Posts Tagged ‘John Bowe’

(R MacKenzie)

Pedro Rogriguez BRM P126 V12 howling its way around Surfers Paradise in the summer of 1968, behind is Dick Atwood’s sister car…

This shot is by Rod MacKenzie, loved his work, especially the more creative stuff of which there is heaps- he died last year sadly, see here for some of his work; https://primotipo.com/2018/09/27/oz-racing-books/ and here for the BRM P126; https://primotipo.com/2018/01/25/richard-attwood-brm-p126-longford-1968/

 

(oldracephotos.com.au/King)

Bob Jane from Allan Moffat in Lotus Cortinas at Mountford Corner, Longford in March 1965.

Didn’t these two characters go at with considerable ferocity for a couple of decades, who won the encounters on this weekend? Click here for the Lotus Cortina; https://primotipo.com/2014/11/16/jim-clark-lotus-cortina-sebring-1964/ and here for Moff’s more formative career years; https://primotipo.com/2020/03/06/moffats-shelby-brabham-elfin-and-trans-am/

 

(I Smith)

Feel the earth move under your feet- Formula 5000 at Sandown was what hooked me into the sport.

McRae, McRae GM3 Chev, Costanzo, Lola T332C Chev and Kevin Bartlett’s partially obscured Brabham BT43 Chev, another three T332s and the rest on the run down from The Rise down into Dandy Road- Sandown Park Cup, Rothmans International Series, February 1978.

Warwick Brown won from Garrie Cooper and John Cannon- Lola T333/T332C Chev, Elfin MR8-C Chev and March 73A/751 Chev, McRae, Costanzo and Bartlett were all DNFs.

Piece on Graham McRae here; https://primotipo.com/2018/09/06/amons-talon-mcraes-gm2/

 

(S Jek)

Stan Jones, Maserati 250F during the 1956 Australian Grand Prix.

Taken from the spectator foot bridge on Pit Straight, Stan was fifth in the race won by Moss’ works 250F, see here; https://primotipo.com/2018/01/16/james-linehams-1956-agp-albert-park/

 

(unattributed)

The Corkscrew, Laguna Seca Can-Am 15 October 1967.

Skip Scott, McLaren M1C Chev from Frank Matich, Matich SR3 Repco ‘620’ 4.4 V8 and Chris Amon, Ferrari 350 Can-Am V12 with a Lola T70 up top.

Bruce McLaren won that day in his M6A Chev- the first of the long series of dominant orange Can-Am Big Macs.

For Matich, his 1967 tour was a toe in the water exercise, but he never did go back with a sportscar, the SR4 chassis and Repco 5 litre 760 engine were both hopelessly late, in the event he used a sledge hammer to crack a nut in torching the local opposition in the 1969 Australian Sportscar Championship- see here; https://primotipo.com/2016/07/15/matich-sr4-repco-by-nigel-tait-and-mark-bisset/

 

(Peter Weaver Motorsports Photography)

John Smith, Ralt RT21 Holden, Formula Holden, Phillip Island during the opening 1990 Gold Star round in March 1990.

Schmiddy put Dave Mawer’s immaculate car second on the grid but had a mother and father of a prang during the pre-race morning warm up comprehensively destroying the car after a high speed off at Lukey Heights.

I became a Smith devotee in his Bowin P4A Formula Ford days where his dazzling car control was Bartlett-esque, he carried that pace into the Galloway ANF2 and then the ex-Scuderia Veloce/Larry Perkins Ralt RT1 he raced with both pushrod Ford and BDA Ford engines in both ANF2 and Formula Pacific- nifty that, I always thought.

The thinking drivers of that F Pac period were Alf Costanzo and John Bowe- the ‘maddies’ perhaps Andrew Miedecke, Lucio Cesario and Smith- with the latter two probably or possibly the quickest of the five over a given lap and Costanzo and JB more often victorious. Alan Jones duly noted of course.

Alf should have gone to Europe in 1969 (or did he? and returned), Smith in 1979 and Bowe and Cesario in 1981- man there was talent aplenty amongst that lot.

John boofed a few cars mind you- the RT1 was retubbed at least once, ditto one of the RT4s, ditto this RT21 but he was always ‘on it’ in a very European kinda way as was Lucio, and let’s not forget the latter was a Lancia LC2 Ferrari Group C works driver for a season or so- I really must write that story.

John’s Ralt RT1 looking a tad second hand after a difference of opinion with the Adelaide International real estate before the first Gold Star round in 1980 (SLSA)

 

(T Parkinson)

Bunbury ‘Round The Houses’ down south as the Perthies refer to Margs (Margaret River) and its surrounds.

The real 100S Austin Healey deal ‘AHS390’ which Tony Parkinson identifies as driven by Perth disc-jockey Mike O’Rourke during the 1963 New Year weekend.

See here for more about these West Australian town venues; https://primotipo.com/2017/03/23/bunbury-flying-50-allan-tomlinson-ferrari-500-et-al/

 

(Govt Singapore)

John Walker’s Elfin 600B Ford twin-cam leads winner Graeme Lawrence, Brabham BT29 Ford FVC through the tropical jungle alongside the Thompson Road track, Singapore GP 1971.

This piece is about the Singapore GP generally but with a focus on the 1972 event; https://primotipo.com/2016/11/24/singapore-sling-with-an-elfin-twist/

 

(J Ellacott)

Beautiful John Ellacott shot at Mount Druitt in July 1957.

The two Johns, Ellacott and Medley identify the entrants as the #81 George Websdale MG TC, #9 Howard Hunt MG TA/TC Spl s/c, Jim Johnson MG TC Spl, #20 Don Wright, Citroen Spl and Gordon Stewart in the mid-engined Wheeler MG Spl s/c, and on the second row Ray Walmsley, Alfa Romeo P3 Alvis, unknown, the George Pearse Cooper MG and maybe Ken Bennett’s Austin Healey 100-4, Medley notes in the background the red Jack Robinson Jaguar in the background.

A piece on Mount Druitt is here; https://primotipo.com/?s=mount+druitt

 

(A Doney)

Soap Box Derby in Bendigo.

Nineteen-forties d’yer reckon? All of us with a billy-cart or three in our past can relate to this wonderful shot. More on billy-carts; https://primotipo.com/2019/02/10/spitty/

 

Poignant.

The I’ll-fated Rocky Tresise Ecurie Australie Cooper T62 Climax is pushed onto the grid at Longford in March 1965.

Warwick Cumming at the rear, Lou Russo up front- two of the AF Hollins crew who always looked after Lex Davison’s cars.

A rather sad story, a ‘Greek Tragedy’ as some have described it, here; https://primotipo.com/2016/05/20/bruce-lex-and-rockys-cooper-t62-climax/

 

(Peter Weaver Motor Sport Photography)

Bap Romano, Kaditcha Ford Cosworth DFL, Winton, 1983.

Bap won both heats of the Australian Sportscar Championship that day- I was there and still remember the raucous, sharp exhaust note of Barry Lock’s marvellous car.

It needed a bit of work from ex-Alan Jones Williams mechanic, Wayne Eckersley to get the structure and aero right but it was a jet once they got the thing sorted.

I went to several meetings just to see and hear this car.

 

(I Nicholls)

Tiger In Your Tank indeed.

Ray Parsons and Jim Clark watched by a fascinated Sandown Park crowd during the 1966 Tasman meeting.

Clark’s Lotus 39 Climax was the least competitive of all of his Tasman mounts, the two BRM P261s were the class of the field that year with Jackie Stewart taking the title convincingly.

See here for an epic on this car which was driven so well for so long after acquired by Leo Geoghegan after the Longford round which followed this Sandown event; https://primotipo.com/2016/02/12/jim-clark-and-leo-geoghegans-lotus-39/

 

(N Macleod)

Aussie Abroad.

Warwick Brown in Jack McCormack’s Talon MR1A Chev at Mosport during the 1975 US F5000 Championship.

He gave Mario Andretti a surprise that weekend pushing him hard in the heat, in the final he was third behind Mario and Brian Redman’s Lola T332 Chevs.

A bit about Warwick here; https://primotipo.com/2017/03/09/wb-for-73/

 

(D Simpson)

The old and the new.

There are not too many shots of Bob Jane’s second and third Mustangs together on track together as here during the 1969 Australian Touring Car Championship round at Mallala.

Bob in the 1968 Shelby built Trans-Am leads John Harvey in the GT390 with Terry Allen’s Chev Camaro in shot too.

Pete Geoghegan won the race in his Mustang from Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 911, Bob retired mid-race, not sure about Harves and Terry Allan, I don’t have my ATCC book to hand- folks?

1969 ATCC article here; https://primotipo.com/2018/02/01/1969-australian-touring-car-championship/

 

(J Ellacott)

Stunning John Ellacott work- look closely, there is so much going on in this magnificent photograph taken during the 1962 Warwick Farm 100 weekend.

Moss practiced this Lotus 21 Climax but preferred Rob Walker’s Cooper T53 so won in that from Bruce McLaren and Bib Stillwell in similar cars.

Read about the Lotus 21 here; https://primotipo.com/2016/04/08/ole-935/

 

(M Terry)

Aspendale Park 1929.

James Crooke built a race track inside his horse racing course in 1905, the first race meeting was held on 29 January 1906 making it the ‘world’s first purpose built racing circuit.’

I am intrigued as to the cars and drivers above identification folks?

See here a great piece on this Melbourne bayside motorsport 1905 to 1951 race venue, Melburnians who want to check the location should pop Albany Crescent, Aspendale into Google Maps and drive along it- it once was the track’s back-straight.

See here; https://www.hyperracer.com/history

 

(R Lambert or D Mills)

Surely Garrie Cooper was the most multi-talented man in Australian motor racing apart from Jack Brabham?

Designer, engineer, constructor of production racing cars in some scale for a couple of decades and a bit, small business owner and employer and elite level racing driver- not at the  apex of the latter of course.

Nobody has a bad thing to see about the bloke either, he was a decent, honest man of his word in a sea filled with no shortage of white-pointers.

Here he is aboard his superb Elfin 600C Repco ‘830’ 2.5 V8 during the JAF Japanese Grand Prix weekend in 1969 in this race won by

Per head of population the Elfin 600 was one of the most successful production racing cars ever built- the only model missing from the Edwardstown concerns line up was a Formula Vee variant!

Craig Sparks, Elfin 792 VW inside Bob Prendergast’s Cheetah Mk7 , Winton March 1981

 

Winton ANF2 championship round in March 1981. John Bowe, Elfin GE225 VW from Ricahed Davison’s Hardman Ford, Russell Norden’s March ‘Aryben’ 793 VW and Peter Macrow, Cheetah Mk7 Toyota. JB wrote of this car ‘Loved that car, would have liked to run it for a bit longer but my sponsor wanted to go Atlantic racing straight away which meant Ralt. I’m sure Garrie could have built an awesome Atlantic car but the time frame was crucial’

I remember looking at John Bowe’s works Elfin 792 VW car at the Winton ANF2 championship round in 1979 and going simultaneously ‘woweee’ and ‘ya missed the boat Gazza’ when first glimpsing the gleaming Ansett sponsored car, it was the year ‘all’ the production racing car manufacturers had a crack at a ground-effect car, ‘black art’ that it was at the time.

The 792 wasn’t a GE car but the GE225 VW F2 which followed it was- and was a quick machine, John Bowe rated it and then Chris Leach, his sponsor, wanted to go Formula Pacific so the car was sold sooner than ideal, so too was the MR9 Chev F5000 but it’s developmental opportunities were not at an end when Garrie died suddenly in early 1982.

I’ve often wondered what he would have achieved had he continued on, for sure the historic restoration work he had commenced would have provided valuable cash-flow as the market for production racing cars got tougher especially as the carbon-fibre era began.

The cars designed and built by Don Elliot, Tony Edmondson and Jon Porter were the real Elfin deal mind you, god bless ‘em for taking the torch forward as they did.

R.IP. GC Cooper- see here for the 792; https://primotipo.com/2016/06/10/elfin-light-aircraft/

 

Bib Stillwell at Mount Panorama aboard his Cooper T51 Climax in October 1960.

Bib owned and raced more cars than you and I have had hot dinners- the Coopers he had in this period alone takes a bit of reckoning.

This one ‘F2-18-59’ is the car he leased to Lex Davison and in which, despite its 2.2 litre Coventry Climax FPF engine, compared to the oppositions 2.5s, Lex won the 1961 Australian Grand Prix at Mallala, click here for that story; https://primotipo.com/2018/03/29/the-naughty-corner-renta-gp-winner/

 

(HRCCTas)

Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 904 leads a gaggle of cars into the Viaduct at Longford during the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy.

Behind him is Lionel Ayers, MRC Lotus 23B Ford, Spencer Martin in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM- Frank Matich is up front in his new Elfin 400 Olds and took the win.

Here is a piece on Hamilton’s sportsracer Porsches of this period; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/20/alan-hamilton-his-porsche-9048-and-two-906s/

 

(Brabham Automotive)

‘Orf with his head!’

Arise Sir Jack, Sir Zelman Cowen, Australia’s Governor General completes the Knighthood ritual in Canberra, 1979.

And rather well deserved too.

 

(unattributed)

Aussies Abroad, for quite a while the case of these blokes…

Brian Muir, BMW 3 litre CSL chases Frank Gardner, Chev Camaro ZL-1 7 litre at Brands Hatch during a British Saloon Car Championship round in 1973.

Frank left Australia as a sportscar pilot and forged a great career in those things as well as single-seaters and tourers whilst Brian left Sydney as a touring car driver and mixed that in Europe with sportscar drives.

Frank returned to Oz in late 1974 whilst Brian died suddenly in England on 11 September 1983.

 

(unattributed)

The raucous bellow of the XK Jaguar engine bellows and echoes off the surrounding gums as Ron Phillips’ Cooper T38 exits Kings Bridge during the 1959 Australian Grand Prix at Longford…

Phillips, son of Wangaratta between the wars top racer Jack Phillips didn’t win that day but he won the event at Lowood in 1959.

I’ve an article largely completed on that ex-Whitehead/Jones car and tangentially the driver, I really must get on with it Ian McDonald!

 

(Castrol)

Bathurst 1000, 2019: Lee Holdsworth, Tickford Racing Ford Mustang GT…

The Mustangs brought a great new shape to V8 Supercars in 2019 with the DJR Scott McLaughlin car taking the title from Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup.

Holdsworth was ninth at Mount Panorama sharing with Thomas Randle and finished tenth in the overall seasons point score with a best placing for the year third at Sandown.

 

(P Cross)

Phil West at the wheel of the Scuderia Veloce ex-Gardner Ferrari 275GTB during the 1968 Surfers Paradise 12 Hours.

He finished ninth sharing the car with George Reynolds and – the race was won by the SV Ferrari 250LM driven by the Brothers Geoghegan.

Whilst the 275GTB are somewhat iconic Phil wasn’t impressed at all, his thoughts about it are here; https://primotipo.com/2019/10/24/franks-fazz/

 

(R Watson)

Bob Jane at Calder aboard his Brabham BT23E Repco circa 1968.

Janey raced single-seaters regularly circa 1964-1966, he had an Elfin Mono Ford ANF1.5 and at that stage more or less switched to touring cars but not exclusively so, when he felt like it he had a whirl in his Elfin 400 Repco, and here aboard his ex-Jack 1968 Tasman machine usually piloted by John Harvey.

This car is covered in this piece here; https://primotipo.com/2015/12/22/jack-brabham-brabham-bt23e-oran-park-1968/

Bob Jane, Elfin Type 100 Ford twin-cam ANF 1.5, Warwick Farm Tasman meeting 1966 (autopics.com)

Photo and other Credits…

Roderick MacKenzie, Sharaz Jek, oldracephotos.com, Peter Weaver Motorsport Photography, Tony Parkinson, John Ellacott, Allan Doney, Ian Nicholls, Norm Macleod, Dick Simpson, Michael Terry, Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania, Brabham Automotive, Castrol, Richard Watson, hyperracer.com, autopics.com, S5000 Facebook

Tailpiece: Surfs Up…

(S5000 FB)

Tim Macrow testing the prototype S5000 Ligier at Phillip Island on 19 September 2019.

Lovely shot by Peter Weaver, who said all modern circuits are ugly? Weaver is the master at the Island, his work there is exceptional.

This was one of several test days at the circuit before the new categories first race at Sandown several weeks hence, click here for a feature on the class; https://primotipo.com/2019/10/26/progress/

Finito…

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(Spencer Lambert)

Now that’s a ‘Wing Car’! Garrie Cooper awaits clearance for takeoff at Adelaide International, ‘Elfin 792 Cessna’ in 1979…

When I originally saw this shot on the wonderful ‘Elfin Monocoque Aficionados’ Facebook Group page I thought it a promotional pisstake, the additional wings added to get some column inches for Elfin’s sponsor, Ansett Airlines of Australia. Ansett was an Australian icon, our ‘other’ domestic airline until its corporate failure in 2001. Reg Ansett would have turned in his grave that day.

Whilst it was John Bowe’s car the helmet was Cooper’s, JB confirmed it was the Elfin chief at the wheel; ‘Garrie kept and prepared the car in Adelaide, he was always fiddling around with new ideas and this is one of them. I met the car and raced it at meetings but GC did all of the development work on the chassis’.

Elfin boss Cooper and mechanic/engineer John Porter were experimenting to understand the forces their new ‘ground effect’ designs would be subjected to by trying to create the downforce of GE tunnels by the addition of the side mounted wings.

image

Gunnar Nilsson, Lotus 78 Ford, Japanese GP 1977 (unattributed)

In 1978 Colin Chapman, Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson ‘swept the boards’ with their dominant ground-effects Lotus 79, Mario took the drivers and Lotus the manufacturers titles that year.

The complexities of aerodynamics, what a ‘black art’ it was then with the technology of the day was such that the dominant team of 1978 didn’t win a race in 1979!

Chapman pushed the envelope ‘too far’ with the ‘wingless’ Lotus 80 despite all of the knowledge Peter Wright, Tony Rudd, Chapman and the rest had acquired during 1976/8. The best ‘Lotus 79 copy’, the Williams FW07 was the fastest car of 1979 albeit Ferrari ‘nicked’ the title with its T4 design as Patrick Head and Frank Williams didn’t get their new car onto the grid early enough which allowed the ultra reliable, just fast enough Fazz Flat-12 to win for Jody Scheckter.

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The technical challenges manufacturers of production racing cars like Elfin faced in 1979 were the aerodynamic forces unleashed on their structures. They both needed to understand how to create the downforce Lotus harnessed and then strengthen their structures to cope with the download and cornering forces applied to the cars chassis and suspension componentry as unheard levels of grip were created.

The difficulty for people like Cooper at the ‘far flung ends of the planet’ was not being able to see how things were evolving directly week by week at race meetings in Europe, get the ‘goss from suppliers and the press etc.

The Elfin 792 VW Golf was Cooper’s 1978 ANF2 car (1.6 litres, SOHC, carburettor formula, engines gave circa 185bhp) but it arrived late so took the 792 appellation. GC had a huge F5000 shunt in 1978 at the Sandown Gold Star round from which he was lucky to escape, a story for another time, an impact was the delay of a swag of Elfin projects including the F2 car until Garrie was back on his feet.

When laid down the little single-seater was designed as a neat, conventional aluminium monocoque with outboard suspension. It was a replacement of his Type 700, originally built as an ANF3 (1300cc) car but evolved into an F2 car by many racers when fitted with a Ford Twin-cam or various pushrod/SOHC 4 cylinder engines as the class evolved from a 1.6 twin-cam to a 1.6 SOHC formula with effect from 1978.

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Garrie Cooper did ‘a million miles’ at Adelaide International and Mallala testing his Adelaide built cars over the decades, here the 792 is running a high airbox, with which it did race (Spencer Lambert)

Later Australian Gold Star and Touring Car Champion, John Bowe raced both the factory MR8 Chev F5000 and 792 and with more luck could have won both the Gold Star and the 1979 F2 Championship.

Bowe may not be known to all overseas readers, he is one of Australia’s pro-driver greats over 4 decades. He had a great career in single-seaters before turning to ‘the dark side’, touring cars where he was and still is, an ace. He won 6 Australian Championships in four categories including the then prestigious ‘Gold Star’ for our champion driver, 2 Bathurst 1000’s and the Australian Touring Car Championship.

bowe elfin

JB in his Elfin 500 F Vee #132 during his 1971, debut racing year in which he won the Tasmanian FV Championship, aged 16 (oldracephotos.com)

‘I grew up surrounded by cars in Tasmania, my dad had a dealership and raced, I went to lots of local meetings at Symmons Plains, Baskerville and Longford. I raced an Elfin Formula Vee when I first started and an Elfin 600 after that, and it was Garrie who gave me the chance to race on the mainland, which is something I really wanted to do’.

‘He was great to me by giving me the opportunity and also the guidance. The Elfin drives were the big boost my career got, everything that happened later was a function of the success I had in the F2 Elfins and especially the F5000 MR8 drives I had, which established my big-car credibility’.

elf dick

Dick Johnson left and John Bowe in their 1993 Ford ‘EB’ Falcon V8 Supercar heyday, JB won the Australian Touring Car Championship, for the last 30 years really the ‘Australian Drivers Championship’ in 1995 in a Falcon (Shell)

‘The 1.6 single-cam F2 formula was really good at the time, it had some young, fast guys involved; Sheady and Sambo in the Celica powered Cheetah’s, John Smith in his Ralt RT1, Davo in the Hardman, Norden in the March copy and others. The fields had depth, the racing was hard, that (younger not Shead and Sambo!) group of us were young guys pushing up so we gave the class a real shake’, said John.

‘The 792 was a good car, it was quick but it wasn’t too long before it got a bit floppy at the back. The weakness or lack of stiffness was in the mounting of the frame to the tub, in the end Garrie said we should sell it. Cooper built three of the cars and they are now all in the hands of the one guy, although none of them are running’ in historic racing.

The chassis was an honeycomb aluminium monocoque with conventional outboard wishbone suspension at the front and single top link, twin lower links and radius rods for fore and aft location at the rear. New uprights were used as well as Elfins own steering rack. Hewland’s Mk9 5 speed ‘box with slippery diff was fitted and 190’ish bhp claimed for the VW Golf engine which was built in-house at Elfins using the best Super Vee bits from the ‘States. The suspension was finished in cadminium plating, the superbly presented car glistened in the Benalla sunlight as I shared the scrutineering bay with it in at Winton in late August 1979, my Venom F Vee feeling very ‘povvo’ in comparison!

elfin mr8

John Bowe ahead of Kevin Bartlett in the ill-fated Brabham BT43 Chev and John Walkers Lola T332 Chev, Chas Talbot and Rob Butcher both in T332’s then Graham McRae McRae GM3 Chev Sandown Gold Star 1979. KB crashed the BT43 destroying the car and badly injuring himself when a wheel broke in the very quick Causeway/Dunlop Bridge section of the circuit  (Ian Smith)

The class of the 1979 F2 field was John Smith’s Ralt RT1. He raced this as an F Pac with a Cosworth BDD fitted and an AN2 with a pushrod Ford ‘Kent’ 711M, which was pretty neat. The ‘Kent’ is the same block used in Cosworth’s BDD, in pushrod form modified with lots of Cosworth bits. The car was heavy as an F2 but Smithy’s skills more than made up for any weight disadvantage the package had. He was fast but he didn’t have reliability on his side that year.

JB debuted the 792 successfully in Baskerville’s end of February meeting, he won the F2 race and set a new outright lap record. Still in Tasmania on 14 March he won 3 races and again set an F2 lap record, besting the Birrana 274 F2 twin-cam mark set by Leo Geoghegan.

At Sandown on 8 April Bowe again set an F2 lap record besting Leo’s time again but was 2nd in the race between the Cheetah twins; Brian’s Shead and Sampson in Cheetah Mk6 Toyota’s. At Oran Park 6 weeks later he was 3rd.

bowe 792

JB all cocked up at Sandown’s Shell corner, turn 1 in April 1979 chasing Brian Sampson’s Cheetah Mk6 Toyota. Note the ‘Tyrrell’ bluff nose on the 792 early in the season, both sweet little cars, Mk5/6 Cheetah a very successful series of cars (unattributed)

In the Gold Star chase Bowe was 2nd in the AGP at Wanneroo Park in WA, the winner John Walker in a Lola T332 Chev, for a change JW was the lucky beneficiary of others misfortunes. John followed this up with a flag to flag win in the first Gold Star round at Oran Park on 29 July, a great drive for an F5000 relative novice.

JB on the speed of the Elfin MR8; ‘When I stepped up into F5000 I was a young driver and by that stage the Elfin MR8 Chev was well sorted, GC built the first one around 1976. Garrie, Vern, (Schuppan) James Hunt and others had raced the things so they were developed by guys who knew these big cars, I didn’t have a yardstick but I reckon the Elfin was every bit as good as the T332 Lolas and other contemporary cars of the day’.

Bowe took the first F2 Championship round at Calder in early August beating Brian Shead over the line by less than a second, both drivers did the same fastest lap and became joint holders of the F2 lap record.

Later in August Bowe was knocked off the track at Winton whilst lapping a competitor, breaking an upright and spinning into the infield in the second AF2 championship round. John Smith was the quickest car that weekend, but went off in the wet, the winner was Graham Engel in a Cheetah Mk6 Ford.

elf smit

Late 70’s to mid ’80’s Oz single-seater aces John Smith and the forever beardly! Bowe, circa 1979/80 (Ian Smith)

On September 9 Bowe contested the last round of the Gold Star at Sandown and was convincingly in the lead after the brakes on Alf Costanzo’s Lola T430 wouldn’t release but a left rear tyre deflated. In trying to get back to the pits John damaged the rear suspension cradle. John Walker took 2nd, the series and promptly retired from the sport he loved. Costanzo won the race.

John then travelled back to Winton for the ‘Rose City 10000’ F5000 race contested by both 5 litre cars and Formula Pacific cars which were incredibly fast around twisty Winton with its multiple changes of direction. JB qualified on row 2 but was in the lead leaving behind the scrapping Costanzo Lola T430 and Smith Ralt RT1 BDD. With 8 laps to go John spun, broke the Elfin’s nose and was black-flagged, Alf won the race from Smithy by less than a half a second.

At Symmons for the final round of the AF2 championship on 11 November Ian Richards set fastest practice time in a Golf powered car called a Tudor, but Bowe was only a tenth slower with Brian Shead 3rd on the grid. JB won the first heat from Shead and had the title within his grasp but in the final, in the wet, a plug lead came loose whilst in the lead giving the round win and championship to the evergreen, muti-talented Cheetah constructor, Brian Shead.

JB’s F2 season ended at Calder’s sportscar championship round in late November with a win over Ian Richards Cheetah Golf, Ian having won the preliminary race and giving intent of his increasing competitiveness as a driver which would be fully exploited in his own, beautiful ground-effect Richards 201 Golf with which he took the 1981 AF2 Championship.

With the season ended Bowe sold the 792 putting pressure on Cooper to finish the GE225 F2 car for 1980, a story for another time. It was an amazing 1979 for Bowe, he didn’t win either title, both of which seemed a strong possibility at one point but he had absolutely established himself as one of the top drivers in the country.

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Cooper in the AIR pitlane, 792 shorn of its wings in some ‘back to back’ tests on the same day the side winglets were tried in 1979 (Spencer Lambert)

If the Elfin looks familiar to some of you its probably its March 792’esque nose. That BMW engined car won the 1979 Euro F2 Championship for Marc Surer. The Elfin also raced with a ‘Tyrrell’ bluff nose but Bowe’s definitive spec was with this nose and an airbox fitted atop the downdraft Weber carbs.

In 1980 John Bowe contested the ANF2 title again, this time in Cooper’s GE Two-25, his first completed ground effect design, no doubt the research found on this 1979 test day was instructive in that cars design!

In the UK Ron Tauranac was struggling to get his first G-E car, the F3 Ralt RT3 to go quicker than the old RT1 (he succeeded bigtime!) whilst Cooper and Porter were simulating the sort of forces they would encounter in designing their new car by running Bowe’s 792 with this wing amidships. No way could it have legally raced with an additional wings mounted where these were.

The GE Two-25 was an F2 race winner for Bowe in 1980 but Richard Davison won the title in a Hardman JH1 Ford in an interesting and competitive ANF2 Championship, a ‘wing-car’ story for another time and one with a potentially better Elfin outcome had Cooper finished the car in time for Bowe to contest the full championship…

bowe ralt

JB is his Ralt RT4 Ford BDD at Oran Park during his successful Gold Star tilt in 1985, he won the title in 1984 as well, by 1985 the ‘aero’ of these cars well and truly resolved! The Ralt RT3/4/5 F3/Pac/S Vee series of cars one of the greatest series of production racing cars ever built (unattributed)

Bibliography…

Special thanks to John Bowe for his time and insights

Elfin Monocoque Aficionados’ Facebook Group, Barry Catford and John Blanden ‘Elfin Racing Cars’

Photo Credits…

Stephen Lambert, Ian Smith, oldracephotos.com, Peter Brennan

Tailpieces: Cooper quickly got the hang of the design of ground effect cars; John Bowe in his only Elfin MR9 Chev drive at Sandown on 22 February 1981 after Cooper was a ‘bit spooked’ by the car in Gold Star practice…

elfin mr9

(Peter Brennan)

Alfie Costanzo’s Allan Hamilton owned, Tiga converted ground-effects ex-F1 McLaren M26 Chev was the class of the field that weekend but JB drove very well to 2nd after a big fright in practice when the MR9’s left rear rocker bent after underestimation of the down force created. The components on all four corners were strengthened overnight at Porsche Cars Australia’s workshop just up the road from the circuit in Dandenong.

John; ‘I was at Sandown racing my Elfin GE225 F2 car and Bryan Thomson’s Mercedes sports sedan when Garrie asked me to have a drive of the MR9 on the Friday. He said he was a bit ‘spooked’ by the car and wasn’t sure whether it was him, he’d had a big accident at Sandown a couple of years before, or the car. It was the early ground effect days, the Elfin MR9 was a great design but the forces weren’t fully understood by many designers’.

‘One of the many wonderful memories I have of GC was being in restaurants with him all over the country and him scribbling notes or diagrams of ideas on paper napkins! What was happening was the chassis was flexing a bit, the front wheels losing alignment and any semblance of castor so the car was very unpredictable under brakes in particular, you had to stop the thing by braking down the middle of the road. And then the upright broke which was very exciting! He strengthened the car in various areas and got it sorted later on but I only drove it the once at Sandown’.

The MR9 is a story for another time…

elf cooper

Garrie Cooper testing one of his great masterpieces, the world’s only purpose built F5000, the Elfin MR9 Chev (Spencer Lambert)

Finito…