jaf gp 1969

Leo Geoghegan victorious in the 1969 JAF (Japan Automobile Federation) Grand Prix. Lotus 39 Repco.

One of Australia’s racing greats of the 1960’s and early 70’s, Leo Geoghegan died of cancer aged 78 on 1 March…

Leo won the Australian GT Championship in 1960, (Lotus Elite) the Australian Formula Junior Championship in 1963 (Lotus 22 ) the Australian Drivers Championship, the coveted Gold Star in 1970 in Lotus 59 Waggott and the AF2 Championship in Birranas’ 273 and 274 in 1973 and 1974.

Internationally he won the JAF Japanese Grand Prix in his Lotus 39 Repco in 1969. It was in this car, raced by Jim Clark in the 1966 Tasman Series in which Leo stepped into the premier 2.5 litre ‘Tasman’ class, initially Coventry Climax powered and later with Repco V8’s that Leo more than held his own against the visiting Internationals in what was progressively an older car.

The Geoghegans’ held the Lotus franchise in Australia for many years, it was in a new Lotus 59 powered by one of Merv Waggotts’ 2 litre DOHC engines in which Leo finally won the Gold Star in 1970 after years of plugging away in the evergreen ’39.

leo g wf

Hamming it up for photographer Bruce Wells at Warwick Farm, before the ‘WF 100’ Tasman round February 1966. (Bruce Wells)

Leo and his brother Ian or ‘Pete’ were crowd favourites throughout the 60’s in particular, Leo mainly in open wheelers and Pete in Touring Cars in which he was 5 times Australian Champion.

Most of you outside Australia (85% of you by the way) won’t be aware of the Geoghegans’, this lovely period movie by Castrol ‘The Racing Geoghegans’ positions them nicely into the pantheon of Australian Racing in their day.

 

Leo was concentrating more on Touring Cars as the lead tester/driver for Chrysler into the early ’70’s in their Valiant Pacer/Charger ‘Series Production’ program but returned to open wheelers when offered the ‘works drive’ by Birrana’s Malcolm Ramsay, these jewel like cars a story in themselves, in AF2 in 1973 and in 1974.

The 1974 AF2 series was one of the most competitive domestic Australian open wheeler championships ever (series sponsorship attracted both the top up and comers and F5000 stars) Leo winning the title against the very best…to watch him in these cars, I didn’t get to see him in his Tasman days, was to see a bloke at the top of his game, a very smooth, precise line driver and aggressive with it. His battles with Bob Muir in another Birrana in ’74 spring to mind especially a very soggy Calder. A magic driver for sure.

leo g lotus 32

Leo in the ‘Warwick Farm 100′ Tasman round February 1966. He finished 7th in the 1.5 litre Ford/Lotus engined Lotus 32. Race won by Jim Clarks’ Lotus 39 Climax, the car Leo acquired at the end of the series. (Bruce Wells)

Ray Bell ‘in period’ journalist with ‘Racing Car News’ had this to say about Leos’ commitment and precision, writing in ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ in 2002.

‘It’s time to look at Leo a little more closely. Maybe at Warwick Farm, his real home circuit and in the Lotus 59, equipped with a nice toey Waggott TC4V engine and good enough to win him the Gold Star… let’s wander over to Homestead Corner… the cars are whistling through, taking that line that clips the two apexes and is so important for their speed down Hume Straight.

Lap after lap, Leo is precise and fast. But look there, on the outside edge of the circuit, where he drifts to between the apexes… see the white line, and then the drop of two inches or so where the bitumen’s been laid over an old entry road? Watch Leo’s rear tyre as he drifts out there…

The wheel had only a couple of inches on the white line… the rest of the tyre was hanging out there with two inches between the tread and the bitumen… two inches from disaster at that speed… every lap!’

One of the greats. RIP.

leo fuji speedway

Leo G in the racesuit, Fuji paddock JAF GP 1969. Lotus 39 Repco. Engine here is Repco ‘830 Series’ 2.5 Tasman V8, the ‘ultimate version’ of the Tasman Repcos’ , circa 295bhp@9000rpm. Packaging of this later Repco engine not as ‘neat and cohesive’ as the exhaust between the Vee ‘740 Series’ pictured below. (Unattributed)

lotus 59

Leo in the Lotus 59 Waggott at WF approaching the ‘Northern Crossing’. AGP November 1970. 3rd in the 2 litre Lotus behind the winning Frank Matich McLaren M10B Repco F5000 and Graeme Lawrence’2.4 litre  Ferrari Dino 246T. (Rod Mackenzie Collection)

lotus 39 stanley

Quintessential combination for many years, Leo G and Lotus 39 Repco…1969. (John Stanley)

leo g

Wonderful portrait of Leo G by Rod MacKenzie in 1970. (Rod MacKenzie Collection)

Tailpiece…

Wonderful ‘Alec Mildren Racing’ film about the 1969 JAF GP won by Leo Geoghegan and contested by several Australians including the Mildren Racing pair, Kevin Bartlett and Max Stewart.

Etcetera…

lotus 32 hordern trophy

Black helmet and black T-Shirt…Leo G Lotus 32 Ford 1.5, Hordern Trophy, Warwick Farm December 1964. This was a huge win, the little 1.5 beating the big 2.5 Climax engined Tasman cars in this ‘Gold Star’ round. (Richard Austin)

leo and jackie wf

Leo G (left) & Jackie Stewart Warwick Farm Tasman round February 1967. JYS won the race in his BRM P261, Leo 5th and holding the trophy for first local resident home in his Lotus 32 Ford 1.5. (Dale Harvey)

leo wf tasman 1967

Leo, Lotus 39 Climax heading for 5th place during the 1967 ‘Warwick Farm 100’ Tasman round, Kevin Bartlett? perhaps behind, Brabham BT11A Climax 6th. (Unattributed)

geoghegans surfers 1968

Leo and Pete Geoghegan won the Surfers Paradise 6 Hour in 1968 in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM

mr annual

Leo G in his Lotus 39 Repco & Chris Amon Ferrari Dino 246T on the cover of MRA 1968. In this form the car was about as good as a 60’s open-wheeler looked. The conversion from Coventry Climax 2.5 FPF to Repco ‘740 Series’ 2.5 Tasman V8 was done by Geoghegans’ crew lead by John Sheppard, the marriage between chassis and engine superbly executed.

leo and max jaf gp

Leo Geoghegan leading his compatriot Max Stewart during the 1969 JAF GP. Lotus 39 Repco 2.5 & Mildren Waggott 1.6. Race was F Libre. (Unattributed)

lotus 59 wf

Leo campaigned this Lotus 59 Waggott in 1970 and 1971, winning the Gold Star in the 265bhp 4 cylinder, DOHC injected four valve engined car in 1970. Here at Warwick Farm (lyntonh)

leo charger 1971 wf

Geoghegan manhandling his Chrysler Valiant RT Charger around Warwick Farm in October 1971. These cars were powered by 265cid in line 6 cylinder OHV, triple Weber 45DCOE engines…together with the Ford Falcon GTHO and Holden Torana GTR XU1 comprised a much loved period of Touring Car racing in Australia. Shortcomings of the Charger were its 3 speed ‘box, 4 speeder from 72’ and under-developed relative to the opposition. Leo G chief test driver/developer and lead driver for Chrysler, cars built at a long since closed factory in Tonsley Park, Adelaide. (Jeff Nield)

leo and enno birrana 273

Leo Geoghegan and Enno Buesselmann, Sandown 1973. Both Birrana 273 Hart Ford T/cam. (autopics)

Photo and Other Credits…

Bruce Wells, theroaringseason.com, lyntonh, Dale Harvey, autopics.com.au, John Stanley, Rod MacKenzie Collection

The Nostalgia Forum, RayBell, Motor Racing Annual

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Comments
  1. Andrew mccarthy says:

    Nice article mark cheers andrew mcc

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