enough to share my birthday – married and divorced three times, wrote a book about cross-dressing and lived out the last two years of his life as a woman – describing that time as “my last great challenge”.
The Torque Trophy has been hotly contested ever since it was first run in 1975, when Bill Nitschke took the title in his Holden Torana LH 74. Ian Diffen won in the same model the following year.
A host of impressive drivers have stood on the top podium since.
Former longtime WA Sporting Car Club president Gordon Mitchell has held aloft the cup a record seven times. First up in 1985 piloting the late and great Frank Cecchelle’s Fiat 131 Abarth and finally 2002, in that memorable Fiat Uno Turbo.
Kerry Wade took the honours six times during 2003-2013.
Since 2010 the Torque Trophy has been held high by Peter Major (Mazda RX-7 S6) in 2011, Paul Kluck (Nissan Skyline R32) and Brad Cuss (in his Nissan S15). Reigning champion, and four-time of victor, Andrew Stevens won last year in his Nissan 180SX.
Mazdas have had 17 wins in the 44 TTs held, with seven to Nissan since 2010.
Saturday’s programme at Wanneroo includes Improved Production Cars, Sports Sedans and Sports Cars, Street Cars, Excel Cup, Historic Touring Cars, F1000s and 6SR Sports, and Formula Classics. Sunday features HQs, Historic Touring Cars, Formula Fords, Formula Vees, and the popular Time Challenge for Historics.
EDITED by AC