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Motor racing school for a Melbourne-based university

Iconic: The Lot 6 Foundation is named after the top-secret Melbourne facility that created the legendary Ford Falcon GTHO.

Ford GTHO Lot 6 Foundation proposes motorsport training centre in Melbourne

General News logo29 Jul 2011

A MELBOURNE university may soon host a dedicated training school for prospective motorsport technicians in partnership with a recently launched non-profit organisation.

Discussions are underway between the GTHO Lot 6 Foundation and an as-yet-unannounced university to determine how to establish such a course, which would be equipped with the latest available technology, including an articulated moving-ground wind tunnel.

The foundation also aims to install a four- or six-post vehicle shaker and provide access to CAD/CAM and CAE programs to assist with training in aerodynamic chassis design, electronics, fuel systems, engine combustion, aerospace composites and data acquisition.

The foundation is the brainchild of ‘Big Al’ Turner, the leader of the team that designed the legendary Ford Falcon GTHO of the late 1960s.

It was established with the aim of educating motorsport technicians and engineers, as well as providing financial assistance to those who were involved in the development of the iconic Ford muscle-car that dominated its era in Australian motorsport.

Announcing details of the foundation last night, Victorian minister for education and acting minister for higher education and skills Martin Dixon said that the curriculum would be designed to produce graduates capable of working at the top echelons of motor racing, including Formula One and NASCAR.

“There is no dedicated course at tertiary level available anywhere in the world to study the intricate details of motor racing technologies, but with the advent of the foundation it will now be possible,” he said.

While Ford is not officially involved with the not-for-profit foundation, Ford Performance Vehicles general manager Rod Barrett serves as its director, alongside Mr Turner’s son-in-law Peter Dietz. Current Ford Australia president and CEO Bob Graziano also attended the foundation’s launch in Melbourne.

Funding will initially stem from private donations, sponsorships and fundraising events, but the presence of a state minister at the launch also raises the possibility of government assistance, though the foundation could not confirm this.

Mr Turner, who came to Australia in 1968 from Detroit, recalled being asked by then-Ford Australia managing director Bill Bourke to develop a production car that would dominate Australian motorsport, specifically Bathurst.

“It was a huge challenge,” he said. “All we had was a clean sheet of paper. We had to start from scratch.”

He said his reason for establishing the foundation was to give something back to the sport that was so generous to him 40 years ago.

“I had a great time back then because I had a job doing something I loved, but now I want to create an opportunity for those young people who desperately want to become involved in motor racing and have the opportunity to reach the top,” he said.

The GTHO Lot 6 Foundation is named after the original workshop used by Mr Turner and his team in the development of the top-secret muscle-car.

The building, located in the outer-Melbourne suburb of Campbellfield, was kept as non-descript as possible, with nary a Blue Oval badge in sight.

The story goes that only a handful of people from Ford Australia even knew of the existence of the car or the building that housed its development.

Plans are already underway for a major fund raising event in August next year to mark the 40th anniversary of the GTHO Phase III, including the auction of a prototype rebuild of Turner’s original vision for the Phase III supervised by the original Lot 6 crew.

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