Imagine being in a room with many of the surviving great names of Australian motor racing! My life is charmed.
It happened on the Queensland Gold Coast on March 22, thanks to an enterprising former race mechanic, and a couple of motor racing wives!
Nola Richardson, wife of famed race mechanic Bruce Richardson, said to Val Maudsley at a recent funeral of a motor racing great: “Why is it we all get together only at funerals? Why don’t we meet up when we’re all alive to remember and reunite old friends and foes?”
Val Maudsley told her husband Ian, one of Australia’s most talented race engineers, and, as Peter Sellars once said:
“One thing led to her mother.” And we had the greatest racing reunion of living legends ever staged.
Although I never raced, I was a diehard enthusiast for cars, tuning and working on cars, and attending motor races.
I did however become one of Australia’s team of motor racing commentators between 1961 and 1968 – attending race meetings at Warwick Farm, Amaroo Park, Catalina Park, Bathurst, Oran Park (in NSW), Surfers Paradise, and Lakeside (in Queensland) and Wanneroo Park (Western Australia).
|GT40 at La Piazza|
As a commentator, and later a racing reporter for Racing Car News, I met and knew most of Australia’s racing greats, so I was honored to be invited to join the motor racing royalty at La Piazza restaurant on the Gold Coast.
Allan Moffat and I first met in 1969 when he debuted the Coca Cola-sponsored Ford Mustang at Warwick Farm. I was a disc jockey at Sydney’s Number 1 Top 40 station, and presented a Saturday afternoon program called ‘Pitstop’.
His sponsors suggested we meet at the offices of the AARC, which conducted the race meetings at Warwick Farm. We warmed to each other immediately and have been good friends since.
I first met Kevin Bartlett back in 1968, when he drove an Alfa Romeo GTA for the Alec Mildren team.
|Interveiwing Kevin Bartlett prior to Warwick Farm (1968)|
He raced a wide variety of cars over the years, but none more famous than a Chevy Camaro sponsored by Sydney television station, Channel 9.
Jim Richards, a transplant from new Zealand, has been one of Australia’s most consistent race winners since he first began racing in 1974. He’s known as the ‘Rainmaster’ for his outstanding car control racing in wet weather.
I hired him as one of the pro car drivers for the 1980 Barclays TR7 Pro Car Series at Amaroo Park.
That was also the time when I met and became close friends with one of Australia’s finest engine tuner/builders, Ron Gillard.
I hired Ron to build and prepare all the TR7 sports cars for the TR7 Pro Car Series.
|L-R: Barclays Team TR7 - Gillard, John Goss, Colin Bond, Ian Geoghagen, Bob Morris|
One of the people I consider to be one of the greatest of our home-grown racers is Spencer Martin.
|Spencer Martin & David McKay (Photo:Chris Haigh)|
My old friend David McKay spotted his talent and hired him to drive for his Scuderia Veloce team. Spencer first turned out in a magnificent Ferrari 250LM, which Scuderia Veloce raced all over Australia.
|Spencer Martin and Ferrari 250LM at Warwick Farm (Photo: John Ellacott)|
|Spencer Martin (Ferrari 250LM) at Warwick Farm (Photo:Heinz Fedderbusch)|
Spencer also went on to win the Gold Star medal, and retains not only his youthful charm, but is also very happy in retirement reflecting on his great career in open wheelers as well as the 250LM.
There were many other great names present – John Harvey, Allen Grice, Fred Gibson, Robin Bessant, Dick Johnson, Charlie Morris, John French, Syb Petralia - to name just a few.
It was a magnificent gathering of racing talent and support, thanks to a number of race mechanics and car builders who also attended.
It was so successful it has been decided to make it an annual affair, and I’m certain that next year those who couldn’t attend this year will be there – with bells on!
|Ferrari 328GTS at La Piazza|