JMF trying to stay warm at chilly Silverstone, 5 October 1970…

In this day and age of every Tom, Dick and Irving recording their every exploit from the bedroom to the mountain top it’s instructive to look at just how far we have come in camera packaging over four decades or so.

Patrice Pouget is just about to shoot some action footage from a precariously mounted camera atop the svelte tail of a Maserati 250F for a documentary on the great mans life. ‘Fangio’, directed by Hugh Hudson and narrated by the champ himself was released in 1971.

I must watch it.

Credit…

Terry Disney

Tailpiece…

 

I love these two drawings of two of the fifties Charlie Dean/Repco Research designed and built Maybachs- 1 and 2 by Brian Caldersmith…

I’ve written about both cars before in two articles, one mainly about Stan Jones who raced both machines, the other focussed on the 1954 Australian Grand Prix at Southport Queensland where Maybach 2 (below) met a violent death under Stanley when its chassis broke, or more specifically several rather critical welds failed.

I’m not going to pop up any photos which will draw the eye away from Brian’s artistry.

https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

https://primotipo.com/2018/03/01/1954-australian-grand-prix-southport-qld/

Credit…

Brian Caldersmith

Carroll Smith, Frank and Joan Matich (NAA)

Frank and Joan Matich confer during the Warwick Farm Tasman meeting, February 11 to 13 1972…

The ’72 Tasman wasn’t the series the Matich’s expected after the debut win of the Matich A50 Repco at the Farm in November 1971- the brand new machine built closeby won the Australian Grand Prix only days after it’s completion, and looked the goods for the Summer Internationals.

Whilst Matich and his team worked their magic in Brookvale, Kiwi Graham McRae was casting a spell or two in Poole whilst Frank Gardner and Bob Marston were indulging in some F5000 sorcery of their own over at Huntingdon- the cars alluded to are the Leda LT27 aka McRae GM1 and Lola T300.

Mind you, things came good for Frank and Joan at home- Warwick Farm is not too far from the Matich HQ in Brookvale (they moved to Military Road, Cremorne on Sydney’s leafy North Shore circa August 1972) FM was quickest in unofficial practice, qualified on pole on Saturday afternoon and won the race, leading throughout from start to flagfall.

This article is superfluous really, I’ve done Matich and his career pretty well to death, several long pieces inclusive of an 11,000 word monster on his F5000 cars- at the end of this article are links to that piece and a couple of others of potential interest.

But then I came upon this swag of photographs of the Warwick Farm weekend which were too good to ignore. I’ve no idea of the publication for which they were intended or indeed if they ever were published. The shots are from the National Archives of Australia, the photographer uncredited. The series of photos are headed ‘Australia’s Mr and Mrs Motor Sport Sets a Fast Pace’. I’ve other photos of this weekend but I decided to maintain the original intent of whoever commissioned them, keep them together and focus on ‘Team Matich’.

Frank Matich, Matich A50 Repco, Pit Straight, Warwick Farm February 1972 (NAA)

Is ‘Mr and Mrs Motorsport’ apt or a bit of PR Bullshit?…

Its a fair observation I suspect.

Frank was already racing his first competition car, an MG TC when he met Joan, ‘her parents thought the sound of the MG arriving was a plane as they lived at Mascot’ Frank recalled, in fact Joan could be said to be FM’s first sponsor as she lent him 140 pounds to rebuild the TC’s engine not long after they first started going out!

Joan went to many of the test sessions and race meetings down the decades, helped schmooze the sponsors and assisted to run the business which was not insubstantial by 1972. There was the race team chasing national titles, the production of racing cars (sportscars -several SR3 and SR4’s and six F5000’s) Firestone, and then later Goodyear race tyre and Bell Helmets importation and distribution and properties to manage, both domestic and business. Lets not forget the demands of four kids too. (Kris born circa 1958, Kim 1960, Lea 1962 and Katrina 1963)

Frank and Joan were not Mr and Mrs Motorsport in the way that Fred and Christine Gibson and Garth and Leanne Tander were in the sense that both were drivers but I think the ‘Mr and Mrs Motorsport’ label is a fair one.

Joan and Kris Matich- Kris went on to race Van Diemens in Formula Ford in the eighties

1972 Tasman Series Top Guns…

McRae, the reigning champion, Matich, Gardner, Mike Hailwood (Surtees TS8 Chev) and David Hobbs (McLaren M22) were perhaps the dudes most likely to fight for the Tasman Cup but Kevin Bartlett, hamstrung only by the age of his McLaren M10B Chev and 1970 champ Graeme Lawrence, like FG Lola T300 mounted would also be ‘thereabouts’. Then came Teddy Pilette, McLaren M10B Chev, Garrie Cooper, John McCormack and Max Stewart in Elfin MR5 Repco’s- all relative newcomers to F5000, and the rest.

In New Zealand it was all McRae- he started on pole in the first three rounds, won at Levin and Wigram, whilst Gardner took the NZ GP at Pukekohe a race in which Graeme Lawrence and Bryan Faloon had an awful accident killing Bryan and outing Graeme for months.

Derek Kneller pointing, how was it Frank? Ken Symes of Repco in the blue suit FM’s boys in the natty, very American STP togs. Note open top section of ‘bathtub’ aluminium monocoque chassis A50 ‘001/002’ (NAA)

FG boofed his Lola at Levin when the engine suddenly cut out on a high speed corner and he clobbered the fence. Gardner, a very ‘safe driver’ must have had more prangs in the 7 months to January 1972 than at any other time in his career- he wrote off the prototype T300P (akaT242P) at Snetterton in a collision with Brian Redman’s McLaren M18 Chev, when FG on pole and Brian off grid 2 had a territorial dispute, on 30 August 1971.

The quite significant in the history of F5000 cars, seminal, defining chassis T242P/T300P was rooted, destroyed.

Lola quickly built up a replacement car for Frank, ‘HU1’, the first production T300 which Gardner raced to a debut win at Hockenheim in front of Emerson Fittipaldi’s Lotus 56B Pratt & Whitney on 12 September. He took the car to another victory at Oulton and with a second place at the season ending Brands late September round nabbed the 1971 European F5000 Championship. He had been a winner in a Lola T192 earlier in the season prior to the T242/300 race debut, it wasn’t all down to the new car by any stretch.

‘HU1’ was then shipped to Australia in time for the AGP at the Farm, FG crashed it in practice, again the car was re-tubbed before shipping to NZ- only to be boofed again in an accident not of his making at Levin.

He would reappear at Surfers with the repaired car but the chances of the wily veteran winning the series were gone. A shame really as he ‘retired’ from single-seaters after the Sandown round selling the T300 to Sydney F2 pilot Gary Campbell. I say retired as he did a ‘Nellie Melba’ and contested the final round of the 1972 Euro F5000 Championship late in the year to ‘race test’ the prototype Lola T330- ‘HU1’ which became famous in Max Stewart’s hands and is of course still in Australia. A long digression!

Kevin Bartlett took a top win in the final NZ round at Teretonga, driving with a blend of speed and sure-footedness on a wet, difficult track which caught out pole-man Hailwood and McRae. David Hobbs tangled suspension with Matich.

Matich had a shocker of a time in NZ.

He qualified 5th/2nd/5th/2nd- a second at Levin and fourth and fastest lap at Teretonga his best with DNF’s at the NZ GP with engine failure- a broken conrod and a distant 12th at Wigram having only completed 34 laps- KB spun and FM hit him on the way through. Frank pitted and returned 3 laps later completing a further 13 laps before retirement. The sergent.com race report notes ‘…showing the sort of form, had fate not intervened, that would certainly have given him some Tasman points.

A50 left front suspension assembly- top link and swept back locating arm, lower wishbone, coil spring and Koni double-adjustable alloy bodied shocks, adjustable roll bar, big ventilated discs and four-pot Lockheed calipers (NAA)

 

All was not well in the Matich camp either.

A race team needs stability at the top, Peter Mabey had been the Matich Chief Mechanic since the SR3 period (at least), it was intended that Derek Kneller who arrived with FM’s first McLaren M10A in August 1969, (he had been building cars at McLaren Cars in 1968/9 including the first M10A raced by Peter Gethin) would replace Mabey but Peter decided to stay on to build the monocoque A50, as he wanted that experience and the two worked together well through the repair of FM’s McLaren M10B. The team rebuilt the cars aluminium monocoque rather than buy a repalcement from Trojan, to get some experience of this form of construction in advance of the build of the A50 in 1971.

After the ’71 AGP victory Kneller headed back to the UK, he was homesick, so went home to a gig with Team Surtees. Mabey stayed on but finally cried enough- and left the team after the Levin round having got tired of shouldering the load with other mechanics not pulling their weight the final straw.

Matich did Wigram and Teretonga with the other mechanics and called Derek in the UK, who agreed to return to Australia to assist. ‘I had planned and organised with Frank…to come back to Oz in the middle of the year (1972)…I arrived in Sydney on the Monday after Surfers, Joan picked me up from the airport, I went straight to Brookvale and started work on Frank’s joblist for the car’.

Normally there was a two week gap between the last NZ round at Teretonga and the first Australian one at Surfers Paradise but there was only one week in 1972 making the five day shipment of cars marginal so a group of teams hired a plane to freight the cars by air into Coolangatta, closeby to Surfers.

Derek and Scott McNaughton fitting the drink system- windscreen washer system complete with an electric pump and switch on the instrument panel. neat! (NAA)

Matich had plenty of success at the abrasive Surfers Paradise track over the years, he plonked the A50 on pole at the challenging power circuit and finished third behind McRae and Gardner- FG’s car was re-tubbed and he was back in the game. Kneller notes that the A50 rear suspension geometry was altered with a lighter rear subframe, and raced that way on the Gold Coast.

At the meetings end Frank and Joan jetted from Coolangatta back to Mascot in Sydney, with the A50 trucked back to Brookvale overnight- the team had no spare car, at the time the first customer A50 for George Follmer (Roy Woods Racing) was coming together in a corner of the Matich ‘shop with Carroll Smith assisting.

Kneller set to work preparing the A50 for the ‘Farm.

‘The rear suspension geometry was altered again after Surfers- the rear roll centre was raised…It was at this time the car was given the A50 ‘002’ moniker but it was ‘001’, the same tub, the bodywork was painted in STP colours and the roll bar chrome plated, it appeared different which was a bit of gamesmanship and kept the sponsors happy but it was, and still is the same tub which Bryan Sala now owns. This caused lots of historic (eligibility) grief in later years.’

For the sake of completeness and clarity ‘The same chassis (‘001′) was used for the rest of the 1972 Tasman Series and the 1973 Tasman, at its end it was put on axle stands at the Brookvale factory’ and is very clear photos in the article referred to earlier whilst the two A51’s were built up in advance of their 1973 US L&M Series tour.

A fresh Repco Holden V8 was popped into the rear of the A50 to replace the unit used at Surfers in addition to all of the usual pre-race checks- aided this time by operating from the teams home base rather than the garages used in other cities on tour.

A50 in the Brookvale workshop in the week prior to Warwick Farm. Repco Holden 5 litre Lucas injected V8 giving circa 480 bhp at this point in its development. 1973/4 flat plane crank Repcos the ultimate spec gave circa 520 bhp. Hewland DG300 5 speed transaxle, inboard disc brakes. Rear suspension, Matich designed- Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation cast magnesium uprights, single top link, lower parallel links, radius rods, coil spring/Koni dampers, adjustable roll bar with Aeroquip fittings throughout (NAA)

 

I’ve always thought Matich and McRae were a couple of peas from the same pod…

Both were from engineering backgrounds, Matich was apprenticed as a Diesel Engineer, McRae completed an Engineering Degree- both knew their way around racing cars from a drivers perspective and also as car conceptor, designer, builder, tester and fettlers. This is a very potent combination to build fast cars, or take what isn’t quick and change it and then keep changing it until the butt-cheeks and stopwatch confirm the steeds speed.

By the time both fellas had success at an international level they were not malleable youths- but rather battle hardened older racers who had cut deals to get where they wanted, with firm, battle-inspired opinions , which meant they were not naturally attractive to team managers after fast but perhaps more obedient youths.

Both proved their pace against the worlds best- lets not forget Matich’s speed against the F1 elite in his two Tasman 2.5 seasons in 1964/5 before his Elfin 400/Matich SR3/4 sportscar phase. He raced with Clark for much of a race at Lakeside and popped his Brabham BT7A, by then not the very latest bit of kit in 1965, on pole at Warwick Farm in front of Clark, Graham Hill, Brabham, McLaren, Phil Hill, Frank Gardner and the rest…

A50 Brookvale, FM at right. Note bathtub aluminium tub- 6 tubs were built, all the same design, 3 by Matich and 3 by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fishermans Bend, Melbourne- 3 A50, 2 A51’s one of which became an A52, and 1 A53. Note the way the lower suspension wishbone picks up, in part on the A-frame forward of the tub (NAA)

McRae beat the best in the F5000 world in Europe and the US- taking the 1972 US L&M Series in his self-built Leda LT27/GM1 and three Tasmans on the trot from 1971-1973.

Both had F1 offers, in FM’s case he had family and a business in Australia which was a barrier- unfortunately in McRae’s case his only F1 start was with Frank Williams Iso Ford in the 1973 British GP when he didn’t survive the first lap carnage wrought by McLaren’s new cub, Jody Scheckter’s mega first lap M23 Ford lose. McRae wasn’t involved in the shunt but the car’s throttle slides were filled with sand which prevented him taking the restart.

At their respective ‘right peaks’- say 1965 for Matich, (born 1935) and 1971/2 for McRae, (born 1940) both were surely good or better F1 material had they arrived at about those times aboard a halfway decent bit of kit!?

Matich and Bartlett before the off. Matich A50 Repco and McLaren M10B Chev. Just to the left of KB’s helmet is Frank Gardner’s silver Bell Magnum- his Lola T300 is on row 2 (NAA)

Meanwhile back in Sydney the 1972 ‘Warwick Farm 100’ beckoned…

Matich, Bartlett, Gardner and Max Stewart were probably the Warwick Farm aces in this race with perhaps Max to be discounted, his time in F5000 would arrive bigtime shortly, but he wasn’t going to win this race in his Elfin MR5.

Frank did pretty much all of his testing at the ‘Farm, he knew every blade of grass in ‘Gods Acre of Motor Racing’ and so it proved over that February 1972 weekend. The changes the team made to the car gave him the edge and additional confidence he needed, he was comfortably ahead of the field in unofficial practice.

On Saturday he was again the class of the grid popping the A50 on pole by 5/10 second from Kevin Bartlett’s McLaren M10B Chev, Frank Gardner Lola T300 Chev, the similarly mounted Bob Muir, Max Stewart Elfin MR5 Repco, McRae Leda GM1 Chev, who only did 12 laps of the slippery track.

Only the first few laps in the earlier Saturday session were dry, otherwise the track was wet or damp- a light drizzle greeted the drivers at noon as they set out for what would normally be the session in which the quickest times were set with cars by then having chassis’ nicely tweaked for the track.

Teddy Pilette McLaren M10B Chev, David Hobbs McLaren M22 Chev, John McCormack Elfin MR5 Repco and Warwick Brown McLaren M10 B Chev and the rest comprised the balance of the grid. Mike Hailwood had a shocker of a time, he missed much of practice when a tyre deflated, then in a discretionary session to test the car he muffed his entry onto The Causeway and clipped the fence breaking a wheel and causing some suspension damage. His boys had a long night ahead but did make the grid.

The Northern Crossing, formerly a series of temporary road patches laid across the top of the Warwick Farm horse racing track had neen replaced with permanent hotmix- a bump leading onto the crossing and a layer of silt across it made the going tough for the drivers, both Bob Muir and Max Stewart had spins during the day.

Pre-race build up- watching the TV feed of an earlier race. Derek ‘Frank’s gold race suit was given to him by Goodyear, they gave him a new set of race overalls every year, unalloyed Hinchman but for 1972 it was the ‘Fypro’ gold set’ (NAA)

 

Yerv got a hole in your sock Dad! Make sure you win but be careful all the same- FM and Kris Matich as Frank suits up (NAA)

 

Kneller belts Matich up so to speak- note the nickel or chrome plated roll bar- the cause of some consternation deacdes later in the ‘A50-002’ debate. There was no ‘002’ but rather a bit of gamesmanship by Matich! (NAA)

 

Lift off- FM gets the jump, he was never headed. Best view afforded by Max Stewart’s truck-top! (NAA)

Jack Brabham was present over the weekend and started the race at 1.30 pm- Matich led from pole winning the 45 lap, 100 mile race from European F5000 Champion Frank Gardner by 18 seconds and Kevin Bartlett another 30 seconds up the road.

FM started strongly, as did Bartlett who looked for a moment to have gotten off the line best,  and opened up a 2.5 second lead from Bartlett, Gardner, Stewart, Muir and McCormack- the latter made a blinder of a start from row 5 using the grass verge.

Matich widened the gap but the order up front remained the same with much of the race interest surrounding Mike Hailwood and his repaired Surtees TS8 who worked his way up from the back of the field- he was sixth on lap 6 passing Hobbs on lap 2, McCormack on lap 4 and Stewart on lap 5.

Pit board advising all is in hand, ease. STP sponsorship just for the Tasman, gone for the Gold Star Series which FM won convincingly in 1972 (NAA)

By lap 10 Matich was 15 seconds in front and at this early stage the race was looking like a repeat of his AGP effort in November. Bartlett was still in second ahead of Gardner in a nice tussle with a 10 second gap back to Muir, McRae with Michael The Cycle right up their clackers. In a ripper drive Hailwood passed McRae under brakes and then got Bob Muir on lap 12- by then FM up front was lapping the 2 litre Waggotts/BDA’s.

Gardner finally got past KB on lap 12 (or 13 depending upon your source), then came Hailwood, McRae ‘never really at home at the Farm’, Muir, McCormack, Pilette, Hobbs, Brown and Tony Stewart’s Mildren Waggott.

John McCormack Elfin MR5 Repco from Hailwood’s Surtees TS8 Chev, Pit Straight (NAA)

By lap 30 Matich eased the pace a smidge with only Gardner, Bartlett, Hailwood and McRae on the same lap- by lap 35 Hailwood could not catch Bartlett and succumbed to a challenge from McRae after he lost both second (early in the race) and fourth gears in his Hewland DG300 transaxle.

In the final four laps there were no changes so Matich won- setting a new record average speed for the race of 94.85 mph with second placeman Gardner setting a new lap record of 1:24.0 to take six-tenths off the mark set by Matich in November. KB was third 30 seconds behind Gardner, then McRae and Hailwood

John McCormack was 6th in his Elfin MR5 Repco, Mac was still in his formative F5000 phase but would soon be a force, then Teddy Pilette 7th in his VDS Racing M10B with Tony Stewart the best of the 2 litre cars in Max Stewart’s Milden Waggott- the car in which Max had won the 1971 Gold Star, then F5000 newcomer and later 1975 Tasman Champion Warwick Brown in his ex-Hamilton McLaren M10B Chev with American visitor David McConnell 10th in a GRD 272 Ford BDA 2 litre.

The quintessential WF victory shot, chequered flag car not quite perfectly in shot and crowded grandstand (NAA)

 

The win was just the fillip Matich needed, he carried the speed he had shown at Warwick Farm both to Melbourne at Sandown’s AGP the following weekend and at Adelaide International a fortnight later.

From pole at Sandown he led until lap 5 when an oil scavenge pump failed putting the A50 out, McRae took the win, and in Adelaide he started from pole but on this occasion had gearbox failure with David Hobbs taking the win in a McLaren M22 Chev.

(NAA)

No doubt a Rothmans executive handing over the goodies above as race sponsor, with the distinctive form of Brabham JA at right- he won an international race or three at Warwick Farm.

To the victor go the spoils- the much respected Australian Automobile Racing Club Chief, Geoff Sykes at right, and in the photo below Derek Kneller receives a trophy, perhaps, for the Chief Mechanic of the winning car.

Credits…

oldracingcars.com, ‘The Canberra Times’ 14 February 1972, National Archives of Australia, Derek Kneller, Alan Wood 1972 WF100 race report in March 1972 ‘Racing Car News’

Other Related Links…

Matich and his F5000 cars; https://primotipo.com/2015/09/11/frank-matich-matich-f5000-cars-etcetera/

Repco Holden F5000 engine; https://primotipo.com/2018/05/03/repco-holden-f5000-v8/

Graham McRae and his F5000 cars; https://primotipo.com/2018/09/06/amons-talon-mcraes-gm2/

Etcetera…

(NAA)

Ampol gets a fair crack of the whip in all these shots. Simpson race-boots common at the time at elite levels- FM’s Adidas jobbies are Nomex.

(NAA)

Looks like Derek Kneller at left taking a snap with his iPhone.

Never found the A50 the prettiest of F5000’s, functional and effective may be better descriptors. And successful. Both A50 ‘001’ and Bartlett’s very equally successful ex-Niel Allen M10B still extant and happily in Oz with Bryan Sala and Alan Hamilton respectively.

Debrief (NAA)

Nice shot of the top, or in part lack thereof, of the bathtub monocoque. Note steel structural element between each ally mono pontoon to which the dash is bolted- it contains the usual array of Smiths instruments. Bell Star helmet de-riguer at the time, FM the importer for Oz. The day I bought my first Bell Star circa 1975 from Ken Nancarrow at ‘Racegear’ in Ralston Street, South Yarra (Melbourne) is etched in my memory- remember him? Wonderful fella- you could never get outta the joint in less than an hour by the time he exhausted you with all of his on-point race gossip.

(NAA)

FM usually wore ‘Hinchman’ suits at this stage, remember the classic cream Hinchman of the era with vertical ‘race stripes’ on the left breast with prominent Goodyear embroidered badge? Always aspired to a set of those.

(NAA)

 

Nah, it’s not gunna rain, the weather comes from the direction of Liverpool.

Cockpit cowling (between Carroll Smith and FM) pretty much the same all the way through the A50-A53 models inclusive of the side-radiator A52 and A53.

I didn’t know who ‘Goodyear Cap Man’ was until reader/mate David Rees/Ray Bell identified him. Derek Kneller clarified the talented American engineer/mechanic/author’s (i’ve got two of his books purchased 20 years ago- ‘Tune To Win’ and ‘Prepare To Win’ from memory) role, which was to build up the A50 ‘003’ for Roy Woods Racing, a car initially raced by ace-racer George Follmer.

(NAA)

By the looks of it the boys are playing around with the steering rack- Matich very mechanically capable to say the least. Both he and McRae were very much in the Colin Chapman, Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, Derek Bennett, Garrie Cooper, Dan Gurney, Jim Hall, Frank Gardner, Howden Ganley, Larry Perkins mould of oh-so-capable, muck-in and geddit done types of driver/mechanic/engineer. A breed which no longer exists at elite level.

The A50 was an expression of the F5000 state of the art as Team Matich- FM, Kneller, Mabey and one or two others saw it in 1971. There was no ‘designer’ as such but rather draftsman who put onto paper the conceptual design of the car which was led strongly by the chief.

Tailpiece: ‘It sounds ok, great actually Ken’: Repco’s Ken Symes warms his liddl’ 5 litre baby up…

(NAA)

Repco-Holden F5000 V8 a simply glorious engine to listen to, unmuffled as they were for a few years yet.

Finito…

(NAA)

Jack Brabham testing the ‘Jack Brabham Ford’ Bowin P4X Formula Ford normally raced by Bob Beasley, August 1971…

I’ve rattled on a couple of times before about Jack’s last ‘in-period’ race victory being the Calder Raceway ‘Race Of Champions’ on 15 August 1971- he beat a stellar field.

Jack carried #1 on the flanks of the Bowin in the Calder race- its hard to know where this photo is taken, maybe its at Calder on the weekend of the meeting or perhaps Jack is putting in a few test miles elsewhere to get the hang of the car- its 100 bhp and Goodyear RR12 all weather tyres rather than the 440 bhp, slick shod F1 Brabham BT33 Ford he raced in 1970.

Maybe he is thinkin’- ‘i’ll just soften the rear bar a smidge and see if i can get a bit more bite from the back’…

Check out this article for heaps more on the Bowin Formula Fords;

https://primotipo.com/2018/08/30/bowin-p4a-and-oz-formula-ford-formative/

(R Beckman)

 

Front to rear, Stillwell Elfin 600, Brabham Bowin P4X and Matich Aztec- at right front Jane in the other Stillwell Racing Elfin 600 (Bennett)

The Calder race was a wonderful bit of promotion by Bob Jane- here is Tom Naughton’s ‘Racing Car News’ race report from the October issue of ‘The Monthly Bible’…

‘With all the pomp and ceremony of a Grand Prix, Calder staged a ‘Race Of Champions’ for their 15 August meeting.

Coming out of retirement were Jack Brabham and Bib Stillwell (Australian Gold Star National Champion 1962-1965) along with some of todays champions, and all mounted in borrowed Formula Fords, they turned on a most entertaining race. The ‘Master’ showed the way home, easing effortlessly away from the main scrap and showing that he had lost none of the skill after his period of retirement’. (only 8 months at the time!)

‘Brabham lined up in his own (Jack Brabham Ford, Bankstown, Sydney) FF normally steered by Bob Beasley, while Bib Stillwell took over his number one car (Elfin 600) usually driven by Larry Perkins (he won the Driver to Europe Series that year).

Allan Moffat (in fact the only driver without racing car experience) (not quite true, he had an outing or two in Bob Jane’s Brabham BT23E Repco Tasman car boofing it at Sandown in 1968) took over David Green’s car (Wren).

Bob Jane hopped into Mike Stillwell’s Elfin 600, Alan Hamilton into Graeme Peart’s (Wren) and Kevin Bartlett into Murray Coombs’ car (Wren). Frank Matich took over Mike Hall’s Aztec, while Leo Geoghegan slipped into Peter Edwards’ car (Elfin 600)’.

Moffat Wren, with 3 Elfin 600’s behind him- perhaps Leo G immediately behind him and Jack ranging in, partially obscured to his outside, Jack is ranging in (autopix)

 

Frank Matich in Mike Hall’s Aztec. In August 1971 FM is up to his armpits in the build of the Matich A50 Repco F5000, so my guess he may have preferred to stay in Sydney, in which he was to win the November AGP at Warwick Farm – wonder what he thought of the Melbourne, Ould brothers built Aztec? (AMRA)

‘That was the field and at the flag Jane was first away, leading from Moffat, Brabham, Geoghegan and Hamilton. By lap 2, the front three had closed up and on the following lap both Moffat and Brabham slipped by at Repco. Geoghegan came up to challenge Jane, while Brabham took the lead on lap 4. He started to ease away from the rest, while Jane slipped Moffat at Toyota, these next three keeping close company. By lap 6, Geoghegan took Moffat, and then inherited second spot when Jane slipped wide at Repco, dropping back behind Stillwell’.

‘Oops! The same thing happened the last time I drove one of these open-wheeler thingies’. Moffat in David Greens slightly second-hand Wren (Bob Jane)

In lap 9, Stillwell started a challenge on Moffat and Hamilton, but in front Brabham was well clear. He took the flag in true champion style, with Leo second, then a scrapping duo of Hamilton and Moffat, with Stillwell hard on their heels, then came Jane, Matich and Bartlett. Leo did the fastest lap, a 48.6.’

The three Brabham sons all had stints in Australian Formula Ford before heading off to Europe, Geoff in 1973/4 aboard Bowin P4X/Elfin 620/Bowin P6F, Gary in 1982 with the Birrana F73 and David in 1986/7 with Van Diemen RF85/86. There is a neat bit of symmetry in the ‘old man’ also having a race win in Oz FF- was it his very last race win I wonder?

Credit…

‘Racing Car News’ October 1971, Laurie and Nick Bennett Collection, Bob Jane Heritage Collection, Autopix, Australian Motor Racing Annual, Jonathon Koch Collection for the program and RCN, National Archives Australia, Lynton Hemer, Russell Beckman

Etcetera…

From the Calder 15 August meeting program. Car in the photo is Jack’s last Tasman mount, the Brabham BT31 Repco at the Sandown Tasman meeting in February 1969

The race certainly had a great entry, for overseas readers, Stillwell, Bartlett, Matich and Geoghegan were all Gold Star Champions and Moffat, Jane and Hamilton national title holders on multiple occasions aboard Touring Cars and Sports Cars in Hamilton’s case. Jack probably requires no introduction…

For the sake of correctness, the car driver/combinations did not quite start as listed in the program.

Brabham was aboard the one off Bowin P4X- slightly different in the suspension to production P4A’s, Matich the Aztec, Jane a Stillwell Elfin 600, Geoghegan the Edwards Elfin 600 with Moffat, Bartlett and Hamilton aboard Wrens.

Brabham doing a parade lap in the P4X at Oran Park on 26 March 1972 (L Hemer)

 

 

 

Tailpiece: ‘It feels a bit like the ‘Stang, gearchange is on the right anyway’…

Moff saddles up in David Green’s Wren Formula Ford, these cars (not to forget his ‘Mk2’s constructed in the later 1970’s) were built in reasonable numbers by Bill Reynolds in his Carlisle Street, St Kilda workshop, not too far away from Calder.

Finito…

(Repco)

Frank Matich aboard his dominant 1969 Australian Sportscar Championship winning Matich SR4 Repco ‘760’, 4-cam, 4-valve 5 litre V8 at Calder Raceway in 1969…

Clearly the Repco PR snapper was there on the day to capture proceedings, i’m not sure of the meeting date, the championship rounds that year were at Warwick Farm, Surfers Paradise and Sandown- the photo is after the Monaco GP high-wing ban, which as you will see in the article attached is the form in which the car raced early in the year. An awesome machine in every respect.

Nigel Tait, the restorer/owner/driver of the car and i did a long feature about this wonderful machine, click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/2016/07/15/matich-sr4-repco-by-nigel-tait-and-mark-bisset/

(Repco)

Credits…

Repco Ltd

Tailpiece: Where is Meppa when I need him?…

Repco’s John Mepstead was seconded to Matich’s Sydney operation to look after the several-of-a-kind, DOHC, 32-valve, ‘760 Series’ Repco, circa 560bhp 4.8-5 litre V8’s which powered this machine.

SR4 was Matich’s proposed 1968 Can-Am contender- it ran way too late in its build so he raced it in Oz in 1969- it was like taking a sledge-hammer to crack a nut such was its local dominance!

Finito…

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It can only be a Formula Libre race, somehow I doubt 4 year old Ray Dones had a future as a race promoter…

This shot of the little dude and his eclectic grid of racers was taken at the Denver Toy and Hobby Show on 3 April 1965, but it could just as easily be me at the ‘Scalextric’ track at Rosebud on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula in 1969.

We ‘useter holiday at McCrae during the long, hot Australian summer- in between working on the ‘tan my brother and cousin spent lotsa time and money on donuts and laps at that place up the road in the Summer of ’69.

I never did parlay my Scalextric pace at 11 to exceptional Formula Vee speed at 21, sadly!

Credit…

Georgia Lowell

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McCrae in the summer of ’69

Finito…

Start of the 50 Mile Handicap heats: Hunter in the Mrs Jones owned Alfa 6C1750 at left, Thompson’s obscured Bugatti T37A and two six-cylinder 4077cc Chryslers of E Patterson and #72/14 HJ Beith (Fairfax)

Bill Thompson’s Bugatti T37A swept all before him at Gerringong Beach on 10 May 1930…

Sydney’s finest was very much the form driver of the meeting, in fact many would say he was Australia’s best driver pre-War. He had not long before won the 1930 Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island during the 24 March weekend- it was one of his three wins in Australia’s premier event. Bill was also coming off the back of record times at Penrith Speedway and at Kurrajong Hillclimb that season.

Gerringong is 130 Km south of Sydney on the Illawarra Coast, then as now it is a popular holiday destination. Throughout the 1920’s the relatively deserted Seven Mile Beach, between Black Head and Beecroft Head was a place where members of the Royal Automobile Club raced their cars, far enough from Sydney and the long cold stare of the law. These occasions were as much society events as they were motor racing ones.

The Smith/Harkness Anzac Rolls Royce arrives at Gerringong in December 1929 (Kiama Tourist)

Gerringong was very much in the public mind at the time as Norman ‘Wizard’ Smith had set an Australian Land Speed Record testing his Rolls Royce engined ‘Anzac’, at 128.571 miles per hour only months before on 1 December 1929. Wizard and his exploits, and the skill of Don Harkness, a racer himself, and his company which built ‘Anzac’ is a story for another time.

The beach had been the site of horse racing since the 1860’s but the noble beasts ‘could not compete with the speed and excitement of the motor’, mind you the take up of motor vehicles in Australia is indicated by the October holidays in 1919 when there was record volumes of motor traffic through the town, in just two hours, 12 vehicles were counted driving through Fern Street.

The weather on the 10th of May was awful for racing, with rain the night before and drizzle prevailing for most of the day from the 11.40am start of the meeting- only 300 hardy souls watched the race action.

The sand was wet, to the extent that all competitors of the first event had to be pushed out of the sand, into which they had sunk before the race started! The conditions became more difficult for the organisers, the Sydney Bicycle and Motor Club, as the programs timeline grew in inverse proportion to the usable width of beach- which was down to two cars  by the end of the days proceedings. ‘Another five minutes’, a club official said and ‘the tide would have beaten us’.

The ‘Sydney Referee’ report made note of the other difficulties as soft and slippery sand at the turn posts, drizzling rain and some ‘competitors whose race tactics, were, to say the least of it, unsafe’.

Thompson and a young admirer after his Gerringong win (Fairfax)

Thompson’s win of the feature event, the ’50 Mile Handicap’ for cars under 2000cc was described as a ‘great win’, a ‘fine individual effort’ ‘even though there have been better races held in Australia’.

Thomson won the race in the Bugatti T37A in which he was victorious at the AGP in the month before, chassis ‘37358’, which is still in Australia in the process of restoration. See my article at the end of this one on the 2015 Melbourne ‘Motorclassica’ for some information about that car.

Thomson won in 39 mins 4 secs from the CN Jackson MG Midget 847cc s/c, HG Potts Lea Francis 1496cc s/c. Other starters in the final were Charlie East’s Bugatti T37A, RR Hawkes Austin 7 Sports 748cc, N Hodge Morris Minor 847cc and the JAS Jones owned Alfa 6C1750 SS s/c driven by A Hunter, DNF due to splashing through a wave whilst on course. It is not clear if the other cars completed the distance.

The engine of Thonpson’s T37A is fettled before the off (Fairfax)

 

In other races, Charlie East won the final of the Four Miles Over 1000cc from the JO Sherwood Chrysler and J Aubrey Jones also in a Chrysler. There were three heats in all- won by Bill Thomson’s Bug, John Sherwood’s Chrysler and E Patterson’s Chrysler.

The Eight Miles Club Championship final was won by Thomson, the heats won by HJ Beith Chrysler Sports and Thomson’s Bugatti. Maroubra legend, Hope Bartlett in a Bugatti, did a very quick first lap in heat 1 but forgot the second lap! No pitboards were in use at Gerringong it seems.

The Handicap for Closed Cars was won by J Aubrey Jones Chrysler and the Handicap for cars under 1000cc was taken by the N Hodge Morris Minor.

Thomson said that such was the narrow course- it hardly gave him enough width to clear oncoming cars, that he was about to pull out. ‘It was the hardest event I’ve been in, much worse than the the Phillip Island race’, the ‘Island was famous for the challenging nature of its gravel roads, dust and undulations.

After the conclusion of the meeting Bill Thomson hoped to beat the Gerringong Flying 1 Mile record of 33 3/5 of a second set by Don Harkness in a Hispano Suiza in 1923 but failed to get there given the conditions, his 36 4/5 seconds not as good as he had hoped having changed into top gear a little too early with a head wind doing the rest of the damage to his time.

Another grid this time with two Chryslers to the left, #72 the E Patterson and HJ Beith Chrysler Sports, Charlie East Bugatti T37A to right (Kiama Tourist)

The only major incident of the day occurred when Mrs JAS Jones ‘winged’ one of the Chrysler mechanics (below) when competitors in the second heat of the over 1000cc Four Mile Handicap passed the finishing post and turned too quickly, and spectators pressed forward. Jones, in last place arrived at race speed and had to swerve several times to avoid cars and bystanders. She almost got through but struck Curley, breaking his leg.

(Fairfax)

The ‘Referee’ concluded its report of the meeting by saying ‘All things considered it was a successful meeting. But the supervision left a lot to be desired. It was this fault, plus stupidity on the part of certain competitors, that led to a serious accident. After crossing the finishing line several of the competing cars turned back towards the oncoming cars and one even swung out suddenly across their path. Thereafter the officials made their presence felt. But one subsequent offender should have been severely cautioned’.

Mrs JAS Jones aboard her Alfa 6C1750- a much respected racer and car. Raced by many latterly into the fifties Flathead Ford V8 powered inclusive of an AGP and still in Oz (Fairfax)

Motor Car Racing in Australia in 1930…

I wrote an article a while ago about Penrith Speedway and a championship meeting held there in 1930, click on this link to read it, not least for some context on the state of car racing, especially road racing at the time in Australia.

https://primotipo.com/2017/06/08/penriths-world-championship-race-1930/

Here are some snippets from that article, but do read the whole thing if you have not.

The Australian Grand Prix was held for the first time on an oval dirt layout around the showgrounds at Goulburn, New South Wales in 1927. The 1928 AGP, ‘The 100 Miles Road Race’ at Phillip Island, the first proper race in Australia on a road, run on a large, rectangular, gravel course was more indicative than Goulburn of the direction Australian racing would take and was indeed the race which started the tradition of road racing in Australia.

Gerringong Corners- two of them, one at end end of the beach, tide issues clear! (Fairfax)

At the time Australian motor racing was largely amateur, a ‘run what you brung’ approach prevailed with most competing cars driven to and from the track. The sport evolved from hillclimbs, sprints and races on horse-tracks, the province of the gentry pre-War, to hillclimbs at Waterfall Gully, Kurrajong, Mount Coot-tha and Belgrave, beach racing at Gerringong and Sellicks Beaches to venues such as the clay pans of Lake Perkolilli in Western Australia, and the Aspendale, Maroubra and Penrith Speedways.

John Medley wrote that ‘it was some time before other groups followed (the Light Car Club of Victoria’s Phillip Island) road racing direction, preferring the simpler expedient of running trials with speed sections included (rather like modern rallies) or contests on simple dirt speedways- both of these being more easily controlled by the organisers and also less accessible to the long arm of the law. One consequence was that their was very much a casual air to the whole occasion, with ‘chop picnics, family gatherings and exuberant overnight parties.’

E Patterson’s 4 litre Chrysler, desolate nature of the area at the time clear, Gerringong 1930 (Fairfax

I have not used the term speedway racing as the ‘forked road’ the sport took in later years had not yet occurred, competitors entered a variety of events as above. In addition solo intercity record-breaking attempts were important with Graham Howard recording that ‘…intercity records…were the most consistent form of competitive motoring in Australia until the late 1920’s, and produced our first household-name drivers…’ In fact the police made illegal the ‘Intercity Record Breaking’ in 1930 with Wizard Smith a household name as a result of these exploits.

A lot would change in terms of road-racing between 1930 and the war- ‘Round the Houses Racing’ in towns became common in Western Australia at places like Albany, Bunbury and Goomalling. Australian Grands Prix were held at Victor Harbor and Lobethal in South Australia and most importantly the Mount Panorama Scenic Drive, at Bathurst- which doubled as a racetrack, opened in March 1938- the 1938 Australian Grand Prix was held there on that weekend. By the war the foundations for car road racing in Australia were well and truly established, something which could not be said in May 1930.

Professor Neville Burkitt’s Mercedes Benz SS- came close to colliding with Bill Thompson’s Bug, or more particularly his Bugatti Thompson was driving!, in his heat (Fairfax)

Bill Thomson and his Bugatti T37A…

https://primotipo.com/2017/06/08/penriths-world-championship-race-1930/

Bibliography…

Sydney Morning Herald 6 May 1930, Sydney Sun 10 & 11 May 1930, Sydney Evening News 10 May 1930, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, kiama.nsw.gov.au

Photo Credits…

Fairfax

Tailpiece: Thompson’s Bug blowing off a Chrysler, Gerringong Beach 1930…

Finito…