Longford Tasman: ‘South Pacific Trophy’ 4 March 1968 and Piers Courage…

Posted: October 20, 2015 in F1, Fotos
Tags: , , , , , , ,

clark

Rod MacKenzie’s moody, foreboding, evocative image of Jim Clark’s Lotus 49 at Longford in 1968 is one of my favourites…

Clark is exiting Newry Corner on the run towards the ‘Flying Mile’. He started from pole, winning 100 bottles of champagne in the process and the Sunday race in beautiful weather but the clouds opened on Monday morning for the Tasman Championship event, ‘The South Pacific Trophy’.

Star of the show was Piers Courage who drove a gutsy, skilful race in the most challenging, treacherous conditions to win the event in his little F2 McLaren M4A FVA ahead of the big Tasman 2.5’s of his close competitors. Pier’s car was self run, his performances in it that summer reignited his career.

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Piers Courage in his McLaren M4A F2 car, Newry Corner, Longford 1968. Power was not all on this fast circuit in such wet conditions, but the plucky Brit was giving away at least 130bhp to his 2.5 litre V8 powered opponents. (Rod MacKenzie)

Pedro Rodriguez and Frank Gardner were second and third in BRM P261 2.1 V8 and Brabham BT23D Alfa 2.5 V8 respectively. Clark was fifth in his Ford Cosworth DFW engined Lotus 49, the 2.5 litre variant of the epochal 3 litre DFV GP engine.

The conditions were so bad various drivers with unsuitable tyres elected not to start having driven some ‘sighting laps’, Keven Bartlett recounted his experience in the Alec Mildren Racing Brabham BT11A Climax; ‘I did two exploratory laps and the old BT11 couldn’t find traction anywhere. I had an absolutely terrifying 4th gear 720 degree spin across the Short Bridge, the one after the Viaduct, missing all the obstacles at the tracks edge. After exiting Pub and in a straight line i did a 360 degree loop. She nearly escaped me over the rail line on the way to Long Bridge. Out of Newry and up the hill to the straight slithering along with no touch felt between me and the bitumen, so i suppose at that moment to do another lap at a very reduced speed then pit’.

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‘What are we going to do boys?!’ Drivers considering their options before the race, the pouring rain exacerabated by drains beside the track which couldn’t cope with the deluge; Clark facing us, Hill’s distinctive helmet clear. Courage with his back to us in helmet, Gardner’s lanky frame partly in shot to the right. Amon in the ‘Firestone’ suit, Harvey? at left with head down (oldracephotos.com)

‘Once back in the tent Alec, Frank (Gardner) Denny (Hulme Brabham BT23 FVA F2) and i had a talk about the tyres that Denny and i had and after trying to come up with a better tread pattern, such as the ones fitted to Franks car (Brabham BT23D Alfa) but with no result. It was agreed that Denny and i shouldn’t risk a start. I was happy with the call and Leo (Geoghegan Lotus 39 Repco) followed suit. Most of the top guys had the latest Firestone, Dunlop or Goodyear wets but none were available to suit the BT11’s. I consoled myself with the fact that if the new world champion (Hulme) didn’t like the risk i certainly shouldn’t!’

I’ll get around to writing about that weekend soon in full, in the meantime enjoy these images of that difficult race on the most dangerous and majestic of Australian circuits.

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A very happy but cold and soggy Piers Courage, with wife Sally after his Longford ’68 win. It was a might fine drive which is still remembered by those fortunate enough to see it. (oldracephotos.com)

Photo and Other Credits…

Roderick MacKenzie Collection;  http://www.racephotoaustralia.com/

oldracephotos.com;  http://www.oldracephotos.com/content/home/

The Nostalgia Forum/Ellis French/Rod MacKenzie and Kevin Bartlett

 

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