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(SLWA)

Lionel Ayers and Stuart Kostera shake hands after Ayers’ victory in the 35 lap Wanneroo Park, West Australian round of the Australian Sportscar Championship (ASC) on 12 August 1973…

Lionel’s car is a real weapon, a Rennmax, ‘the Big Bertha’ of all of the sportscars built by Bob Britton, powered by a Repco ‘740 Series’ SOHC Lucas injected, 5 litre 500 BHP V8. Stuart raced a Matich SR3 Ford into third place behind Henry Michell who was second in an Elfin 360 Repco 2.5 V8.

Both Ayers and Kostera were ‘sportscar stalwarts’, they raced two-seaters for a decade and more and all over Australia- not easy as Ayers was a Brisbane boy with Stuart from Perth.

A majority of the motor racing in Australia is in the Eastern Seaboard states of Victoria and New South Wales so these blokes would have done a million miles over the years travelling from home base to chase the Tourist Trophy or ASC. As the name suggests the ASC was a national series, the distance from Brisbane to Perth and return for Ayers was about 8600 Km for example!

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Lionel Ayers tips his MRC Lotus 23B Ford into The Viaduct at Longford in 1968. What a shot! (oldracephotos.com/DKeep)

Ayers cut his racing teeth in an MG TC and then progressed into single-seaters such as the Cooper MG and Lotus 20 Ford before racing the first of three Rennmax Engineering built sportscars over the next decade.

The first was the MRC Lotus 23B Ford in which he contested the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy at Longford. Later came the MRC Mk2 Repco, the last the Rennmax Repco which used the Repco ‘740 Series’ 5 litre V8 and Hewland DG300 ‘box from the MRC Mk2.

MRC ‘Motor Racing Components’ was Ayers company, which prepared the cars and part assembled them in Brisbane but the three cars were Rennmax built. Lionel was a pharmacist but he was also a pretty handy engineer.

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John Harvey and Phil Moore, Wanneroo Park 18 August 1972. Howie Sangster won the ASC round at Wanneroo that year in a McLaren LT170 Chev- this car an amalgam of Lola T70 chassis and McLaren bits (SLWA)

Star of the sportscar ranks at the dawn of the seventies, post the sixties ‘Matich Decade’ was John Harvey in Bob Jane’s superb McLaren M6B Repco.

You could liken Harves to an Australian Mario Andretti in some ways, he was a champion in Speedway Midgets before hitting the circuits and was soon into single-seaters after an initial season in a Cooper S.

The shame is that he wasn’t in 2.5 litre Tasman cars earlier, that he never did a full Tasman Series (only the Oz rounds) and in the F5000 era Bob Jane popped the Bowin P8 to one side way too early. Sponsor, Castrol wanted Bob to run ‘taxis’, so it was tourers and sports sedans the team raced- and in which John excelled.

Harvey won the ASC title at a canter in 1971 and 1972, the car only raced sporadically after that as the team focussed on Touring Cars/Sports Sedans. Bob of course still owns it.

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John Harvey in the Symmons Plains paddock, McLaren M6B ‘740 Series’ Repco V8, November 1972. He won the title in ’72 and that round. Love the juxtaposition of the 1967/8 ‘futuristic’ racer with the (mainly) Holden ‘roadies’ in the background (E French)

The South Australian ‘Elfin 360 Repco twins’, Phil Moore and Henry Michell won the ASC in 1973 and 1974 in two different chassis’.

Garrie Cooper built two very clever cars there (three 360’s were built, the other for Bob Romano was Ford twin-cam powered). In essence they comprised spaceframe chassis sporties built of single-seater F2 Elfin 600E hardware into which he dropped (surplus to requirements with the advent of F5000) ex-Tasman Repco Brabham 2.5 litre V8’s and FT200 Hewland gearboxes. In so doing, he created two light, chuckable, circa 300bhp little rockets which were driven with considerable skill and brio.

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Phil Moore Elfin 360 Repco and Stuart Kostera, Matich SR3 Ford in the Wanneroo Park formup area August 1971. Pinocchios is Howie’s club (SLWA)

In 1973 Moore won the ASC convincingly taking four rounds, Phillip Island, Sandown, Symmons Plains and Oran Park, the latter a night meeting. I would love to have seen those cars, lights ablaze in the dark. Lionel won at Wanneroo and Adelaide International.

The photo below is at the Sandown round in July and shows Phil diving down the inside of  Lionel’s Rennmax at Torana/Peters Corner before the blast up the back straight where I suspect 5 litres of Repco V8 triumphed over 2.5 litres of it! Phil won the round mind you.

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(Aust M Racing Year)

The following year, 1974, Ayers again won two of four rounds, at Adelaide and Calder with Henry Michell taking the title in a year of speed and consistency.

Garrie Cooper took the other two wins in ’74 in his new, epoch shifting, Elfin MS7 Repco Holden. This one off car was a mix of monocoque chassis and bibs and bobs from his F5000 MR6 parts book including uprights, wheels, suspension and brake componentry, Repco Holden 500bhp V8 and of course the ubiquitous DG300 Hewland transaxle.

The car (below) was a crowd and sponsor pleaser, you can just make out the Ansett logo against the bare aluminium body on the nose of the MS7 which is making its race debut at Adelaide International, just down the road from Edwardstown, where the car was built.

Its 25 August 1974, Ayers won the two ASCC rounds before the Elfin raced, Garrie won the other two at Phillip Island and Symmons Plains. In an unfortunate turn of events Lionel broke both of his arms in a low speed motorcycle accident after the first two rounds of the series, perhaps missing out on a title it would have been wonderful to see him win- mainstay of sporties as he had been.

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(G Cooper Elfin MS7 Repco Holden from Stan Keen, Boral Ford, August 1974 (R Davies)

He promptly retired from the sport and sold the Rennmax but remaining close to the scene. A decade ago he did a brilliant job restoring the Mildren Waggott ‘Yellow Submarine’ made famous by Kevin Bartlett and Frank Gardner. He died in 2013 but his memory lives on in that wonderful car retained and used by his family.

The Rennmax did achieve a national title though- after Lionel sold it.

It passed through Melbourne’s Jim Phillips hands, he raced the car for a few years and then sold it to the ‘Racing Gibsons’ in Benalla. There, at Winton in 1979, with yours truly watching the race, I was contesting the Formula Vee support races that weekend, Paul Gibson won the Australian Tourist Trophy- from none other than Stuart Kostera in the Elfin MS7 Repco Holden. The presentation of the Australian Tourist Trophy to Paul was a very proud moment for father ‘Hoot’ Gibson, a racer himself who raised a family of racers!

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Stuart Kostera’s Matich SR3A Ford looking as ugly as sin. Wanneroo Park 9 June 1975 (SLWA)

Kostera cut his racing teeth in sedans but progressed through an Elfin Catalina Ford to the Matich SR3- this famous car was ex-Matich and Don O’Sullivan- who finished 2nd in the 1969 ASSC in it behind Matich’s famous SR4 Repco.

Stuart continually developed the car, 5 litre Ford, not Repco ‘620 Series’ 4.4 V8 powered as it had originally been to the stage that it won the West Australian Sportscar Championship in 1975 having finished second in 1972 and 1974. At national (ASC) level he was 9th in 1972 and 1973, 12th in 1974, and 5th in the single race ASC at Phillip Island in 1975, the winner Cooper’s MS7.

Stuart Kostera, Matich SR3A Ford Wanneroo Park 1976 (SLWA)

He bought the MS7 Repco Holden from Garrie Cooper, running it as a quasi-works machine, the car mainly based at the Elfin works in Edwardstown, Adelaide rather than Stuart’s hometown of Perth.

Kostera’s first big win in the car was at Phillip Island twelve months after Coopers MS7 victory in the one race 1975 Australian Sports Car Championship. Kostera won the 1976 Australian Tourist Trophy at the same fast, demanding circuit tailor made for powerful devices such as the Elfin.

Kostera was a talented driver, I saw him race both the SR3 and MS7 at most of the Victorian circuits on numerous occasions, he always got the best from these big, demanding cars. The Elfin drive ended after Garrie Cooper’s demise in 1982.

Lionel Ayers, Lakeside, MRC Mk2 Repco Brabham V8 circa 1970 (unattributed)

All of the cars mentioned in this article still exist, the MRC Lotus 23, MRC Mk2 Repco, McLaren M6B, Elfin 360’s, Elfin MS7 and Matich SR3.

The Rennmax has been in Jim Phillip’s ownership (back to him post the Gibsons period of ownership) for decades, and will hopefully one day see the light of day outside the outer east of Melbourne garage where it resides. So too do the two 360’s mind you one of those has been in a garage not too far from the Rennmax for about the same time period!

 Etcetera…

Matich SR3 ‘3’ Ford

This ex-Don O’Sullivan/Frank Matich car evolved, as cars do over time. Attached are a few shots of the battle Stuart Kostera fought to keep the chassis which defeated Chris Amons Ferrari P4/Can Am 350 during the 1968 Tasman Series sportscar races competitive against more modern designs. The story of the SR3’s and a comprehensive chassis list of all the Matich built cars is in this article on the Matich SR4;

https://primotipo.com/2016/07/15/matich-sr4-repco-by-nigel-tait-and-mark-bisset/

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Stuart Kostera Matich SR3 Ford, Wanneroo Park 18 August 1972. Body of the SR3 not too from the car as built albeit guards modified to take much wider tyres than those of 1967/8 (SLWA)

Credits…

State Library of Western Australia, Terry Walkers Place, Ellis French, Robert Davies, Australian Motor Racing Year

Tailpiece: Phil and Stuart, ready to roll, ASC Wanneroo August 1972…

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Phil Moore and Stuart Kostera in the Wanneroo Park form up area in 1972. Elfin 360 Repco and Matich SR3 Ford. Howie Sangster won the ’72 Wanneroo ASC round that year, McLaren LT170 Chev from Kostera and Moore (SLWA)

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Comments
  1. Rob says:

    Mark,

    The more I look at the image cationed “Phil Moore Elfin 360 Repco and Howie Sangster McLaren LT170 Chev……” the more I think that the second car is actually Kostera’s Matich rather than Sangster’s McLaren. This seems to be supported by the car numbers for the 1971 ASSC race as shown at http://www.terrywalkersplace.com/Results/1971-all.pdf

    Cheers,

    Rob

  2. Rob says:

    Mark,

    I don’t believe that Kostera was “5th in the ATT at Phillip Island in 1975” as the 1975 Australian Tourist Trophy was for Production Sports Cars and was held at Calder. I think you may be referring to the single race 1975 Australian Sports Car Championship which was held at Phillip Island.

    Cheers,

    Rob

  3. Phil Moore says:

    Great photos & memories.After I passed Lionel he did not catch me & I went on to win the race, having out-qualified him & Don O’Sullivan ( 5L Gardos ) in practice.
    Phil Moore

    • markbisset says:

      Phil,
      Great to hear from you, thanks for making contact. What amazing cars they were and are. I was fortunate enough to see both you and Henry race a number of times- then one of the cars, yours? went to Greg Doidge in Victoria, he certainly made the thing fly too in regular appearances on the Victorian circuits.
      Any driving impressions you would like to share with us?
      Mark

  4. Rob says:

    Mark,

    Just a point of interest re Lionel Ayers missing out on winning the 1974 Australian Sports Car Championship. I had some memory of him meeting misfortune during the course of the series and found the details in the 1975 Edition of the Australian Competition Yearbook. It seems that, after winning the first two rounds he broke both arms in a low speed motorcycle accident and promptly retired from motor racing and sold the Rennmax. As you have said, Garry Cooper then won the final two rounds and Henry Michell took the title in an Elfin 360 Repco.

    Cheers,

    Rob

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Rob,
      I’ve got those annuals somewhere!- too many moves and too much stuff lost.
      That explains a lot, I thought it odd just looking at Wiki that he scored no more points- I put it down to unreliability. Thanks muchly- I’ve changed the wording accordingly.
      Mark

  5. Paul Boxsell says:

    Love too see any photos of the Gardos sporty thru that era – as many body changes as the Kostera Matich.
    Loved those SA invaders in Moore & Michell, thanks guys.

    • markbisset says:

      Paul,
      Photos of both Gardos’ are rare! Having researched the article there should be some by ‘snappers @ Wanneroo as the cars raced there more than anywhere else.
      From what I can gather the Gardos ‘M8D’ body didn’t change from the time it was built- the body I saw @ P Island in ’75 was the same as that raced by Barry Singleton before it left Oz in the eighties.
      The Gardos F5000 body did change as the article shows.
      Mark

      • Paul Boxsell says:

        Terry Walker posted on the Speedwest site a version of the Gardos I had never seen, unlike the McLaren body of the Singleton era.
        Perhaps Rob Hagarty can help.

        Looked more like the SR3A above dated 1975 & 76, the ‘ugly as sin’ version.

        Same gentlemen may be turn up photos of the McLaren LT170 – where is it these days.

      • markbisset says:

        Thanks Paul,
        I’m back in the West in 3 weeks so will ask Ken Irvine about that guy then. WA scene is interesting especially the ‘Round The Houses Era’.
        Mark

  6. Paul Boxsell says:

    Roger that, Ken Devine & Terry Walker have an archive.

  7. Rob says:

    Mark,

    Comparing the shot captioned “Bob drives and Harves carries the booty. McLaren M6B Repco, they have just won the final round of the 1972 Australian Sportscar Championship at Symmons Plains on 12 November” at https://primotipo.com/tag/john-harvey/ with the image above captioned “John Harvey in the Symmons Plains paddock, McLaren M6B ‘740 Series’ Repco V8, November 1972”, I see that the exhaust pipes appear to be mounted much higher in the latter. Checking back through the 1972 ASCC shots in Racing Car News it seems that the high mounted exhausts were used at Phillip Island and AIR and the lowered design from Warwick Farm onwards. I have some recollection that CAMS forced the change but I don’t have any reference to this.

    Could the image on this page actually be from earlier in the season than Symmons / November?

    Rob

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