WB during practice (B Henderson)

Warwick Brown was the star of the show but didn’t win the AGP thanks to the failure of a crankshaft torsional vibration damper in the Peter Molloy tweaked Chevy V8 of his Lola T332.

To a large extent I covered this meeting in an article about Lella Lombardi a couple of months ago but the release of these photographs by photographer/racer Bryan Henderson made it clear that a second bite of the cherry was a good idea. See the Lella piece here; https://primotipo.com/2020/09/07/tigress-of-frugarolo/

Brown was the ‘form driver’. He was the first Lola T332 customer, he raced ‘HU-27’ throughout the 1974 Tasman Cup, then did the first Gold Star round at Oran Park before heading to the US to take in three US F5000 Championship rounds in which the Lola/Molloy/Brown/Pat Burke combination were extremely competitive.

WB was Q7, second in heat and 11th overall at Ontario, Q12, fourth in his heat and fifth overall at Laguna Seca and  then finished his tour with Q9, second in his heat and third overall at Riverside. It was not bad at all coming into their season ‘cold’ in the sense that four rounds had been contested by the time WB and Peter Molloy arrived. Brown came back to Australia razor sharp, those at the front in the US included Brian Redman, Mario Andretti, James Hunt, Al Unser and Bobby Unser, David Hobbs, Vern Schuppan and the rest.

Teddy Yip, WB and another in the OP paddock (B Henderson)

 

KB T332 from Max T330 (B Henderson)

Max Stewart was well prepared. His Lola T330, ‘HU1’, the very first development machine raced a couple of times in England by Frank Gardner in late 1972 before its sale to Max, gave nothing away to anybody. It was increasingly reliable to match the speed present from tits debut in Max’ hands at the start of the ’73 Tasman Cup.

Graeme Lawrence raced his T332 in the 1974 Tasman whereas Kevin Bartlett’s was a newer car, first raced at Oran Park. KB had a shocker of a Tasman. A crash at the Pukekohe NZ GP opening round broke the car and a leg and hip, but he would be on the pace having built up a car around a new Lola T332 tub.

Graeme Lawrence, Lola T332 Chev with a Birrana in the background (B Henderson)

 

Garrie Cooper, Elfin MR5 Repco-Holden (B Henderson)

The Elfin MR5s were now long in the tooth having first raced in mid-1971.

John McCormack was back in his given the unreliability and lack of power of the Repco-Leyland V8 fitted to the compact Elfin MR6. Mac, the reigning champion had a shocker of a 1974 Gold Star, an accident at Surfers due to a structural failure ensured he missed the Calder round while repairs were effected to the front bulkhead.

McCormack ‘re-possessed’ his MR5 for the AGP. 1973 Australian Sports Car Champion Phil Moore had driven the car throughout the Gold Star with good pace and reliability despite few test miles. In fact he was the best placed of the Ansett Team Elfin pilots that year, ending the season third despite missing the final two rounds at OP and Phillip Island.

Garrie Cooper was still racing his MR5 which was a mobile test-bed for the talented designers new ideas.

The MR6 became a competitive car when the Repco-Holden engine was fitted and the front suspension geometry revised. Whilst 50kg heavier than the aluminium Leyland, the Repco-Holden’s 520 bhp was not to be denied, Mc Cormack won the 1975 Gold Star racing this combination.

McCormack’s Elfin MR5, 1973 Gold Star Champion  (B Henderson)

 

Jon Davison working his Matich A50 Repco-Holden hard- look at the distortion of those Goodyears. A man very much on the pace when he acquired a T332 (B Henderson)

Matich standard bearers were Jon Davison’s ex-John Walker A50 Repco, chassis ‘004’ was the car Walker raced in the 1973 L&M. John Goss raced Frank Matich’ 1974 Tasman car, chassis ‘007’ the very last Matich built. This A53 was a sensational device, A51/53 ‘005’ won the 1976 AGP in Goss’ hands at Sandown.

The A53 JG used to win at Sandown was the car raced by Lella Lombardi at Oran Park during this 1974 weekend. Then in A51 spec, it was one of the two chassis raced by Matich in the 1973 US L&M F5000 championship. The other, for the sake of completeness, ‘006’, was destroyed in a Warwick Farm testing accident in A52 spec with Bob Muir at the wheel in later 1973.

Lombardi had a big year of F5000 racing in Europe. Her primary campaign was aboard a Shellsport Lola T330 Chev. Late in the year she ran in the US and Australia when promoters could see the value in a ‘crowd-pulling chick’ amongst the fellas.

The ‘Tigress of Turin’ did not disappoint in Australia despite racing an unfamiliar car. Her crew included Frank Matich and later multiple Gold Star champion Alfie Costanzo as interpreter.

I don’t think anybody was going to beat WB at this meeting had he finished but I could easily see how Lella could have been on the podium especially if she were aboard her own T330, but it stayed in the UK.

Lombardi sitting on Matich tub ‘005’ during practice (B Henderson)

 

(B Henderson)

Gloomy faces all round in the Goss camp. The Repco engine has run a bearing, without a spare JG is out for the weekend. The dude in the white T-shirt is Repco’s, or perhaps ex-Repco by then, Don Halpin. The fella with his back to us is Grant O’Neill who moved across with the A53 from Matich to Goss as FM wound down his operation in Cremorne. Grant looked after Goss’ open-wheelers and Falcons for some years.

Warwick Brown was predictably quick in all sessions. After he did a 65.3, the team packed up and left the circuit but crafty Max bolted on a set of British Goodyears and nicked pole late in the final session with a 65.2. Bartlett was third on the grid with 65.9 with Lombardi fourth hampered by clutch failure. She finally did some decent laps stopping the Accusplits at 67.0 dead.

The grid was a very skinny nine cars. John Leffler made the cut with his gorgeous, very fast Bowin P8 Ford-Hart 416B ANF2 car. As mentioned above Goss lost an engine with bearing failure in the morning warm-up.

From left- Lombardi, Brown, Bartlett, Stewart and a glimpse of McCormack (HAGP)

From the off WB led convincingly all the way to his engine failure on lap 50. Lombardi got a great start and led the two amigos, Bartlett and Stewart but both passed the pint-sized Italian by the end of the first lap.

So it was Brown, Stewart, Bartlett with Lombardi and McCormack falling back, then Lawrence, Davison, Cooper and Leffler. After about 15 laps KB passed Max, aided by the Jolly Green Giant’s broken rear roll bar mount and stripped second gear- the latter damage was done at the start.

Leffo gave Garrie Cooper heaps in the little Bowin, well suited to Oran Parks new ‘twiddles’ with John well aware of the MR5’s strengths and areas of opportunity having done a few races in Max’s MR5 late in 1973. Lombardi caught Stewart but the big fella strenuously resisted her passing manoeuvres, then on lap 47 her oil pump failed causing the Holden engine to seize.

Bartlett from Stewart (B Henderson)

 

John Leffler, Bowin P6 Ford-Hart ANF2. Leffo did a million race miles in this car in 1974, all of the F2 championship rounds where he was amongst the class of the field headed by the Leo Geoghegan and Bob Muir Birrana 274/273, and the Gold Star rounds giving Grace Bros plenty of exposure and racegoers much pleasure given his brio behind the wheel (B Henderson)

 

Lombardi, Matich A51 Repco (B Henderson)

Two laps later WB’s harmonic balanced was hors ‘d combat which gave Kevin Bartlett the lead. For a while the Australian Triple Crown seemed possible- the Gold Star, Bathurst and an AGP. Then, on lap 58 of 61 laps KB’s Lola was starved of fuel, the T332’s pumps were not picking up the last 13 litres of juice!

Stewart took the lead, and despite his machine’s disabilities, won the race from McCormack’s, Elfin MR5, Graeme Lawrence’s T332, a lap down with an engine not at its best, then Jon Davison’s Matich A50 Repco and Garrie Cooper’s MR5 Repco- five finishers. There was no future in AGP’s being run other than during our summer internationals, whatever the formula, to get decent grids.

WB was ‘man of the match’ but lucked out, Lola T332 Chev (B Henderson)

Brown was the man of the meeting, getting back on the Lola horse which nearly killed him (a T300 Chev) at Surfers Paradise in 1973 was mighty impressive. WB carried the momentum forward, winning the 1975 Tasman Cup in this car, the only Australian to do so. He did get an Oran Park AGP win in 1977 too, on the day Alan Jones pumped the start bigtime.

It was a pity Lombardi didn’t return to Australasia for the 1975 Tasman but she had bigger fish to fry. Funding was in place so it was F1 in 1975 as a member of the March team together with Vittorio Brambilla.

Max Stewart takes the chequered flag, with barely a soul to see. What Covid 19 friendly meeting! Not really, just no spectators in that part of the world.

Stewart was like a fine wine wasn’t he, he got better and better with age? He was not exactly in the first flush of youth when he got the second Alec Mildren seat with Kevin Bartlett in late 1968. He won his first Gold Star in 1971 in the Mildren Waggott and then took to F5000 like a duck to water.

His Oran Park win was his fifth 1974 Gold Star victory in a row. It won him the title. Maybe he was lucky to win the AGP in the pissing rain at Surfers twelve months hence but those in front of him dropped out with drowned electrics. Max, who prepared his car together with Ian Gordon had electrics which functioned, that is, he made his own luck.

Etcetera…

(B Henderson)

Poor Susie Ransom (?) is trying to interview KB who is more interested in a glass of Pophry Pearl at the Leppington Inn after the meeting. Commonsense then prevailed with questions about tyre pressures, wing settings and roll-bar stiffness addressed.

(B Henderson)

 

(B Henderson)

Teddy Yip was omnipresent throughout the weekend. Here he is pointing out the Matich tacho-telltale in Mandarin. Lella’s English was not flash, I doubt Mandarin was effective so they probably settled with English.

Teddy was getting the lie of the land and perhaps starting to think about the deal which saw him bring a Lola T332 to Australia for our 1976 Rothmans International. Vern Schuppan raced a Yep/Sid Taylor Lola T332 to victory that summer.

(B Henderson)

Goss with his team bemoaning the bearing failure in his Repco-Holden engine, he knew a thing or two about that particular affliction didn’t he? Blazing the Falcon GT Hardtop Group C path in 1973 gave plenty of bottom end dramas which was eventually sorted with an engineering solution which met the good graces of the CAMS.

(B Henderson)

The Elfin MR5 is a bit maligned in some quarters. The most highly developed of the four cars built was John McCormack’s ‘works’ machine which won the 1973 Gold Star as well as the New Zealand Grands Prix in 1973 and 1974 despite Mac first racing it in later 1971.

(B Henderson)

 

(B Henderson)

So near but so far, Bartlett had the ‘Triple Crown’ of Australian motor racing chance but it was not quite to be!

He won a heat at Surfers and had the second in the bag until a front tyre deflated. In a season where he showed the Pukekohe accident had not cost him a tenth, he was second to Stewart at Calder and Sandown and then took victory at Phillip Island’s last round after a great dice with Stewart.

(B Henderson)

Lella ready to boogie.

Credits…

Bryan Henderson, many thanks for the fantastic photographs.

‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard and Others, Getty Images, Fairfax Media

Tailpiece…

(B Henderson)

Graeme Lawrence in the ‘star car’ of F5000, the Lola T332. Engine troubles ruined his AGP weekend. The 1970 Tasman Cup champion was in a three way shootout several months later to win the 1975 Tasman together with Warwick Brown and John Walker in the Sandown final round but the cards fell Brown’s way.

Finito…

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