2023-03-09 12:00:00

A milestone will be reached for one of the most popular cars in Gulf Western Oil Touring Car Masters history this weekend at the Thrifty Newcastle 500.

Cameron Tilley’s iconic Valiant Pacer will – all going to plan – start its 200th TCM encounter in the Trophy race on Friday afternoon on the Newcastle Street Circuit.

The Pacer will become just the fourth car in TCM history to reach the double century milestone, behind Whiteline Racing’s 1969 Camaro SS (279), Mustang ‘Sally’ (233) and Whiteline’s 1970 Camaro RS (220).

Tilley’s Pacer has built a cult fanbase since its debut in the 2008 season, when it was powered by a screaming Hemi six.

Tilley raced the Valiant with with aplomb between 2008 and 2011 before parking it in favour of a Ford 302-powered Ford Mustang TransAm, which he drove for four years.

The Pacer came out of retirement in 2014 for two rounds, before returning to contest the full schedule the following year.

Always marginally out-gunned against its V8 rivals, the Valiant scored its first race podium at the Adelaide 500 in 2015 – Cameron finishing behind brother Brad in the second race of three that weekend.

It scored further podiums that season and very nearly scored its first win in 2017 – leading the opening race at Bathurst before being overhauled by Eddie Abelnica’s XB Falcon Coupe’ with two laps remining.

The car was upgraded to a 358ci Chrysler V8 engine the following year to give the car more of an ability to compete with the increasingly high-performing V8’s around it.

After significant development work to sort the changed handling characteristics, the car again proved highly competitive: Second at Queensland Raceway and a pair of thirds at Sydney Motorsport Park and Adelaide in 2019 proof of that.

Years of trying finally delivered success in 2021 when Tilley edged out Jim Pollicina to win the Trophy Race at Mount Panorama in 2021, the cars’ first victory.

2022 proved the biggest rollercoaster of its long history: Tilley brilliantly powering the big Val to its first proper Championship Race success at Sydney Motorsport Park as he led home John Bowe and Ryan Hansford in the final race of the weekend.

The victory was a cathartic moment for Tilley who had long strived to win a non-reverse grid affair in TCM.

However, the car was then badly damaged in an enormous accident at Townsville when a brakeless Camaro smashed into it at turn three.

Repaired, the car returned to the track at the next round in Victoria, grabbing another podium finish in the Trophy Race.

Across the journey, the car helped Tilley claim the 2015 and 2018 TCM Pro-Am Class championships, two race victories and three round podium finishes.

Tilley’s Valiant Pacer has grown an enormous fan base, thanks in part to its uniqueness, the fact it remains a passion project for the quietly spoken Sydneysider – and the fact he drives its wheels off every time it hits the circuit.

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