Posts Tagged ‘John Goss’

(unattributed)

Peter Brock in his Birrana 272 Ford at Winton in 1973…

Brocky was very hot property in 1973 having seized the public spotlight with the last solo Bathurst win aboard his Holden Dealer Team Torana GTR XU1 in October 1972. Every young bloke in Australia wanted to emulate him, and many women wanted to shag him including Miss Australia as it transpired!

Brock, on the way to winning the 1972 Bathurst 500, Holden LJ Torana GTR-XU1, Murray’s Corner (Getty)

Purists were delighted when he bought 272-002, Tony Alcock’s first monocoque Birrana, to contest the Australian F2 Championship, but sadly he didn’t race the car for long, soon returning to the touring car ranks.

John Goss in Birrana #1- the F71 Formula Ford at Oran Park in September 1971. JG gave McLeod Ford value- he raced an HO, his self-built Tornado Ford sports racer and the Birrana that year! (L Hemer)

Tony Alcock’s first Birrana, the F71 Formula Ford was built in Sydney and initially raced by one of Brock’s touring car sparring partners, John Goss. Then Tony returned to his Adelaide home town and started to build Birrana’s in numbers in partnership with Malcolm Ramsay- in 1972 building two F72 Formula Fords and 272-002. Their first ANF2 car was raced by Ramsay, dual Australian F2 champion Henk Woelders and Gold Star champion Leo Geoghegan before being sold to Brock.

Brock Birrana 272 Ford, Oran Park 1973, note the ‘Isuzu-GM’ decal. Car powered by an injected Lotus-Ford twin-cam but not the ‘ducks guts’ 205 bhp Hart 416B twin-cam which came into F2 in big numbers from that year (unattributed)

Brock, Birrana 272 Ford, Hume Weir, 22 April 1973 (R Davies)

PB raced it at Hume Weir, Winton and Oran Park to get his hand in prior to the start of the 1973 F2 Championship which commenced at Hume Weir in June.

Brock was 2nd to that years champion Leo Geoghegan at Oran Park on 5 August and then 6th at Amaroo on 19 August, in a Birrana 273, chassis 273-008. He updated to the best car of the season, Geoghegan galloping to the title with wins in every round but one. Its not clear exactly how many meetings Brock did in the two cars but he certainly raced the 272 at Hume Weir, Winton, Calder and Oran Park and the 273 at Oran Park and Amaroo Park.

Brock, Birrana 273 Ford, Oran Park 5 August 1973- he was 2nd in the AF2 championship round that day to Geoghegan’s ‘works’ 273 (autopics)

Running the Lotus Ford twin-cam engine was said to be a commercial barrier to the continuation of Brock’s F2 program given his Holden Dealer Team contract, but perhaps the reality of running his own car again with the assistance of his dad was just all too hard compared with being a works driver with all of its benefits. It was such a shame, Brock’s sublime skills deserved to be deployed in racing cars as well as the tourers of all sorts in which he excelled.

Brock in the famous self built with mates Austin A30 Holden sports sedan with which he started racing and wowed everyone, Hume Weir circa 1969 (unattributed)

Brock’s talent was clear from the start aboard his Holden engined Austin A30- his aptitude very quickly accepted once others drove that car, none of those who raced it or track-tested it could work out how he did the times he did- not Ross Bond, Peter Wherrett or Rob Luck. The little rocket was a mix of lightweight Austin stripped shell, highly modified Holden 179 6 cylinder ‘red motor’ giving circa 200 bhp using triple 2 inch SU carbs, Holden three, and later four speed ‘box, rear axle assembly wheel to wheel with a Holden front end and Triumph Herald steering rack with disc front brakes and drum rears.

In the crude but fast HDT Torana XU1 Repco Holden F5000 V8 engined ‘The Beast’ sports sedan, Calder circa 1975 (unattributed)

During the early-mid seventies glory F5000 years it always seemed to me the union between Holden and Repco would see him aboard a big, powerful single-seater car at some point, but the closest that ever came to fruition was the Repco Holden F5000 V8 engined Torana sports-sedan ‘The Beast’, which was not exactly what I had in mind at all. Still, what was in that for Holden or Repco I guess? Holden sold sedans not racing cars, so they hardly needed PB racing one of those dangerous things and Repco’s works F5000 driver was Frank Matich. A guest drive in a Matich would have been nice all the same…

In the Bill Patterson Group 5 BMW CSL 3.5 litre at Le Mans in 1976 with Brian Muir. Q48 and DNF with gearbox problems, the race won by the Ickx/Van Lennep Porsche 936 prototype, the best placed Group 5 entry was the 4th placed Schurti/Stommelen Porsche 935  (unattributed)

Marshall/Brock first in class and second overall in the 1977 Spa 24 Hour, Vauxhall Firenza Magnum 2300, 23 July 1977. The Joosen/Andruet BMW 530i won (unattributed)

Steps in the right direction were his international drives at Le Mans in 1976 aboard a Bill Patterson supported BMW 3.5 CSL Group 5 machine paired with Aussie International Brian Muir. Now that would have been a career to emulate in terms of a mix of sedans and sportscars based in the UK?

Spa in a works Vauxhall Firenza Magnum 2300 paired with Gerry Marshall yielded an amazing second outright in the 24 Hour classic in 1977.

Brock’s status as one of the best Touring Car Drivers of them all was confirmed by MotorSport in 2005 who rated him the greatest in an article contributed to by an array of global commentators of the top-20 of all time.

Brock in the Bob Jane Porsche 956 during the Silverstone 1000 Km on 13 May 1984, 21st sharing with Larry Perkins from Q11. Mass/Ickx won in a works 956. The team did Silverstone as a warm-up event pre Le Mans (unattributed)

The Bob Jane supported attempt on the 1984 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Brock partnered by Larry Perkins in a customer Porsche 956 captured all of our imaginations and to me was exactly where that pair belonged and deserved to be. Sadly the warm-up Silverstone 1000 Km and Le Mans was as far as it went. At Le Mans they retired after an LP mistake during the night.

Rallycross at Calder circa 1971- HDT supercharged ‘LC’ GTR XU1- this car earlier in its life doubled as a sports sedan on the circuits as well as in the dirt and mud (autopics)

1979 round Australia Repco Reliability Trial- winner with Matt Philip and Noel Richards in an HDT 6-cylinder Commodore (unattributed)

If only Brock had raced the 1974 Australian F2 Championship in a good car amidst one of the best grids of any single-seater championship in Australia ever- with success his career direction may have encompassed racing cars as well as tourers, rallycross, rallies.

Not half versatile was he?

About to clip the Dandy Road grass at Sandown, HDT Torana SLR5000 V8, Sandown 250 enduro 1974. He was 10th in the race won by Moffat’s Ford Falcon XB GT Hardtop (unattributed)

Birrana Cars Feature…

https://primotipo.com/2016/04/29/birrana-cars-and-the-1973-singapore-gp/

Photo and Other Credits…

autopics.com.au, Robert Davies, Lynton Hemer, Getty Images, tentenths.com

Tailpiece: Outta my way big guy. Sydney during the PR build up to Le Mans 1984, Porsche 956 chassis ‘110’…

Finito…

 

Kevin Bartlett from Spencer Martin and Greg Cusack on the plunge down the mountain, Bathurst March 1967…

David Atkinson’s depiction of Kevin Bartlett’s dice and achievement of the first over 100 mph lap of Mount Panorama shows the Brabham BT11A Climaxes of  KB and Spencer from Greg’s Brabham BT23A Repco V8.

Bartlett first raced a Morris Minor at Bathurst in the late fifties, he knew the place as well as anyone- the sense of achievement was great. ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ is the title John Medley gave his wonderful ‘biography of Bathurst’ and goes a long way to making clear the significance of this wonderful place and it’s importance in the continuing pantheon of Australian motor racing.

Only Lobethal and Longford match it for its majesty and Warwick Farm, Phillip Island and Albert Park it’s importance.

During a couple of torrid dices in a preliminary race and in the NSW Road Racing Championship round Bartlett and Martin both broke the lap record and 100mph mark repeatedly but Kevin was the first to do so.

Frank Gardner casts a paternal eye over his younger teammate and his old BT11A in the Longford paddock in 1968. It’s not wet so it’s not raceday! (oldracephotos)

In many ways I see Kevin and Spencer as the Australian ‘Bobsy Twins’ of the time…

Both Sydney boys, both born in 1940, both motor mechanics by profession, both drove for one of the best teams of the day in Alec Mildren Racing and Bob Jane Racing- both raced Brabham BT11A’s powered by 2.5 litre Coventry Climax four cylinder ‘thumpers’ and both were sublime practitioners of the single-seater driving art. Driver’s-Drivers if you will.

Spencer had greater experience of these powerful single-seaters than Kevin but the Curl-Curl Kid was learning fast, a classicist with god-given intuitive feel and car control that thrilled the crowds and record books for decades.

Oopsie. Spencer post WF Tasman contretemps with The Causeway, 1967- late in the race won by Jackie Stewart’s BRM P261 from Jim Clark’s Lotus 33 Climax (B Wells)

Bartlett from Martin during the WF 100 race, Tasman Series 1967. KB was 6th, Spencer’s shown in the shot above. Both cars Brabham BT11A Climax (B Wells)

Bartlett declared his intent in practice with an over 100 mph lap of  2:18.6 with KB setting a time of 2:17.7 in a 6 Lapper for Racing and Sports Cars in a fierce battle with Spencer- in the process Martin matched KB’s 2:18.4 he had set on lap 3, only for Bartlett to do a 2:17.7 late in the race.

In an amazing weekend for Bartlett he contested four races winning three- two single-seater events in the Brabham and a touring car race in Alec Mildren’s Alfa Romeo GTA- he was second to Bob Jane ‘s Mustang in the other race. But the thriller of the four was the feature race.

Peter Wherrett, then racer and later immensely gifted automotive TV broadcaster covered the meeting for Max Stahl’s monthly Australian motor racing bible ‘Racing Car News’, his account brings the thrilling weekends racing to life.

‘The feature event in the nine race program was the 1967 NSW Championship for Racing Cars…it was a thriller but disappointing as well…Geoghegan and Harvey were installing new engines and were indisposed…Then right there on the grid…poor Greg Cusack and his team pushed and shoved the Brabham all over the place, but the big Repco V8 refused to start’.

‘Bartlett had pole after his fabulous practice time, but there was determination written clearly all over Spencer Martin’s face. When the flag dropped they raced neck and neck for Hell Corner. Since Bartlett had the inside running he also had the advantage and was first out but accelerating away up Mountain Straight Martin again drew alongside. Up and over the mountain they raced with Bartlett leading Martin by the depth of his tread.’

‘Down Conrod and into the braking area it was still Bartlett, now by a car’s length , as they crossed the line after a standing lap of 2:21.3, already 4.4 seconds inside the lap record. Martin again caught up going up the hill but once more it was Bartlett who led down Conrod.’

‘Those who saw them said none have ever gone down the Esses like this pair. Bartlett, particularly was breathtaking!’

‘It seemed he simply twitched the car from one corner to the next, setting the booming Brabham up in the middle of one corner so that it was as near as possible to be spot on line for the one following, and then upsetting the whole thing in the middle of the corner so that he would be right for the next one and so on.’

‘Already way back in the field Max Stewart led the 1500’s…F2 Rennmax…Phil West 1100 Brabham running in close company with Alton Boddenberg in the Lotus 32’.

Brian Caldersmith’s wonderful painting of the battle

‘But it was the Bartlett-Martin duel which was drawing the attention of the masses. Bartlett’s second lap put him 30 yards in front and this was not surprising when it was announced that the lap record was now  2:17.4. Too much!’.

‘Spencer was right in there though, and on the third he picked up a bit. Into the fourth they went and again Spencer seemed to catch Kevin going up the hill and Kevin seemed to gain it all back again on the straight.

On the fifth of thirteen, people began to doubt they could both withstand the pace. Again Bartlett was in the 17’s but this time Martin joined him with a personal best of 2:17.8 and then…it was just too good to last.

We crazy money-paying enthusiasts are just not deserving of such joy. Going up to XL Bend for the sixth time Spencer slowed and with oil pressure failing withdrew the ailing Brabham. Bartlett slowed (?) to the low 20’s and could not be beaten. Stewart took second place, mad with glee, and Phil West gained a creditable third from Boddenberg, Barry Lake and Peter Cohen, who was in and out of the pits and only completed three laps’.

‘All but one of Bartlett’s laps were under the old lap record, and six of them were under the magic 100 mph lap (2:19.5)’.

Warwick Farm 100 1968, The Causeway, KB Brabham BT11A Climax DNF halfshaft in the race won by Jim Clark’s Lotus 49 Ford (oldracephotos)

Its interesting to look at the speeds recorded through the flying 1/8th of a mile that Easter long weekend. Cusack’s Repco V8 powered Brabham was the quickest open-wheeler at 162.45 mph, a time he recorded in practice with Bartlett and Martin doing identical times in their identical cars during the NSW Championship race- 159.57 mph. The quickest car over the weekend in a straight line was Bob Jane aboard his 4.4 litre Repco RB620 V8 engined Elfin 400 sporty, with 163.63 mph.

‘Ron Hodgson, who probably thought he was on a good thing with his offer, had to part with 100 bottles of bubbly for the first 100 mph lap, and these were added to Kevin’s 25 bottles scored on Sunday for fastest practice lap’ Wherrett wrote.

Martin inside Bartlett at Murray’s Corner

Bartlett’s recollections are recorded in Alec Mildren’s biography-

‘…We were at it hammer and tongs. We were both pretty gung-ho. I was probably a bit more aggressive…Alec was really on the ball…I wouldn’t have attempted what I did otherwise. I came in after first practice and he said “Where do you reckon you can get the laptime” He knew the circuit, look, he knew it…”What if you short shift here, leave it that gear there, what revs are you using? He was at me’.

‘I was the train (engine) and Spencer was the guards van. He broke the 100 mph mark, too don’t forget. Always remember that. But because I was leading and crossed the line first, I got the credit. And when it came to the run of the race. I out braked him by outbraving him- it was one of those do or die things. I said to Alec later “Spencer and I got pretty close, Alec”. “We nearly lost the lot”. He said “Yeah, but you outbraved him didn’t you?” That was the way he talked’.

Later ‘When  Alec asked me what I was going to do with the champers, I said I don’t want it, you have it, and he said “Good, I’m going to throw a party”. Anyone and everyone in motor racing was invited to the splash-out at the Mildren Newport (Sydney North Shore ocean beach suburb) residence…Alec was never a boozer- he was an orange juice man. But I’m sure he had a champers or two that night’ Bartlett recalled.

Bartlett amongst the Repcos in 1967: Leo G Lotus 39, KB Brabham BT11A and John Harvey Brabham BT14, ‘Angus & Coote Trophy’ Oran Park (Rod MacKenzie)

Whilst Bartlett was the hero of the day at Bathurst, Martin again won the 1967 Gold Star, as he did in 1966 with two wins (Surfers Paradise, Mallala) to Cusack and Bartlett’s one apiece (Symmons Plains and Lakeside).

The two BT11A’s would have been the most highly developed cars of their type in the world with Martin and Bartlett both having, just, the legs of the Repco V8 engined cars of Cusack, Leo Geoghegan and John Harvey- Brabham BT23A, Lotus 39 and Brabham BT14 respectively. Spencer’s Bob Jane Brabham was more reliable than KB’s however, Spencer took the title with a points haul of 30 from Cusack 23, and Bartlett 16.

Formative KB single-seater years, 17 December 1961 Warwick Farm in the Lynx BMC FJ. Race won by Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 20 (J Ellacott)

Another Big Bathurst Moment…

Bartlett and John Goss in the Bell cap (Greg Bartlett is the kiddo with his back to us) on the Bathurst 1000 victory dais in 1974.

What a sweet win for them both- especially KB who had a bad accident at Pukekohe at the seasons outset during the Tasman Series, he became a ‘Lola Limper’, breaking a leg when his T330 Chev came to grief, a lengthy recovery period followed.

That’s a walking stick in the young veteran’s left hand, quite a few of his fans shed a tear watching his gritty performance that day and this presentation on the telly, me included.

(autopics)

Etcetera: Spencer Martin HDT Holden Monaro GTS 350 alongside Allan Moffat’s works Ford Falcon GTHO Phase 1, warm up lap, Sandown 3 H0ur, September 1969…

There are plenty of Fords behind- Moffat/John French won from Tom Roddy/Murray Carter and Fred Gibson/Bo Seton all in HO’s.

Spencer had been retired for a year or so when he took a call from new Holden Dealer Team team manager Harry Firth to share a Monaro with KB during the HDT’s first event, the 1969 Sandown Datsun 3 Hour.

Ex-Ford racer/engineer/team manager, now Holden new boy Harry Firth was prevailed upon to hire a couple of single-seater drivers to race his new toy, Firth more of a believer in taxi drivers racing taxis, so to speak.

In a story for another time Martin had a massive brake failure at about the 45 minute mark of the endurance classic at the end of Sandown’s main straight, he skilfully backed the car into the Shell Corner armco minimising the damage to his good self but the car caught fire. The accident is variously attributed to boiled fluid, ‘brake booster system’ or standard brake pads being mistakenly fitted to the car prior to the race.

The Monaro was repaired after the race and sold by tender, it still exists. Spencer retired from a meeting he only entered after agreement with his new wife that a race in a touring car was relatively safe! His comeback to racing in the historic scene was a couple of decades hence.

In 1969 Bartlett had many successes in front of him including the second of his two Gold Stars aboard the Mildren Alfa/Waggott, in Asia and the US with much Formula 5000 and plenty of touring car wins including a Bathurst crown…

Slightly singed but not fatally damaged Monaro in the slip road on the outside of the Sandown track on pit straight, scene of Spencer’s high speed handbrake turn into the fence. KB did not get a drive during the race (unattributed)

Photo & Other Credits…

Racing Car News May 1967, Rod MacKenzie, autopics.com.au, Brian Caldersmith, oldracephotos.com.au, Bruce Wells, John Ellacott, Bob Jane Collection, ‘Driven To Succeed: The Alec Mildren Story’ Barry Green, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

Tailpiece: Bartlett at the wheel of the McLeod Ford / John Goss Ford Falcon GT during the Bathurst 1000 in 1973- they won in the same car in 1974 but I like the look of the big yella beastie the year before…

Finito…

 

 

image

(oldracephotos.com)

John Goss races his new Matich A53 Repco for the very first time, the ‘Oran Park 100’ Gold Star round on 4 August 1974…

‘007’ was the last and best F5000 the Matich team built, arguably it’s the best F5000 built in Oz. The story of Frank Matich and his cars I chronicled in a long treatise a while back, have a read if you haven’t seen it;

https://primotipo.com/2015/09/11/frank-matich-matich-f5000-cars-etcetera/

Goss extended himself, buying the car and some spares. Later he also bought A51 ‘005’ which he converted to A53 spec, racing both cars for years inclusive of the ’76 AGP win at Sandown, check this article out on Gossy;

John Goss: Bathurst 1000 and Australian Grand Prix Winner…

This short piece is inspired by these photos posted on social media for the first time this month. They are ‘mouth-watering’ for me as i’ve always loved this car especially in its Matich original ‘mellow yellow’ Repco livery. Its just the nicest, oh-so-fast bit of beautifully integrated kit.

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Grant O’Neill at the back, he looked after John’s cars right thru from this point ex-Matich as he was. Peter Hughes in red and Repco’s Ken Symes at the right. John Davison in Matich A50 ‘004’ behind Oran Park, Gold Star, August 1974 (Neil Stratton)

To have seen FM race it in the US L&M Series in ’74 would have been really something, A53 showed it could run and beat the best of the Lola T330/2’s in Goss’ hands in Oz. Frank would definitely have given a few folks some curry with all of the teams learnings from its unsuccessful 1973 American campaign.

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John Goss, Tornado Ford at Catalina Park, Katoomba in Sydney’s Blue Mountains, 1970 (oldracephotos.com)

As a young enthusiast I thought F5000 a big step up for JG, a mere ‘touring car driver’ in my mind, I was ignorant of his pedigree in real cars tho. Whilst he started in tourers he quickly progressed to a largely self built, potent Falcon in-line 6 cylinder mid-engined sportscar, the ‘Tornado Ford’. It was in that he made his name in his adopted Tasmania and later when he moved to the big smoke, Sydney and Ford Falcon GTHO ‘Series Production’ fame…

In F5000 Gossy was ‘on it’ from the start, giving the established aces plenty he was as ‘quick as his mouth’, legend that he was for saying so little in so many, many words!

What a driver and what a car…

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Goss in the McLeod Ford, Falcon GTHO Ph3 at Amaroo Park 1972 (oldracephotos.com)

Credits…

oldracephotos.com, Neil Stratton

Tailpiece: Goss at Oran Park again in ‘007’, this time the ’75 Tasman round in February 1975, DNF with electrical problems. The first of many livery and body ‘evolutions’ over the years John raced the two A51/3 cars…

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sing mal

Birrana Engineering chief Malcolm Ramsay in his Birrana 273 ‘010’ Ford Hart during the 1973 Singapore Grand Prix, the last until the F1 era commenced in 2008…

I have been meaning to write about Birrana’s jewels of cars for a while. I tripped over this shot of Ramsay researching the Leo Geoghegan Lotus 39 article a while back, Leo was Birrana’s works driver from mid-’72 to the end of 1974.

This article started as a ‘quickie’ stimulated by the shot above, but segued into a longer piece when I found heaps of photos of the ’73 Singapore GP in the Singapore Government Archives. Too good to waste, low-res shots but still great to circulate. Bonuses were finding an existing article about the pre-F1 Singapore GP history and a contemporary ’73 race report. The basis of something interesting. Bewdy!

I need to a write a bit about Birrana Cars too though.

I don’t for Australian readers but that’s only 15% of you. So I have written what should be treated as ‘An Introduction to Birranas’, Part 2 ‘Birrana In Detail’ to come soon. Hopefully there is enough to explain how important the cars were to those who haven’t heard of the marque whilst being clear to Birrana enthusiasts, and there are plenty of us in Oz, that there is more to come.

sing leo amaroo

The photos above and below are ‘compare and contrasts’; top of Leo G in his 274 at Oran Park, the bottom of Bob Muir in his 273/4 at Symmons Plains, Tasmania. Bob’s car is 273 ‘009’ with 274 nose and rear wing. Compare with ‘standard spec’ 273 shots in the Singapore GP 1973 part of this article (unattributed)

Leo won the Australian F2 Championship in 1973/4 with a 273 and then 274 model cars, powered by 1.6 litre Brian Hart Ford ‘416B’ injected 205/210bhp variants of the venerable Lotus/Ford twin-cam four cylinder engine first used in the Elan in 1963.

bir muir

Bob Muir, Birrana 273 Ford ‘009’, Symmons Plains 22 September 1974. Bob took the win from RayWinter’s Mildren ‘Yellow Sub’ Ford and Sonny Rajah’s March 712M/732 Ford (unattributed)

The F3/F2 Birrana’s were typical, orthodox aluminium monocoque chassis, outboard suspension cars of the period but built to a very high standard of design, construction and finish with particularly careful attention to aerodynamics. ‘Boxes were Hewland Mk9/FT200 for ANF3/2 use respectively.

Twenty-one cars were built, (FF 4, F3 4, F2 11, F Atlantic 1 and Speedway! 1) the first car was the F71 FF built in Sydney by Alcock before he joined forces with Ramsay in Adelaide, their home town. The last ‘A78’ Ramsay built for his own use in 1978 after the factory had closed in terms of ‘volume production’.

sing a78

Graeme Lawrence’ Rothmans March 76B alongside the very last built ‘Golden Churn’ sponsored Birrana A78. Graeme is the guy far right of his car and Ramsay the dude in the beard behind his. Selangor GP, Batu Tiga circuit 24 September 1978. Nose of Steve Millen’s Chevron behind. F Pac race, all cars Ford Cosworth BDD 1.6 powered. Of interest to Birrana historians; car was entirely new based on 273 tub design with forward braced roll bars as required then by FIA regs, and upper body panel, 274 nose with bottom lip added, bigger than 72-4 rear wing, no rear engine cover; the 272 and 273 did not have rear covers the 374/274’s did (Choong H Fu)

The pick of the cars, given driver feedback seems to be the 273, although the evolved 274 was built in larger numbers and won F2 titles for Leo G ‘015’ in ’74 and Geoff Brabham ‘018’ in 1975.

Visually though the F3 374 was a gorgeous bit of kit…if not as successful as the ‘works’ Cheetah Mk5/6 Toyota’s of ‘The Two Brians’ Shead and Sampson. Shead built the cars in his Mordialloc shop and Sambo the engines in his ‘Motor Improvements’ emporium in St Kilda Road, Elsternwick. All three of the 374’s were fitted initially with Sambo’s (ANF3 1300cc) Corolla based engines.

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Dean Hosking in the John Blanden owned 374 Toyota ahead of the similar Lew Wade owned, Paul King driven car at Adelaide International in August 1974. Little jewels of things  (Robert Davies)

Our ‘Racers Retreat’, click on the link atop the page for earlier articles, Peter Brennan was the mechanic on Paul Kings ‘Lew Wade Fiat’ owned Birrana 374 in 1974.

‘Lew had sponsored Paul King in an Elfin F Vee for a couple of years in Victoria, he was a really quick driver, so Lew decided to take the step up and buy an F3 car for Paul. He was a Fiat dealer in Cheltenham (in Melbourne’s bayside south), he figured the way to beat Sambo and Shead was a different chassis and a race prepped Fiat 128SL SOHC engine. The car was then new, the engine more advanced than the pushrod Corolla and he could cross-promote the sales of his Fiats.

Soon boatloads of lire were being sent to ‘Luigi The Unbelievable’ in Italy, when the engine finally arrived, late of course, we put it on the Challenge Motors dyno, it barely pulled 110bhp, not enough to pull the top off a rice-custard, the MI Corollas made a genuine 130/135bhp, even the customer engines’.

‘Lew had been serving it up to the Brians, who were both closeby in bayside Melbourne about how the Fiat engine would give them a belting and then had to eat big doses of humble pie and buy one of their donks!’

‘The day came to pick up the Birrana, so Paul and i were despatched to Adelaide in Lew’s big, lumbering Chev Impala and trailer. I don’t remember much about the factory other than it was small. Back in Melbourne, we soon had the thing plumbed and completed, Paul tested it at Calder and was immediately ‘on the pace’, he was a very quick driver but beating the Cheetah twins was another matter.’

bir 374

A little bit of biffo in this 1974 Calder combined F3/FF race. As best as i can work out its Peter (brother of Larry) Perkins Elfin 620 from Paul King’s Birrana 374, with 2 Elfin 620’s outside him, one ‘yumping’. #68 is a Wren FF with another FF beside him and on the very outside you can just make out the light covered rear engine cowl of Dean Hosking’s 374 (unattributed)

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Paul King’s 374 ahead of Brians Shead and Sampson in this Winton promotional poster circa 1974/5 (Paul King Collection)

In those days FF’s and F3’s often raced together, there was no national F3 Championship, the quicker F3’s raced against the F2’s in their championship races (which from 73-75 in particular was well supported, comparative car specs; FF 1600 circa 105bhp, no wings or slicks. F3 1300 SOHC or OHV circa 135bhp wings, slicks, 5 speed box. F2 1600 DOHC 2 valve circa 205bhp, wings, slicks, 5 speed box)

‘The car itself was beautifully built and engineered, the only problem we had during that year was leaking fuel tanks, we had to take the car back to the factory to have them re-sealed, its before the days of bag-tanks in these cars. The car was easy to work on, the Toyota engine was bullet proof, and the Hewland Mk9, which was also new gave no problems with only 135bhp tearing away at it.'(these boxes sometimes fitted to 205bhp Ford Cosworth BDD engines, not particularly reliable all the time mind!)

The Mk5 Cheetah was a top car in both the hands of the ‘factory’ drivers and also as a customer car ‘the Birrana was a better engineered and finished car’ but Shead and Sambo had evolved the cars over the years into very quick devices and both of them were experienced, fast competitive drivers. Sampson won the Bathurst 1000 with Peter Brock in 1975 and only stopped racing, in his mid-seventies, in the last few years.

‘Whilst Paul was an F3 front runner Lew started to lose interest when he wasn’t winning all the time, Pauls marriage was also going down the blurter, the car was sold and that was that. Paul drifted from the scene and Lew crashed his Tiger Moth and killed himself some years later’.

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Bruce Allison’s 274 ‘017’ in the Lakeside pits, the Queenslander was 3rd in his home race,during the 1974 AF2 Championship, an 8 race series in 5 states. Workmanship and finish of these cars absolutely world class (Allison)

All of the F2 Birrana’s were fitted initially with Lotus/Ford/Hart twin-cams built by a raft of preparation outfits. During the period we are looking at Peter Nightingale was the designated factory engine and gearbox bloke, he also prepared, from memory (always dangerous) Geoff Brabham’s 274 ‘018’ in his ’75 AF2 Championship winning year so that makes Peter the most successful ‘Hart fettler’ of the day. He still looks after a few cars in his Adelaide home town.

Later, various of the F3/2 cars were fitted with a variety of 1.6 litre SOHC engines when the ANF2 rules were stupidly changed.

Some of the F2 cars had the Ford Cosworth 1.6 litre BDD’s later fitted for F Atlantic/Pacific. The Birranas were too long in the tooth as F Pacs in the mid/late ‘70’s in NZ when they adopted the class, but Bob Muir was competitive in the UK in mildly updated 273’s in 1975.

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Bob Muir, Birrana 273 Ford BDD, Mallory Park, British F Atlantic Championship, Bank Holiday meeting August 1975 (Alan Cox)

The 273 derived European 2 litre F2 Ford BDG engined ‘Minos’ was a slug and optimistic in the extreme given the competitiveness of that class at the time with factory BMW and Renault V6 engines in March/Martini/Alpine chassis. More about ‘Minos’ in the later Birrana article.

One chassis was raced late in its life with a Waggott 2 litre DOHC 4 valve engine, which is the car I would personally like to own! However I am getting ahead of myself and starting to write the article I said at the outset I would do at another time. So, back a step.

By the middle of 1974 Ramsay and Tony Alcock his designer/partner in Birrana, decided it wasn’t commercially feasible to build cars profitably as they wanted to in Oz.

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Bob Muir, Birrana 273 BDD ‘009’ at Mallory Park 24 August 1975, DNF with fuel surge, Jim Crawford’s Chevron B29 won. Later GP drivers Gunnar Nilsson and Tony Brise were also in this race (Alan Cox)

Tony travelled to the UK and initially ran the two Bob and Marj Brown owned 273’s for Aussie Bob Muir in the 1975 British F Atlantic Championship before he joined Graham Hills team. Unfortunately he was on ‘that flight’ which ended tragically at Elstree Airport, the whole team perished on that sad trip in difficult conditions.

Ramsay then focussed on his engineering business servicing the mining industry in Adelaide, where all but the first Birrana was built.

He very successfully applied his organisational and management skills by getting back involved in motor racing and winning multiple Gold Stars for other drivers in the Formula Holden era. His stable included Mark Webber, Paul Stokell, Jason Bright, Simon Wills and Rick Kelly. In addition, for a time he ‘turned to the dark side’ and ran V8 Supercars.

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Geoff Brabham at Oran Park in his 274 ‘018’ the last built car originally sold to Neil Rear in WA but bought only slightly ‘shop soiled’ by the Brabham family for Geoff’s second full season in racing, he raced a Bowin P6F successfully in the Australian FF Championship in 1974. Brabham comfortably won the ’75 AF2 title but Alfredo Costanzo in Leo Geoghegan’s ’74 championship winning chassis kept him honest, Brabham’s the better prepared car. Their was no championship AF2 round at OP in 1975, so not sure when this is, clearly a Friday tho, only a few folks in attendance! Brabs was off to British F3 in ’76 (oldracephotos.com)

Without thinking too hard about it, the rollcall of drivers who ‘parked their arses’ in Birranas in the short period the cars were built is impressive…

Later Bathurst and AGP winner John Goss raced F71, Alcock’s first car, an FF whilst he was making his name in the McLeod Ford GTHO Falcon in 1971. Jumping from the nimble, responsive FF into the ‘big powerful barge’ of a Falcon at the same meeting must have been a challenge. And test of versatility. JG was one of a relatively small number of Aussies who were awesomely quick in both ‘taxis’ and single-seaters. Frank Gardner, Kevin Bartlett, John Bowe, Mark Skaife and Craid Lowndes spring readily to mind as some of the others. Click on the link at the bottom of this article to read about ‘Gossy’.

Andrew Miedecke, Richard Carter and Gary Brabham, the latter long after the car was built, (1982) raced F73, a superb FF built for Miedecke’s ’73 national ‘Driver to Europe’ championship FF assault. Carter won the ’76 DTE series in this chassis, Birrana’s only Australian FF Championship victory.

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Bucolic Winton, Central Victoria, FF action in 1978. Steve Moody’s Birrana F72 from Gerry Witenden’s F71-the first Birrana built. Then, i think, obscured David Earle’s Elfin and Ron Barnacle’s (or Don Bretland’s maybe?) Van Diemen RF77. Lots of sideways action, Aussie FF’s raced on Bridgestone RD102 road-radials in this period which made them wild to drive having driven my share of laps at the time! A funny bi-product of this was that older chassis, which were designed around radials when the class first started, came to the fore. Witenden, a terrific bloke from Goulburn way, came within a point of winning the ’78 title in this 7 year old Birrana. He went to the UK too, did a few FF2000 races, maybe with Delta if any Brit enthusiasts remember him. Steve Moody is still around historic FF, Barnacle also won an Oz FF title (unattributed)

Drivers of the Birrana F2’s included Leo G, Bob Muir, Bruce Allison, Alfredo Costanzo and touring car ace Peter Brock who did his only single-seater season in 272 ‘006’ in 1973.

Allison very much showed ‘he had what it takes’ in 274 ‘017’ in the very competitive 1974 ANF2 Championship. He jumped up to F5000 in an ex-Bartlett, well sorted Lola T332 Chev in ’75, ‘rattling the established F5000 order’ as the category’s ‘enfant terrible’ in much the same way Warwick Brown did in ’72.

Bruce recalls the Birrana and that ’74 season with a lot of fondness; ‘I’d started racing an Escort Twin-Cam against the best of the guys in Series Production and realised how hard it would be to get an ‘equal car’ so we decided to buy an open-wheeler. Dad organised an Elfin 600FF from Garrie Cooper, the car we got was one that was coming back from South Africa or something, it hadn’t been paid for. Picking it up from the Brisbane docks is not something we looked forward to but a few slabs of beer my dad had brought along did the trick, we were soon on our way!’

‘I did well in that at Surfers and Lakeside then we got Garries 600D F2 (this car is pictured later in this article) which was a good car. Dad got Ivan Tighe to drive its first meeting at Oran Park, but he crashed it, not a big one, it was soon repaired and away we went but by that time the category was getting more competitive. A few people said we should get a Bowin P6 which looked sensational, we painted that car in the black ‘Hobby & Toyland’, Dads business’s colors. It had rising rate suspension but it was an absolute pig. We couldn’t get our heads around the thing, i know John Leffler and Bob Skelton did but i got rid of it after only about 6 months. In fact i boofed the car at Surfers after we had sold it and had to take a big chunk off the price.’

Birrana 274 at Lakeside

Bruce Allison hustles his 274 ‘017’ around, fast, demanding Lakeside, Qld, rear engine cover removed in deference to the summer heat.He was 3rd, the race won by Ray Winter’ old but fast Mildren ‘Yellow Sub’ from Geoghegans 274. Bruce’ results got more consistent and better as the season wore on (Allison)

‘By then it was clear we had to have a Birrana to run with the top guys. Dad did a deal with Malcolm Ramsay, both he and Tony (Alcock) were great to deal with and gave us all the help we needed that year. The car handled well, was forgiving and put its power down nicely. We had good engines, Harts which i think Ivan Tighe looked after, the car itself was maintained in a Hobby & Toyland workshop at Castles Road’.

‘I was 20, very brash and thought i was unbeatable. Leo was smooth, quick and had all of our measure, the grids were great, there were always 6 or 7 blokes scrapping at the front. For outright speed though Bob Muir was an absolute demon in that car. It was the previous years 273, but updated. Bob and Marj Brown who owned the car were wealthy Adelaide people who had a business which made oven glass, heated windscreens and the like. For a ‘part timer’ Bob was bloody good, he went to the UK with the Browns of course’

‘I was never the greatest at setting a car up, Peter Molloy (the very experienced engineer who looked after Bruce in his F5000 years) always rated my speed though and i did get quicker and more consistent that year as the season rolled along and proved it with my results. It was time to move up. The Birrana was important as it proved i could cut it in a competitive car, the 274 was the first of those i had’.

Bruce was soon off to European and US success with annual summer visits back to Oz to remind us of his skill. He won the Grovewood Award and raced in the British national F1 Series but didn’t get the ‘real’ F1 seat his talent and results warranted.

(Bruce lost most of the photos of his career in a fire some years back, these are the only two he has of the Birrana for example, if any of you have photos of Bruce in any of his cars, you are prepared to share with him please email them to me at mark@bisset.com.au and i will forward them on, Mark)

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Bob Muir’s Rennmax Ford ahead of Garrie Cooper’s Elfin 600D Ford (the car Bruce Allison raced after Garrie) and a March 722 during the 1972 Singapore GP. Help welcome as to which corner and driver of the March (NAS)

Bob Muir was a seasoned professional by the time he jumped into the Brown family’s 273’s in 1974. Bob and fellow Sydney motor trader Geoghegan had an almighty battle for the AF2 title that year. If 1973 had an element of ‘cruise and collect’ for Leo, ’74 was the exact opposite with fields of depth rarely seen in Australian single-seater racing outside FF. The F2 grids that year had all of the local aces racing ‘down’ from F5000 in F2 as well as all of the ‘comingmen’ contesting a well sponsored series.

Bob had done two years in F5000 in 1972 and 1973, the latter in the US L&M Championship before jumping into the Browns cars after the first couple of ’74 rounds. After his Oz F2 season he then raced the 273’s in F Atlantic spec in the UK in 1975. After the F2 ‘Mino’s nee Birrana ‘bombed’ he was impressively fast in a Ford BDX engined Chevron B35 Derek Kneller built and prepared for the team. In ’76 he was 37 though, if only he was in Europe 10 years before. Like so many competitors of his period, his business funded his racing for much of his career, he wasn’t a ‘spoon-fed’ prat of the type we see so often today.

I digress, as usual. Suffice it to say, plenty of great steerers were attracted to Birrana’s. More of the above in ‘Birrana 2’.

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The official party prior to the 1964 Malaysian GP at the Thomson Road circuit

Keying ‘1973 Singapore GP’ to Google inevitably led to lots of tangents and some good information to go with these shots which are a bit scrappy, but still worth circulating and are from the Singapore Government archives

The balance of this article is a heavily truncated ‘cut and shut’ with a reasonable addition of my own words of two articles; one written by Eli Solomon in the March 2006 edition of MotorSport and the other a race report by (the) Peter Collins published in Australia’s ‘Racing Car News’ and posted on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ by ex-RCN journalist Ray Bell.

Eli has his own magazine, ‘Rewind’ which has great South East Asia current and historical content. You can either subscribe (pay) or access some of his material via Facebook, just click ‘Rewind’ into the FB search engine.

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Not long after the start of the 60 lap 1964 Malaysian bike GP. Thomson Road circuit, #79 Shershall from Perry, Sang and Dingle (MCI)

The first Singapore Grand Prix was the 1961 ‘Orient Year Grand Prix’, held on a stretch of Upper Thomson Road.

In 1962 the race was renamed the Malaysian GP, until Singapore gained independence in 1965. Singapore ran its own event from ’66 while Malaysia held two events, one around the Singapore race near Easter, called the ‘Malaysian GP’ and another in September labelled the ‘Selangor GP’.

The racing season in Asia began at Macau in November, moved to Australia and New Zealand with the Tasman Cup, and returned to South East Asia with back-to-back races in Singapore, Johore, Selangor and Penang, followed by Japan.

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Food vendors 1971 Thomson Road circuit style (NAS)

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Alfa GTA, Albert Poon? winning the 1971 Touring Car race, start/finish is on ‘The Thomson Mile’ (NAS)

From 1966 to 1973 the Singapore Grand Prix became the main racing event on the local calendar each Easter. The 3.023-mile street circuit was a challenge, its narrow 24ft width offered little run-off area in a sport that was increasingly seeing faster speeds.

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(Gel Motorsport)

Australian Vern Schuppan and British-born Hong Kong man John Macdonald both loved it. Never one to mince his words, Macdonald describes the track:

‘Flowing? In places, but hairpins were not exactly flowing. Dangerous? In those days no more so than expected and certainly safer by far than Macau. Monsoon drains? Yes. Bus stops? One after that lovely curve on the straight and a few lamp posts. None of these things got in the way and I did not go looking for them!’

The start-finish line was on the main straight, on a normal day the two lane black-top served as a major trunk road, on the right were fruit plantations and on the left new housing estates and industrial parks.

The bend halfway down the straight was ‘The Hump’, this had a false apex which sat on the turn-in that lifted cars off the road; it was this section that Frank Matich got wrong during 1970 practice, his McLaren M10A Chev F5000 hit a bus stop and was out for the weekend.

After ‘The Hump’ was ‘Sembawang Circus’ or ‘The Hairpin’, dangerous as cars approached it ‘flat’ until it was ‘chicaned’ in 1969 to preserve spectators generally and Singapores Cabinet sitting in VIP stands!

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Garrie Cooper Elfin 600D Ford ahead of Vern Schuppan’s March 722 on ‘the Thomson Mile’, 1972 GP (NAS)

‘The Esses’ comprised several sections; ‘The Snakes’, four bends, then ‘Devils’ a rounded off v-bend which caught many out, then ‘Long Loop’, a right hander.

Then came ‘Peak Bend’, where TV and radio stations located themselves. The circuit then went down right to ‘Range Hairpin’ and then ‘Signal Pits with pit entry after ‘Range Hairpin’.

Then it was left onto ‘The Thomson Mile’ a fast undulating one mile stretch on what was then the start of Nee Soon Road and back to the start/finish line, a lap was circa 24 gear changes dependent upon type of car and ‘box of course.

It was not until 1968 that Australian constructors started to venture to South-East Asia. Garrie Cooper of Elfin Cars won the Grand Prix that year in his very first Elfin 600, powered by a Ford Twin Cam. ‘Nobody had ever heard of Elfins,’ said Aussie racer/constructor Frank Matich.

Cooper had also suggested that the Singapore GP be confined to racing cars, for qualifying times to limit the number of entrants and for a reduction in the number of laps from 60 to 50. Subsequent years saw the main race run as two heats of 20 and 40 laps over different days.

Local racers were increasingly sidelined by foreigners, 1967 the last year a local won the GP. In 1969 Kiwi Graeme Lawrence won in his McLaren-FVA M4A amid some very powerful machinery including Cooper’s Elfin 600C Repco 2.5 V8, which the locals thought was an F1 car.

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Mal Ramsay in the Thomson Rd paddock 1970. Elfin 600C Repco 2.5 V8 4th place in the race won by Graeme Lawrence’s Ferrari 246T (Rewind)

For the 1970 race Matich arrived in ‘Rothmans’ team livery with his McLaren M10A Chev F5000 that had recently won the NZ GP, while the Australian Alec Mildren ‘juggernaut’ consisted of Kevin Bartlett in his Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ (the Alfa V8-powered  Len Bailey designed, Alan Mann Racing built monocoque racer which Frank Gardner debuted in the ’69 Tasman Series and was then handed over to KB upon Gardner’s return to Europe and in which KB won the ’69 Macau GP and Australian Gold Star Series).

Max Stewart raced the 2-litre Rennmax Mildren-Waggott, and Malcolm Ramsay the ex-Cooper Elfin 600C Repco. Mildren was there to supervise, as was Merv Waggott, designer/builder of the Waggott engines. Not to be outdone, Poon had the ex-Piers Courage Brabham-FVA BT30. While Matich wrecked his M10 in practice doing 160mph on the Thomson Straight, Lawrence went on to take his first win in Singapore in the ex-Amon Ferrari Dino 246T in which he also won the 1970 Tasman Series.

Lawrence made it two out of two in 1971 with his Brabham-FVC BT29 against formidable competition.

The big change was that the single-seaters now had to follow Australian F2/Formula B rules to ensure decent sized fields. So FVAs and BDAs were out. The new rules meant that single-seater racing would become the domain of the professional and semi-professional.

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Stewart’s Mildren Waggott from Geoghegan’s, Graeme Lawrence owned, Brabham Ford in the 1972 GP  here on ‘The Thomson Mile’ (NAS)

Max Stewart arrived in the Mildren-Waggott in 1972 — not only would it be the first time he finished a race in Asia, he would win it as well. By that stage the Mildren Tean had disbanded but Max bought his car off Mildren and promptly ‘nicked’ the ’71 Gold Star by a point with consistent performances from close mate Bartlett who won twice, Max took one race, but was more consistent in the 2 litre DOHC, 4 valve Waggott engine car than  KB’s McLaren M10B Chev.

By 1972 the carnival had grown to 15 events, there were 430 competitor entries from around the globe, 146 ‘bikes and 284 cars.

The 1972 Singapore GP field included Bartlett, Schuppan and Macdonald, who had the ex-Rondel Racing Graham Hill Brabham BT36. Sonny Rajah raced the ex-Ronnie Peterson March 712M. Rajah was the local hero and looked the part with his long hair and Zapata moustache.

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Sonny Rajah in the ex Petersen March 712M Euro F2 champ car, 4th in the ’72 Singapore GP (NAS)

But to gain admittance into a country where long hair was associated with drugs, he had resorted to using a short-hair wig! A fellow competitor once remarked: ‘He had brilliant car control but someone other than bullshit artists had to take him in hand! Natural talent and character to boot. Rajah was a very popular addition to the 1974 Australian F2 series when he raced the updated March that year.

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Singapore’s last pre-F1 GP was held in 1973 and was won by Schuppan in a March-Ford 722 (above)…

Schuppan vividly remembers the monsoon drains on the circuit: ‘It was a fast, flowing circuit, a lovely race track. No one talked about lack of run-off area because we were so young then.’ Of Schuppan, Macdonald said: ‘Vern, of course, got to the top but probably never reached the absolute top because he’s too darned straightforward, nice, honest and all those other good things that come up all too rarely.’

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John MacDonald’s new Brabham BT40 Ford ahead Steve Millen’s Elden Formula Fords(NAS)

Macdonald was another favourite and had a brand new Brabham BT40 delivered to him in Singapore ahead of the race. Macdonald said the BT40 was a ‘magic car with a big ‘but…’ The team had a terrible time of it with fuel pick-up problems. A letter to Bernie Ecclestone, Brabham’s owner, resulted in a PR reply to say he was behind them all the way! Once sorted, the car was a prolific winner in Asia.

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Lawrence’ Surtees ahead of Kiwi Steve Millen’s Elden Mk8 FF. Millen later a champion F Pac driver (NAS)

Schuppan, Kiwi Kenny Smith and Sonny Rajah were in March 722’s. Vern’s car was interesting in that the March had been modified by Canadian aerodynamicist Denis Falconer who developed a package of changes from Robin Herd’s original design. There were 5 (!) body configurations depending upon circuit type. The car also had a narrow track suspension set-up for faster circuits.

Graeme Lawrence raced the Surtees TS15 which first broke cover in that summers Tasman Series powered by a 2 litre Ford Cosworth BDG. Ramsay ‘010’ and Geoghegan ‘007’ were Birrana 273 mounted. Poon had a Brabham similar to MacDonald’s.

Tony Stewart’s Paul England owned ‘Dolphin’, a Brabham BT30 or 36 copy was powered by one of Englands very powerful twin-cams. Jack Godbehear built mighty-fine FF and F2 engines re-building many of the Hart 416B’s which were plentiful in Oz as the 1.6 litre AF2 flourished from 1972-5. (the ANF2 1.6 litre twin cam, 2 valve formula applied from 1971 to 1977 which cost effectively, and sensibly mandated variants of the Lotus/Ford t/c engine)

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Tony Stewart in the Paul England owned Dolphin Ford a Brabham BT30/36 replica. Both John Leffler and Andrew Miedecke had one-off drives of this car in Australia (NAS)

Max Stewart’s Rennmax, twin-cam powered was faster than it had been with the more powerful Alfa GTAm engine the year before. Chain was in a Lotus 69, Bussell a Palliser WDB4, Wiano a GRD 272.

The cars had, by the way, come from Selangor where they had run in the Malaysian Grand Prix. Macdonald had won this from Canadian Brian Robertson and Poon, all drove BT40s. The Selangor GP was held later in the year.

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Jan Bussell’s Palliser WDB4 Ford (NAS)

Starting Grid…

V Schuppan (1:57.3)______G Lawrence (1:57.1)
K Smith (1:59.1________L Geoghegan (1:57.8)
M Ramsay (1:59.5)______J Macdonald (1:59.1)
A Stewart (2:01.5)________M Stewart (2:01.3)
A Poon (2:04.0)____________S Rajah (2:02.6)
P Chain (2:07.5)_____________M Hall (2:04.0)
H Wiano (2:08.9)__________J Bussell (2:07.6)

Further back were: Kiyoshi Misaka (BT36 Toyota), Steve Millen (Elden FF), Harvey Simon (Elfin 600B ), John Green (Chevron B20), Dave Hayward (Hawke FF) and Chong Boon Seng (Brabham BT30) a very slow 2:49.1.

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Geoghegan’s Birrana 273, Leo set the all-time lap record in his catch-up drive; 1.54.9 (NAS)

The Race…

Leo Geoghegan passed early leader Lawrence on the sixth lap. Schuppan’s March was third at this stage, but was under pressure from Ramsay, then Macdonald clear of Tony Stewart, Smith, Max Stewart and Rajah.

For fifteen laps Geoghegan’s Birrana 273 stormed away, but then had to pit when the engine began to stutter. The master switch on the roll-over bar had failed, it was shorted out to enable him to continue.

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Geoghegan ahead of Lawrence in their great dice early in the race (NAS)

At the same time, Schuppan showered Ramsay’s 273 with rocks when he ran wide on a fast corner. One rock punctured the fuel tank, Ramsay’s car trailed flames for a couple of laps and then stopped. Another report of this incident had it; ‘Malcolm soldiered on until the pain of the petrol burning his balls forced him to retire.’ So, Ramsay’s retirement was due to either a burning car or burning balls!

And while Geoghegan was heading for the pits, Lawrence’s Surtees lost the use of its mechanical fuel pump, and whether this slowed him as he switched on the electric one or it meant the engine lost power, the net result was that Schuppan’s March swept into the lead.

Geoghegan’s return saw the lap record (Bartlett’s from 1970’s preliminary race) under threat as he carved his way through the backmarkers trying to regain as much of the two laps he lost as possible. He had to pit again later, but the record was his and he completed 41 laps for ninth place. Leo was razor sharp, his Birrana beautifully set-up given the intensity of the competition at home.

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Kiwi star Ken Smith, in his youth. In his 70’s he is still a formidable F5000 pedaller! March 722 Ford, note the differences in his standard spec body and Schuppan’s modified 722 (NAS)

Rajah’s March was out at 25 laps with the battery dragging behind the car and Smith, March, struck problems to lose contact with the Stewarts, big Max passing young Tony as this happened for fourth. Tony Stewart, now there is a lost talent! If memory serves he raced a Birrana 273 for a while before leaving the sport and later making his fortune in ‘Car City’ on Ringwood’s Maroondah Highway in Melbourne’s outer east.

Both leaders had problems. Schuppan’s airbox was falling off, but that wasn’t as bad as the battery losing charge in Lawrence’s car and causing his engine to run roughly. The race ran out like this.

Results (50 laps – 150 miles)

1. Singapore Airlines: Vern Schuppan (March Hart 722) 1h 38:58.3 (1:56.8)
2. Singapore Airlines: Graeme Lawrence (Surtees TS15) 1h 39:36.8
3. Cathay Pacific Air: John Macdonald (Brabham BT40 Hart) 49 laps
4. Singapore Airlines: Max Stewart (Rennmax England t/c) 49 laps
5. Paul England Engineering: Tony Stewart (Dolphin England t/c) 49 laps
6. Air New Zealand: Ken Smith (March 722 Hart) 47 laps
7. Team Rothmans: Jan Bussell (Palliser BRM t/c) 47 laps
8. Air New Zealand: Steve Millen (Elden Mk 8) 43 laps
9. Grace Bros Race Team: Leo Geoghegan (Birrana 273 Hart t/c) 41 laps
10. Camel Melinda: Harvey Simon (Elfin 600B) 40 laps

Fastest lap and new outright record: Geoghegan, 1:54.9.

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A gaggle of cars in the ’72 GP passes a group of flaggies doing their best to say out of the tropical heat, car at the rear perhaps Leo Geoghegan’s Brabham (NAS)

The demise of racing in Singapore was somewhat sudden given the level of publicity and government backing the race received. The social and economic issues (the oil shock and terrifyingly rapid infrastructure growth) that the country was facing may have contributed to this.

The government claimed that the GP promoted dangerous driving in its citizens, these were the very successful times of the ‘paternalistic democratically elected despot’ Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The government acknowledged it would be impossible to implement adequate safety measures for the Thomson Road circuit. Although a permanent track was proposed which  included an all-sports complex, this never materialised.

Over time the view of the government eased with the Malaysian GP at Sepang growing in stature, the ban on motor racing was reconsidered and dropped in 2005.

The Macau Grand Prix, of course, thrived through this period, but after 13 years 1973 was the end for Singapore’s big race’, until the F1 era of course, a story for another time.

Etcetera…

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Field before the start of the 1971 bike GP, help welcome on competitors/bikes. What a wild, fast, narrow place! (NAS)

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Kiwi, Geoff Perry winning the bike GP on a Suzuki 500 (NAS)

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’73 Touring car race, help with cars/drivers welcome! (NAS)

Bibliography…

Eli Solomon Singapore GP article in MotorSport March 2006, Peter Collins race report published in ‘Racing Car News’, oldracingcars.com

Photo and Other Credits…

A very big thanks to Peter Brennan and Bruce Allison for their recollections

National Archive of Singapore, Bruce Allison Collection, oldracephotos.com, Alan Cox, Rewind Magazine, MCI, Choong H Fong, Robert Davies, Paul King Collection

Tailpiece: Kiwi Geoff Perry hustles his Suzuki 500 thru ‘The Snakes’ on the way to ’72 GP victory, the exciting perils of 50 Thomson Circuit laps evident…

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(NAS)

 

 

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John Goss and pit crew 1974, Amaroo Park. Aunger Wheels, a Goss sponsor photo shoot. Car is Ford Falcon XA GT351 Coupe ‘Sports Sedan’.(unattributed)

Australia has had quite a few drivers who have been stars in both open-wheelers and touring cars at the elite level; Kevin Bartlett, John Bowe, Mark Skaife, Craig Lowndes and John Goss spring to mind…

Gossy left his adopted Tasmania with guts, determination, self built Tornado Ford sportscar and made his way to Sydney. Before long his speed and ‘gift of the gab’ secured support from Rockdale, Ford dealer Max McLeod. This took him all the way to the top of Australian motor racing, he and Kevin Bartlett won the Bathurst 1000 in 1974 in a Ford Falcon XA GT. Goss also won the F5000 Australian Grand Prix at Sandown in 1976.

He is the only man to have won both events.

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John Goss, Matich A53 Repco, Sandown Tasman 1975 . Goss won the race from John McCormack Elfin MR6 Holden and Max Stewart Lola T330 Chev. Fencing behind destroyed by the lap 1 crash of John Walkers Lola T332. (Robert Davies)

Three Vignettes of John Goss, all at Sandown Park stick in my mind…

The first was at the Sandown Tasman meeting, my very first motor race in January 1972. I was there for the F5000’s the ‘Taxis’ of no great interest to me but i happened upon John Goss near his Falcon GTHO Series Production car in the paddock, he was holding fort with a group of supporters or sponsors.

They were enthralled by his experiences. At 14 i was  amazed at the atrocities he performed on the Queens English, it would have been impossible to use more words to describe the simplest of things, all delivered with the most nasal-‘strine accent. Imagine Paul Hogan on steroids, but more nasal and you have nailed the Gossy accent! As one wag put it after a JG Bathurst win; his victory speech was longer than the race itself!

He won the South Pacific Touring Car Championship, the touring car series support of the 1972 Australian Tasman Rounds, the plucky privateer beat the works teams. Takeouts; he was quick and gifted on the commercial side of the sport.

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Goss doing his thing in the Phase 3 ‘XY’ Falcon GTHO with its brand new for Bathurst 1972 ‘Globe’ alloy wheels. Oran Park 1972. No front spoiler. (Vic Hughes)

The second was at the same meeting the following year when he blazed a trail with the Ford Falcon XA GT ‘Superbird’ or 2 door coupe variant of Fords new series of cars.

Pretty much everyone else stuck with the previous model, ‘XY’ Falcon GTHO’s for one more year, including the Broadmeadows factory until the Manufacturers Championship in the second half of the year. Ford and Holden, the latter with their Torana V8 SLR5000 and L34, had big oil surge problems with their engines; a function of greater grip with the wider tyres allowed and inadequate wet sump arrangements. (dry sumps stupidly not allowed by the regs).

Goss’ big yellow fat tyred car looked and sounded sensational. He was showing the way with it and getting lots of publicity, but he and long-suffering mechanics were up to their armpits in alligators with mechanical mayhem. Takeouts; he was prepared to make his own calls and not follow ‘the herd’ and had good developmental and mechanical skills.

The final impression was of his absolute competitiveness as a driver, his win in the 1976 AGP at Sandown.

I was one of 38000 people enthralled by his battle with Vern Schuppan in Garrie Cooper’s latest Elfin MR8 Chev. Vern broke a valve spring early in the race, John was in one of two Matich’s he acquired when Frank Matich retired from the sport in 1974. John’s A53 was actually the older of the two cars he bought, an updated A51 chassis # ‘005’, the car Lella Lombardi raced in two Gold Star rounds in 1974, Goss acquired it in 1975.

The car wasn’t in the first flush of youth by then, Goss drove superbly to take the win by half a second from Schuppan, then a driver of world class. In my mind Vern’s slightly down on power engine was compensation of JG not having the latest of equipment.

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Goss in his Matich A51/53 ‘005’ Repco during his wonderful 1976 AGP winning drive at Sandown. He is turning into ‘Dandenong Road’, Marlboro Hill in the background. (unattributed)

Many saw Goss, born in the South Eastern Melbourne suburb of Glen Iris on 2 May 1943 as a Touring car driver. Whilst he started his career after qualifying as a mechanical engineer, in the Island state, he moved to Tasmania whilst a child, in a Holden FJ and Ford Customline he soon progressed to the self built Tornado Ford sportscar.

The car was powered by a Ford Falcon 170cid 6 cylinder engine which was harnessed via a VW gearbox. oldracephotos Lindsay Ross recalls ‘A Falcon XL sedan provided the motor, triple Webers were fitted in 1967, the steering wheel was fashioned out of a yacht centreboard. The Lotus 32B wheels were purchased from the Sternbergs who ran the ex Clark car in Tasmania in 68-69’.

goss tornado baskerville 1966 (david keep oldracephotos)

John Goss makes the race debut of his Tornado Ford, Baskerville, Tasmania 1966. Car sans the attractive body which came later, Ford straight 6 on single carb, steel wheels. Natty race-suit doubled as post race pub attire! (David Keep/oldracephotos.com)

‘First outing for the Tornado was at Baskerville in 1966. One of my first motorsport memories is a handicap race there in 1967 which only had 2 cars start. Goss in the Tornado off scratch and Lyn Archer in the Elfin Catalina 1.5 pushrod. Both drivers absolutely flat stick from the start over 6 laps and less than half a car length across the line at the finish with Goss just ahead. Great stuff from two very good drivers.’

goss longford 1968

John Goss in his Tornado Ford, Longford 1968. Proudly Tasmanian by the look of the decal on the cars rear…despite being born in Melbourne! Probably the Monday and coming down from the Water Tower. (Stephen Dalton Collection)

Hoping to progress in racing Goss took the Tornado to Sydney, with some success scoring points in the Australian Sports Car Championship in 1969 and 1970 (10th in both years).

He sought support from various sponsors Max Mcleod initially provided some money to help run the Tornado, Goss convinced McLeod to enter Series Production racing in 1969, this class exploding in public consciousness at the time with some phenomenal road cars built by Holden, Ford and Chrysler.

Goss made his Bathurst 500 debut in 1969 driving a Ford Falcon GTHO, co-driver Dennis Cribbin crashed the Falcon at Forrest Elbow. In 1970 Goss set the fastest lap during the event in his XW Falcon GTHO Phase II.

The following year he won two rounds of the Toby Lee Series at Oran Park against strong opposition such as Colin Bond and Fred Gibson.

goss bathurst 1973

Goss exiting Murray’s Corner Bathurst 500 1973. His Ford Falcon XA GT, shared with Kevin Bartlett is about to swallow the Leo Leonard/Gary Sprague Valiant Charger. (Vic Hughes)

John gained open-wheeler experience in 1971 at the wheel of the very first Birrana. Tony Alcock returned from a stint in Europe and designed and built the first Birrana, the F71 Formula Ford in Sydney and enlisted John’s help to develop and race the car.

Later Alcock moved to Adelaide and built over 25 cars in partnership with Malcolm Ramsay which won multiple championships in FF and F2, a story for another time.

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John Goss in the very first Birrana, the F71 FF ahead of 2 Bowin P4a FF’s, Oran Park 1971. (lyntonh)

Goss won the 1972 South Pacific Touring Car Series and the 1972 Sandown 250 endurance race, both in Series Production Ford XY Falcon GTHO Phase III’s. He also put his Falcon on the front row of the grid at the 1972 Hardie-Ferodo 500, qualifying second fastest behind the Works GTHO of Allan Moffat. Engine failure after splashing around for 24 wet laps ended his race

1972BATHURSTJOHNGOSSETALHELLCORNER

Goss in his Ford Falcon XY GTHO Ph3, Hell Corner Bathurst 1972. Peter Brock won that year in a Holden Torana LJ XU-1. (Rod MacKenzie)

The Series Production class was replaced by Group C for 1973, it allowed greater modifications than before. Commercially, Goss had ongoing sponsorship from Shell, Max McLeod as well as factory assistance from Ford Australia who provided purpose-built XA racing chassis’.

As noted above, Goss was the first to race the XA Hardtop in the 1973 ATCC, before the Works team who used a modified Phase III GTHO during the Australian Touring Car Championship which Allan Moffat won for them. They switched to the Hardtop for the Endurance races, the ‘Manufacturers Championship’ later in the year.

Goss and open-wheeler/touring car ace Kevin Bartlett teamed up for the 1973 Bathurst and qualified on pole. Goss started and built up a good lead which was kept until he was involved in a crash, not of his making, at The Cutting, damaging the front end and causing radiator damage which finished their race.

The pair returned to Bathurst for the 1974 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 in the same car, repainted blue after losing Shell sponsorship winning a race marred by driving rain. To celebrate the victory, Ford Australia released a limited edition XB Falcon Hardtop in 1975 called the ‘John Goss Special’. Around 250 cars were built.

goss bartlett

Goss/Kevin Bartlett victorious Ford Falcon XA GT. Bathurst 1974. (unattributed)

Goss surprised the racing world when he snaffled the best of Frank Matich’s F5000 equipe when he retired at the end of the 1974 Tasman Series. FM had been badly hurt in a boating incident in which he was electrocuted, he decided it was time to quit to focus on his family and business interests which then comprised the distribution of Goodyear race tyres and Bell helmets in Australia. His cars were advertised in the May edition of ‘Racing Car News’.

Goss gained some support from ‘Scotch’ brand adhesives and was immediately competitive in the Matich A53 Repco, the last and best of Matich’s world class designs. His first race was at the Oran Park 1974 Gold Star round on 4 August.

Over the coming years Goss, chief mechanic Grant O’Neill and their small team continued to develop the two chassis ‘A51 005’ and ‘A53 007’ remaining competitive against the best the world had to offer in the F5000 categories peak period.

1976 agp

1976 AGP finish at Sandown. Goss from Vern Schuppan by 5/10 second. Matich A51/53 Repco and Elfin MR8 Chev. (Graham ‘Howard History of The Australian GP’)

1974 Gold Star Series…

The first series Goss contested was the domestic single seater championship the then very prestigious ‘Gold Star’.

For most of its life the Championship lacked quantity but not quality. The costs of fielding an ANF1 car, whatever the formula has been, has always been high. Australia’s obsession with Touring Cars has meant that funds have generally not been flush in open-wheeler racing, the early years of Formula Pacific, 1981-2 arguably the exception.

In 1974 Gossy faced Australian Champions Kevin Bartlett, Max Stewart and John McCormack in Lola T332, T330 and Elfin MR5 respectively. Later champions John Walker and Warwick Brown also contested the series in their Lola T332’s albeit Warwick took in some races in the US in his Pat Burke owned car, the very first production T332.

Frank Matich, whose last and best car Goss owned had retired. This created an opportunity for the rest of the field as Matich was arguably the ‘first among equals’ as a driver and the best funded, courtesy of Repco and Goodyear. I always figured ‘Cranky Franky’ had an actual and psychological advantage over the competition; he pounded around Warwick Farm getting his cars to a fine pitch and was always well prepared whenever he arrived at a meeting, his actual advantage. The psychological advantage was the fact his fellow competitors knew that he was well prepared! Whereas they, without similar fiscal support were not as much so.

Brittle things F5000’s; the Hewland DG300 box was originally designed for Gurney’s 400bhp F1 Eagle, not a 500bhp Chev. Crown wheel and pinions needed to be in the full flush of youth to be problem free. Engines too, with all drivers chasing the edge, were far from reliable especially if the engine-builders maintenance cycles were not followed, a temptation if you were not flush with cash. Despite the big corporate names which adorned the Matich cockpit over the years JG was not well-funded, in common with most of his fellow local competitors.

John’s first meeting was at one of his home tracks, Oran Park on 4 August, finishing 4th for the weekend. He was 9th at Surfers, 4th in the first heat and had an accident in the second. He didn’t contest the Calder and Sandown rounds in Victoria but was back for the AGP at Oran Park although by this stage Max Stewart had the ‘Gold Star’ in the bag. John had his tail up, he and Kevin Bartlett won the Bathurst 1000 in October the pair driving brilliantly to win the race held in difficult conditions that year.

The AGP field was buoyed by the addition of Internationals Graeme Lawrence, the former Tasman Champ Lola T332 mounted and Signorina Lella Lombardi. ‘A Sheila in a F5000’ got the tabloids interested in the race, which was good as only nine cars started, she drove a Matich A51 (the car Goss was to later acquire as noted above) very well, scoring equal second fastest race lap, despite the unfamiliar car. The car she drove in Europe which brought her to the local promoters attention, her Lola T330 (HU18) is owned by Peter Brennan in Australia, it’s restoration well covered in primotipo.

Gossy ran a bearing so didn’t start the race, Brown cantered off into the distance, quickly mastering Oran Park’s new layout, Stewart took the win when Warwick retired on lap 49 with a harmonic balancer kaput.

goss op

Goss in his Matich A53 Repco ‘007’. Oran park during practice for the opening 1975 Australian Tasman round, the ‘Oran Park 100’. Car just painted but devoid of sponsors decals. Jon Davison looking for divine inspiration in the background, his car an earlier Matich A50 Repco ‘004’. Warwick Brown won the race in his Lola T332 Chev, Goss DNF with electrical maladies. (Andrew Lynch)

The 1975 Tasman Series started in New Zealand on January 5 at Levin but John’s funding didn’t allow him to contest the four Kiwi rounds, he was up against opposition which had already had four consecutive weekends to get their cars to a fine pitch.

In addition to the leading drivers covered above, other frontliners in the series that year were Kiwis Graham McRae in his McRae GM2 and Chris Amon in the Talon MR1, an identical car to the GM2, the design acquired from GM by American Jack McCormack, the cars built in the ‘States. Another Kiwi was Ken Smith in an ex-Brian Redman Lola T332.

goss and bartlett

Oran Park Handling Lesson; Goss’ mildly understeering Matich A53 Repco being given a bit of hurry up by Kevin Bartlett’s new and somewhat recalcitrant, grass cutting oversteering Lola T400 Chev. (unattributed)

He had a DNF the at Oran Park with electrical failure, was 3rd the following weekend at Surfers, had another DNF at Adelaide, a water hose came loose on lap 3 and then things all came together at Sandown in the final round.

I have covered this meeting in another story, click on the link here;

https://primotipo.com/2015/03/12/the-mother-and-father-of-lucky-escapes-john-walker-sandown-tasman-1975/

Suffice it to say, depending upon results, any of Lola drivers, Brown, Lawrence or Walker could take the title…Walker crashed on lap 1, Lawrence retired with fuel metering unit failure late in the race, Brown got the necessary point and Goss won the race in a fast, controlled drive. A strong win against opposition of depth.

matich sandown

Goss eases his Matich A53 ‘007’ through Torana Corner Sandown on the way to his first F5000 victory in the Tasman round ‘Sandown Park Cup’ on 23 February 1975. (unattributed)

By the time Goss commenced his 1975 Gold Star campaign he also owned the earlier Matich A51 Repco which was updated to later A53 specs.

JG continued his good form in the ‘Toby Lee’ sponsored F5000 Series held over 6 rounds, 5 at Oran Park and 1 at Sandown. Max Stewart won the series in his new for Tasman ’75, Lola T400. Goss took 4 of the 12 heats which comprised the series before being ‘pinged’ by CAMS for a black flag incident which almost cost him his AGP start.

Bruce Allison also starred in the Series, the 22 year old jumped out of his Birrana 274 F2 car and took to the ex-Bartlett Lola T332, prepared and guided by the very experienced Peter Molloy, like a ‘duck to water’.

And ducks they needed to be at Surfers Paradise Gold Star season opener held in torrential conditions. The AGP was the first round of the Gold Star that year, Goss matched local boy, Bruce Allison’s pole time but withdrew from the race early with a rough engine and visibility problems. Max Stewart had a lucky win when John Leffler, leading well and as comfortably as you can be devoid of vision!, in the radical, under-developed,tricky to drive but utterly wonderful Bowin P8 Chev, slowed with drowning electrics.

At Sandown he was 6th and then didn’t start at Oran Park, Calder and Phillip Island.

By 1976 the Tasman Series was over, the Kiwis had the ‘Peter Stuyvesant Series’ and we ‘Skips’ the ‘Rothmans Series’, still 4 rounds each. Internationals for the Australian Rounds were Aussie Vern Schuppan and the UK’s David Purley, Lola’s T332/T330 mounted and American John Cannon adding some interest with a March 73A/751 Chev.

At the ‘Oran Park 100′ Goss was 5th, in Adelaide he crashed, at Sandown he was 3rd in the race won by Cannons’ March, the final round at Surfers was washed out. As in the circuit was under the flooded Nerang River, Schuppan took the trophy, the presentation in waist deep water, the promoters gaining a shot for the tabloids despite the lack of a race!

agp 76 start

Ian Smith’s great shot of the start of the 1976 AGP at Sandown. Taken from the outside of Shell Corner, turn 1. L>R; Max Stewart Lola T400 Chev, Vern Schuppan Elfin MR8 Chev and Goss to the right, Matich A5153 Repco. (Ian Smith)

Goss’ domestic 1976 Gold Star campaign started well with his AGP win at Sandown in September, he didn’t finish at Oran Park with gearbox failure, at Calder he had an exhaust problem and didn’t contest the one off ‘Rose City 10000’ at Winton nor the final Phillip Island Gold Star round. John Leffler took the title in a new Lola T400 Chev, consistent finishes but no wins bagged the Championship.

agp 77

There was nothing quite like seeing F5000’s raced by top line Pro’s and look at the Oran Park 1977 AGP crowd! Front running group; Goss, Gethin, Schuppan and Bartlett. Matich A51/3 Repco ‘005’, Chevron B37 Chev, Elfin MR8 Chev and Lola T332 Chev. (‘History of the AGP’)

The 1977 Rothmans International Series of 4 races in Australia had good prizemoney, Count Rudy Van der Straten’s Team made a welcome return to Australia with a Lola T430 and Chevron B37 for Warwick Brown and Peter Gethin respectively, nuts from a spares point of view but both interesting cars, and critically not more Lola T332’s, wonderful devices that they are.

Alan Jones returned to Oz, to race a Teddy Yip, Theodore Racing Lola T332C, he was ‘on the rise’ well and truly by this stage, he drove for the Surtees F1 team in ’76, and took his first F1 win in Austria later in the year.

The development of the Lola T332 was ongoing, the T430 and Chevron B37 were new designs, Garrie Cooper’s Elfin MR8 was also the state of the art. In that context John Goss’ grid place (4th) and strong race performance in the season opening AGP at Oran Park, he ran in 2nd and 3rd for much of the race, in a car which dated to 1974 and an engine which had no development, Repco having withdrawn from racing in 1974, very creditable.

Jones jumped the start, depriving the spectators a duel at the front but all eyes were on him as he sought to make up the 1 minute penalty incurred. Brown won the race with teammate Gethin 2nd and Goss 3rd.

surfers 77

‘Surfers Paradise 100’ Rothmans Series 1977. L>R In the distance Alan Jones in Kevin Bartlett’s loaned Lola T332 Chev, Jones boofed his in practice. Warwick Brown Lola T430 Chev, Peter Gethin in the lead, Chevron B37 Chev, John Leffler in the white Lola T400 Chev and on the outside Goss, Matich A53 Repco. Finishing order, Brown, Gethin, Leffler and Goss. (Bill Forsyth)

Brown and Gethin repeated the performance at Surfers the following weekend, Goss 4th. Max Stewart won in his Lola T400 at Sandown, his last race win before his tragic death at Calder in the one off Kleber 40000 race at Calder. Goss DNF with engine failure.

goss sandown 77

‘Sandown Park Cup’ February 1977. Goss leads from Garrie Cooper Elfin MR8 Chev 3rd and Alf Costanzo Lola T332 Chev 2nd. Goss had an engine failure, the race was won by Max Stewart’s Lola T400 Chev. (Ian Smith)

In Adelaide, the last Series Round he was 4th and lapped as was the rest of the field, Jones dominant in his Lola T332. Brown took the Series win in the VDS Lola T430 Chev, both T430 chassis’ owned by VDS were sold to Alan Hamilton at the series end and would be an important part of the F5000 scene going forward in both Hamilton’s and especially Alfredo Costanzo’s hands.

mat ford

Gossy having his mirrors fitted in the clearly just finished Matich A53/55 Ford ‘007’. Thats Grant O’Neill doing the adjusting, Sandown paddock, 1978. Ford engine of note! (Ian Smith)

Goss’ had been developing a Ford F5000 engine based on the 302, cross bolted ‘Boss’ block, fitted to his newer Matich chassis ‘007’ it was entered in the first 3 Rothmans rounds but failed to appear in any of them.

Development of the Ford engine made sense given his Ford connections and whilst there were some Ford engines in the category in its formative years, he and his small team were giving away decades of development to the small block Chev. A smarter move, hindsight a brilliant thing, would have been a more up to date chassis…and a strong Chev engine.

The Matich Ford, the engine comprised a 4 main bearing bolt Windsor ‘Boss’ block with Cleveland heads, the latter to address the shortcomings of the Windsors ports, was tested but it does not appear to have ever been raced. He qualified the Ford car at the Sandown 1978 Rothmans with a 64.6 second lap but raced the Repco chassis. At Oran Park he practiced the Ford engined chassis on Friday and Saturday but again elected to race ‘old faithful’ A51/53 Repco ‘005’.

During this period the team were developing the Ford engine, Goss raced his other, earlier chassis with Repco power; A51/53 ‘005’, the chassis he used to win the AGP.

sandown maticj ford

Chris Jewell’s shot of the Matich A53/55 Ford ‘007’ at Sandown 1978. Car practiced but not raced. Same tub as 1974, in fact the chassis were to the same 1971 design for all 6 chassis’ built. (Chris Jewell)

Goss didn’t contest the 1977 Gold Star Series but ran Bathurst Teammate Henri Pescarolo in the one off ‘Kleber 40000’ event referred to above on 20 March, Alf Costanzo won the 2 heat event.

henri

Henri Pescarolo cruising the Calder paddock in Goss’ Matich A51/3 Repco ‘005’ during the February 1977 ‘Kleber 40000’ meeting. (oldracephotos.com)

JG reappeared in the Matich for the 1978 Rothmans, Warwick Brown was dominant winning all 4 rounds of the series in his Lola T333/332.

Goss was 6th at Sandown and in Adelaide and 5th at Oran Park. He tested the Ford engined chassis ‘007’ at Oran Park but chose to race his usual Repco engined car ‘005’.

matich ford

Goss testing his Matich A53/55 Ford at Oran Park during the Rothmans series in February 1978. Neat evolution of the A53 ‘007’ tub. Ferrari 312T-esque front wing, neat deformable structure and rear ‘flush’ mounted’ radiators, no airbox. Neat. (Doug Eagar)

At Surfers he failed to finish with oil scavenge pump problems.

With the costs of F5000 rising, and the Formula Pacific push for ANF1 underway Goss wound down his F5000 activities and sold both cars; the much raced A51/53 ‘005’ to touring car star Jim Richards who contested the ’79 Rothmans Series in it and A53 ‘007’ to Mel McEwin who converted it back to Repco form, and raced it towards the end of the category in Australia. Both cars still exist.

sandown 1978

John Cannon 3rd ahead of John Goss 6th ,1978 ‘Sandown Park Cup’. March 73A/751 Chev and Matich A51/53 Repco. (Anthony Loxley)

Formula 1 Ensign MN05 Ford Cosworth…

With interest in F5000 waning in the late 1970’s the ‘Rothmans Series’ rules were changed to allow F1 cars to compete in the 1979 Internationals. The F1’s were ‘brought back to the field’ by the hard Goodyears they were mandated to run. All the same the cars were great to watch, for many of us the first modern GP cars we had seen and heard.

Goss was keen to have a drive, Theodore Racing had 3 cars; 2 Wolf WR4 Ford’s  and an Ensign MN05 raced by Scot David Kennedy and Brit, Geoff Lees. Keen to run a car at Oran Park, Goss wasn’t so happy to stump up the $10K for the weekend but late on the Saturday the team gave him a run in the Ensign anyway.

He did 7 laps, brushed the wall on the out lap keeping out of the way of another car which moved over on him, he managed a 1:10.4 compared with Warwick Browns Lola T332 Chev pole of 1:5.4. It was not enough time for John to find the limits of the car , sadly he didnt race it. An interesting ‘mighta been’ had he raced the car.

john goss ensign mn05 oran park

John Goss, Oran Park 1979. Theodore Racing F1 Ensign MN05 Ford. A few laps in practice, no race sadly. (Dick Simpson)

In 1980 Goss began campaigning a V12 Jaguar XJS at Bathurst. His 3 previous Bathurst starts with Henri Pescarolo in Falcons were all DNF’s.

He started essentially a standard Jag from 58th on the grid, but lasted only 14 laps before retiring with gearbox failure. In 1981, he teamed with 1965 winner Barry Seton and after an improved qualifying effort (19th), they weren’t classified as finishers of the crash shortened race.

Goss returned with a better prepared effort in 1982, sharing the drive with American IMSA Jaguar sports car driver/team owner Bob Tullius who also assisted with technical info for the car and engine. Goss qualified 14th but after a strong run, once again the big cat failed to finish following suspension failure on lap 119.

Goss missed the 1983 James Hardie 1000, but returned in 1984 for the last year of Australia’s Group C racing sharing a drive with Tom Walkinshaw. Walkinshaw ran three factory backed Group A XJS’ in the ETCC, won that title in 1984, and added a lot of technical assistance to Goss’ team with revised suspension and the use of one of TWR’s V12 engines.

Despite trouble in qualifying with no suitable rear tyres arriving in time to use, the Scot qualified the car 8th before falling to 10th in the Hardies Heroes top ten run-off . Walkinshaw also started the race but never left the line.

The Jags clutch had gone leaving Walkinshaw stranded with his arm out the window warning other drivers he was stationary. Unfortunately in the dust kicked up off the start, the Kevin Bartlett owned Chevrolet Camaro of John Tesoriero was coming through at speed and could not avoid the Jag, a multiple crash ensued.

Goss-Jaguar

Goss/ Armin Hahne Jaguar XJS. Bathurst winner in 1985. (unattributed)

Australian Touring Car racing changed to International Group A rules in 1985, and Goss scored his second and last outright Bathurst win with West German co-driver Armin Hahne in one of a three-car assault by Tom Walkinshaw’s TWR team using the 1984 ETCC-winning V12 Jaguar XJS’

Goss, installed by Walkinshaw as lead driver of the team’s third car, qualified fastest going into Hardies Heroes, giving lie to those who believed he was past his best as a driver. He ended up 6th in the Top Ten run-off after mistakes on both laps.

Goss made a good start and for the opening laps was in a dice for 2nd with Allan Grice (Commodore), Robbie Francevic (Volvo), Dick Johnson (Ford Mustang), Jim Richards (BMW 635 CSi) and Peter Brock (Commodore). First Francevic, then Goss, broke free of the dice. Goss chased down the Volvo in less than 10 laps, giving Jaguar a 1-2 on the road for the first time since the early laps before the team’s second car driven by Jeff Allam retired with engine failure. From then on, the Goss/Hahne Jaguar was in second place for most of the race behind the Walkinshaw/Win Percy car.

Goss and Hahne’s job was made more difficult by the driver’s seat of their car having completely broken at the base of the back. The car took the lead on about lap 120 following a split oil line on the Walkinshaw/Percy car with both Peter Brock and Roberto Ravaglia (BMW) closing the gap to within 30 seconds.

The chase effectively ended with Brock’s engine allowing Goss to back off over the last 3 laps. Walkinshaw finished third with Win Percy, the pair crossing the finish line together.

After Jaguar Rover Australia declined to help fund a return effort by TWR in 1986 Goss returned with his own privately entered XJ-S backed by Citibank Australia and co-driven by veteran Bob Muir. Electrical troubles in the race resulting in a flat battery saw them complete 140 laps and finish 24th outright.

Goss missed the 1987 World Touring Car Championship round as well as the 1988 race but returned to drive for Glenn Seton Racing in 1989 in a Ford Sierra RS500. He paired with Seton for a fourth placed finish at the Sandown 500. At Bathurst Goss was teamed with Tony Noske in the second car, they were joined during the race by Seton after his own car failed. After a troubled run the trio went finished 20th outright.

Goss’ final Bathurst 1000 came in 1990 when he paired with fellow Sydney based veteran Phil Ward in Ward’s Mercedes-Benz 190E to finish 12th outright and a Division 2 class win after starting 38th.

Where Does Goss fit in the Pantheon of Australian Drivers…

Former Racing Car News journalist, Ray Bell saw most of Goss’ big races and had this to say on ‘The Nostalgia Forum some years back…’But to return to the main question, the reality of his ability, let’s just look at his AGP win, which was one of very few wins he had in F5000.

He diced through that race with Vern Schuppan, who was acknowledged as a F5000 pilot world wide at that time. John drove the three year old Matich A53, based on the 5 year old A50. Vern was in the almost new MR8. John’s car was no longer a ‘work in progress’, its designer had retired. Vern’s was under the care of Garrie Cooper who raced that model himself.

I think you would have to say that he demonstrated in that race all the qualities that are necessary, the skill to do the job; the determination to be there, overcoming whatever hurdles might have been put in his way along the path he followed; the recognition of openwheelers as the pinnacle, despite having already won the biggest race in Australia. And Sandown was never a place for the limp of wrist or small of heart in these cars…’

In retirement Goss is a businessman and maintains a couple of yachts for wealthy owners…

Etcetera…

The following images are from Graham Howard’s ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’, and describe Frank Matich’s F5000 cars generally and John Goss’ pair specifically.

mat 1

mat 2

mat 3

mat 4

mc leod ford ad

Bibliography…

Graham Howard ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix, Wikipedia for touring car stuff, The Nostalgia Forum, Facebook Australian F5000 Group, Stephen Dalton Collection

Photo Credits…

oldracephotos.com, David Keep, Lyntonh, Dick Simpson, Rod MacKenzie, Robert Davies, Vic Hughes, Andrew Lynch, Ian Smith, Bill Forsyth, Chris Jewell, Doug Eagar, Anthony Loxley

Finito…

 

walker sandown

Robert Davies took this amazing shot of John Walkers’ F5000 Lola T332 scything at very high speed the Sandown Park horserailing on lap 1 of the Tasman Round, 23 February 1975…

Walker survived the accident and lived to fight another day, eventually winning both the Australian Grand Prix and ‘Gold Star’ the national championship for drivers in 1979 in another Lola T332.

The other cars in shot are also Lola’s ; Max Stewarts’ T330 left, Graeme Lawrences’ T332 centre and Kevin Bartletts’ similar car on the right. In fact it was in Bartletts’ T332 ‘HU22′, later owned and raced successfully by Bruce Allison before passing into Martin Sampsons’ hands in which Walker won the AGP and Gold Star in 1979.

The battle for the ’75 Tasman was decided in this race.

Going into the Sandown final round Walker, Warwick Brown and Kiwi 1970 Tasman Champion, Graeme Lawrence all Lola T332 mounted could all win the series depending upon how ‘the cards fell’, with 30 points apiece from 7 prior rounds.

Sandown in February was typically hot throughout practice, Walker took pole from Brown, Max Stewart third and Lawrence 4th, their was nothing between the title protagonists, it was anybody’s race.

lcca shot

John Walker, Warwick Brown and Graeme Lawrence pictured at the Light Car Club, then the Sandown promoters, a day or so before the race. The Melbourne ‘Sun’ was a good paper in which to wrap yer fish n’ chips but had no merit otherwise, much as the Herald-Sun does now. The article rabbits on about Alan Moffats new ‘Cologne’ RS3400 Capri, indicative of the Aussie fixation with ‘taxis’ (touring cars), making no mention of the Tasman finale…nice shot tho!

wb sandown 75 pits taright

Warwick Brown, razor sharp after a series of races in the US in 1974 in ‘HU27’. He had been racing the car a full year, he and engineer Peter Molloy understood all of the cars nuances, this chassis the very first of the T332’s, made its debut in the ’74 Tasman. This shot is on the old Pit Straight, the car ‘nose up’ under acceleration in 3rd gear. (Robert Davies)

Brown was perhaps the ‘form driver’…he broke into F5000 in the ex-Alan Hamilton McLaren M10B which was engineered by the very experienced Peter Molloy, Molloy having prepared the sister M10B to this when owned by Niel Allen.

Molloy knew the car intimately and was equally adept as a driver mentor/coach. Brown was immediately on the pace in what was an old car in 1972. He then jumped into the ex Allen/Muir Lola T300, a quicker but twitcher, more challenging conveyance than the M10B and was very competitive in the ’73 Tasman but became a ‘Lola Limper’ in an horrific high speed accident at Surfers which could have taken his life. It was not the last Lola ‘big one’ in Warwicks’ career either.

When he recovered his Patron, Pat Burke, bought the very first T332 which he ran in the 1974 Tasman Series doing well enough to win the final Adelaide round, he competed in the first round of the domestic 1974 Gold Star series, which Lawrence and Walker also contested. Browns’ team then shipped ‘HU27’ to the US successfully competing in several rounds of the ’74 Series before returning for the AGP at Oran Park in mid-November. Warwick ran the final US round in the Talon nee McRae GM2, he would contest the ’75 US Series in. Brown was well and truly ‘match fit’ by the start of the series , his confidence buoyed by his competitiveness in the ‘States.

Max Stewart won the ’74 AGP from Kevin Bartlett, KB also a ‘Lola Limper’ by virtue of his awful leg-breaking Pukekohe Tasman ’74 shunt. Graeme Lawrence was 3rd in his T332 ‘HU28’ which he also raced in the ’74 Tasman and the whole Australian Gold Star series, he was well familiar with the car by the commencement of the ’75 Tasman.

lawrence sandown 75

Graeme Lawrence in his T332 Chev ‘HU28’. GL raced this car successfully over several seasons. (Robert Davies)

Graeme Lawrence won the Tasman Series in 1970 in the Ferrari Dino 246T ‘0008’, also Chris Amons’ 1969 Tasman winner…1970 was the first year F5000’s were eligible to compete for the title. He started in F5000 in a Lola T300, that car short lived after Lawrence was involved in an horrific high speed, ‘nobody’s fault’ accident with countryman Bryan Faloon in the ’72 NZ GP at Pukekohe, Faloon losing his life and Graeme breaking both legs and sustaining other serious injuries. Like the other ‘Lola Limpers’ described herein he continued his passion for the sport. After he recovered long time sponsor Air New Zealand supported a Surtees TS15 Ford F2 car he ran in the ’73 Tasman and in South East Asia, before returning to F5000 with the T332 for 1974.

Bartlett and his great friend Max Stewart were not as competitive ’75 Tasman contenders as they hoped. The great friends were the first customers of Lola’s F5000 latest- the trick, schmick but not ultimately quick, rising rate suspension T400.

Bartlett’s 3rd at Levin in the opening round flattered only to deceive, the cars were reasonably reliable throughout the series but not as quick as the T332’s. So unimpressed with the T400 were they, that both contested the Adelaide and Sandown rounds in their old cars. Bartlett his T332, his T330 rebuilt around a new 332 tub after his Pukekohe prang and Max the very first, very fast, very successful T330, ‘HU1’, the prototype tested and raced in the UK in late 1972 and honed to a fine pitch before handover by Frank Gardner to Stewart prior to the ’73 Tasman commencement. It would have been very interesting to see how this pair would have faired had they run their well proven older cars, but there was no reason to believe the T400 would not be a quicker car than the successful previous Lola F5000’s had been. Each one quicker than the previous model.

The T400’s ended up being winners in the hands of Count Rudy Van der Straatens ‘Team VDS’ in Teddy Pilette’s and Peter Gethin’s hands in Europe and by Max Stewart in Australia but were otherwise shunned by most Lola customers who continued to modify and develop their T330/2’s- the T332C was surely THE definitive F5000 car.

jw sandown practice

John Walker in his Lola T332 Repco in Shell Corner or turn 1 onto the old Pit Straight in practice, Saturday 22 February. Lola T330 ‘HU23’ B, rebuilt as a T332 after the first of its numerous shunts, unique in fitment of Repco Holden F5000 engines. These were ‘carry-overs’ from JW’s previous Elfin MR5 and Matich A50 both cars designed for the Repcos’. Repco withdrew from racing in 1974 but continued to provide parts support to their many customers. JW car fitted for Sandown ’75 with the last specially prepared ‘flat plane crank’ Repco engine developing circa 520bhp in addition to the Repcos’ legendary ‘truckload’ of mid range torque. (Robert Davies)

In many ways the least well prepared of the ‘Tasman Finalists’, at the Series commencement was John Walker.

The Adelaide crash repair business proprietor came into F5000 from F2, swapping his Elfin 600 for an MR5 Repco, the first of Garrie Coopers’ Elfin 5 litre single seaters.

John hadn’t raced the car for long before deciding to compete in the ’73 US F5000 ‘L&M Series’, and bought a Matich A50 to do so, the Elfin lacking the ‘bag tanks’ required for that series and the ultimate competitiveness Walker sought.

matich watkins gelen walker

Walker and team on the Watkins Glen grid. Matich A50 Repco ‘004’. JW finished 8th in the race won by Jody Scheckters’ Lola T330, T330’s filling the first 6 places, such was their dominance that year. Mind you Scheckter won the L&M US title that year mainly driving a Trojan T101. Mechanic clearly has had a shopping trip to San Francisco…(Chris Parker)

He did well in the US, finishing 8th at Michigan and Watkins Glen in the limited campaign returning to Oz for the ’73 Gold Star series a notably faster driver- and with a Lola T330 he bought from Carl Haas to which he fitted the Repco Holden F5000 engines which had nestled in the back of both the Elfin and Matich. Both cars were designed for the Repco engine, the Lola was not and whilst JW was not at the top of the ‘Repco food-chain’ initially, sponsored driver Frank Matich was- the Lola was always a ‘jet’ with the lighter, torquier, albeit slightly less powerful than the best Chevs, Repco donks.

walker mid ohio

John Walker looking longingly at fellow Aussie Bob Muirs’ Lola T330 ‘HU4′ in the Mid Ohio paddock on 3 June 1973. He was mightily impressed by the T330s’ he had been chasing around the US circuits…by 24 July Lola had invoiced him for ‘HU23’ in ‘Viking Orange’, the car delivered in the US, the Repco fitted there, but first raced in Australia at the Adelaide Gold Star round in October 1973. (Terry Capps)

JW contested the ’74 Tasman in the T330 winning at Levin and in the first rounds of the ’74 Gold Star series but pranged the car in the second heat at Surfers Paradise doing sufficient damage to require a new chassis. This car had ‘more hits than Elvis’ over the years, as the oldracingcars.com history shows!

T330 ‘HU23’ was then rebuilt around a T332 tub, whilst Walker didn’t do any of the remaining ’74 Gold Star rounds he had done enough test miles around Adelaide International in his new car to be competitive from the start of the ’75 Tasman.

old Sandown circuit map

Circuit map of Sandown in its original guise. JW accident occurred at the fast, downhill lefthand kink after ‘Mobil’, the approach top speed in 5th gear, before braking…

By the time the ‘Tasman Circus’ arrived at Sandown in February the 7 rounds had been won by Lawrence (Levin and Adelaide), Brown (Pukekohe and Oran Park), Walker (Surfers Paradise) with Chris Amon winning at Teretonga in his Talon MR1 Chev and Graham McRae Wigram in the Talons cousin, McRae GM2 Chev. (the Talons were cars built in the US by Jack McCormack to the GM2 design sold by McRae to McCormack)

And so the scene was set. There was much excitement in Melbourne with the mainstream media, usually only interested in Aussie Rules, Cricket and Donkeys (horse racing), providing substantial coverage to the cars and drivers for a wonderful showdown of ‘local drivers’ Graeme Lawrence a Kiwi but much admired and respected by local fans as a driver ‘from over the ditch’.

The day dawned bright and sunny, it was with a great deal of anticipation and interest that we fans ventured out to the circuit. I jumped the pit fence gaining my ‘students discount’ to the paddock and took in pre-race preparations and watched the start from the pit counter, JW went past in 2nd behind Brown, John Goss taking 2nd from Walker on the run uphill…

Photographer, Robert Davies described the bellowing field of cars heading up the back straight …’I was pre-focussed on the track at my favorite vantage point at ‘Marlboro Country’ (the top of the back straight on the outside of the corner) ready for my usual shot of the leading cars on the opening lap. JW lost control of the Lola and slid at very high speed along about 100 metres of the fencing that separates the horse racing track from the motor racing circuit. He was very lucky, the fence posts snapped like matchsticks and the water pipe that ran along the top of the fence (to water the horse racing grass, you can actually see the water pipe atop the rail) passed over the top of his helmet’.

Walker was unconscious and was removed from the car and taken to nearby Dandenong Hospital, discharging himself shortly after arrival.He escaped serious injury from what was a very nasty accident with the best of outcomes, some years later Garrie Cooper went off after a wing-post failure at a similar spot in his Elfin MR8, he broke limbs but again was lucky to survive, Sandown is not without its perils.

The reason for the accident has never been clear, mechanical failure ruled unlikely by post race inspection of the wreck.

brown marlboro country

WB on the downhill plunge from ‘Marlboro Country’ to Dandenong Road in his T332 Chev, past the orange colored remains of Walkers’ car on the way to 6th place in the race and the Tasman Series win. The only occasion on which an Australian won the Tasman title. (Robert Davies)

A good deal of interest in the race was removed with JW’s demise but it was tempered with the knowledge that he was ok, and the subject of mass media coverage in the days which followed as a consequence.

Graeme Lawrence had fuel metering unit dramas and Warwick Brown slowed and had a quick ‘splash and dash’ with low fuel and finished 6th, gaining the vital point to win the title, it was a fitting victory for a driver who jumped back into these awesome cars after an accident as horrific as the one shown above but with far more dire consequences 2 years before…

John Goss won the race, his first F5000 victory in the Matich A53 Repco, the last of Franks’ superb cars…It was to be the last Tasman Series, the Kiwis and Aussies ran F5000 Series in 1976 of 4 races each back to back but the New Zealanders then changed their National Formula to Formula Atlantic/Pacific from 1977 Australia soldiering on with F5000.

goss sandown matich 1975

John Goss on the way to Sandown victory in his Matich A53 Repco (007). Sandown was a happy F5000 hunting ground for JG, in addition to this, his first F5000 win, he also won the 1976 AGP in a very close race with Vern Schuppans’ Elfin MR8 Chev, Goss victorious in his other Matich, A51/3 ‘005’. Goss started racing in his native Tasmania in sedans and then the ‘Tornado Ford’ a self-built sportscar. But for some FF races in the first Birrana F71 he made his name as a touring car driver in Ford Falcon GT’s…but he became an awesomely quick F5000 driver, immediately on the pace in Matichs’ fantastic cars from mid-’74. Here he is descending the hill below ‘Marlboro Country’, the horse railing mown down by Walker, and the destroyed Lolas’ orange airbox clear to see. (Robert Davies)

So that was that, a wonderful series of 8 races in the Australasian Summer which started in 1964 and had seen the best in the world compete in the Southern Hemisphere annually was at an end.

Both countries continued with summer International Series but the magic of the Tasman was forever lost…the Australian Grand Prix is superb but it isn’t 8 wonderful races in 2 months!

jw with lola lcca

John Walker pictured in Roy Street Melbourne behind the old Light Car Club of Australia premises during a pre-Sandown promotional shoot in 1978. Car is the Martin Sampson/Magnum Wheels owned Lola T332 Chev ‘HU22’ in which Walker won both the 1979 Wanneroo Park, WA, AGP and Gold Star Series. (Ian Smith)

Etcetera…

walker paper 2

john walker paper article

Lola T330 Chev…

Those with an interest in what makes these cars tick may find this series of articles on Peter Brennans’ restoration of the ex-Lella lombadi T330 ‘HU18’ of interest.

https://primotipo.com/2014/06/24/lellas-lola-restoration-of-the-ex-lella-lombardi-lola-t330-chev-hu18-episode-1/

Photo and Other Credits…

Robert Davies- check out Roberts’ other amazing shots on Flickr

https://www.flickr.com/photos/robsretroracing/

Ian Smith, Terry Capps, Chris Parker

Thanks to Rob Newman for reading the draft and correcting some facts