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Racing Through Time – The Story of Motorsport at Motorclassica
While all cars, trikes and bikes have their own unique story to tell, perhaps it is the motorsport breed that consistently have the best documented histories.
Low in build numbers, the individual histories of the cars are typically simple to analyse, with their histories retold through each vehicle’s log book, with further information widely available via result sheets, magazines, newspapers and annuals.
The drivers and teams involved with each machine’s development, upkeep and racing have their own stories to add to the legacy of each chassis and engine.
Motorclassica has been blessed over the years to play host to some of the most significant competition cars and bikes from around the globe.
Perhaps the best example of this is the Brabham BT19, as driven by Jack Brabham to victory in the 1966 World Driver’s Championship, the first ever (and likely last) car to bear the driver’s name to claim the title.
Designed by adopted Australian Ron Tauranac, the BT19 as powered by a 2,995cc Repco V8 engine propelled Brabham to four wins from seven starts, also playing its part in winning that year’s International Cup for F1 Manufacturers.
The chassis was also campaigned for one event by Denny Hulme on his ultimately victorious 1967 campaign as Brabham’s teammate, although the car failed to make the finish of the British Grand Prix on that day.
Many other Brabham machines have graced the Royal Exhibition Building over the past decade, including the 1963 BT7A, which was built specifically for Brabham use to in the Tasman Series of 1964.
This chassis took Brabham to the chequered flag at Sandown’s Australian Grand Prix, also claiming victories at Warwick Farm and Lakeside, placing second in the final Series point score.
Just two Brabham BT7As were ever built, the second chassis being raced in the Tasman Series by local hero Frank Matich, who took pole position at Warwick Farm ahead of the Formula 1 stars, but he failed to finish.
His best result in the BT7A was a third in the final round at Longford, a race won by World Champion Graham Hill in an older Brabham BT4.
For the 1965 Tasman Series, a number of Brabham BT11 models were shipped to Australia, with Peter Strauss’s version displayed at Motorclassica bought from Brabham by Bib Stillwell, who ultimately used it to win the Gold Star.
It was also raced by Jackie Stewart at Surfers Paradise, setting the race’s fastest lap, and then in the 1966 Tasman Series series by Frank Gardner, driving for Alec Mildren’s outfit.
While the Brabham name is synonymous with open wheel race cars, the BT17 is a one-of-a-kind piece of art, holding a special place in the history of the marque as the only Group 7 sports car built by the manufacturer.
Fabricated for the European racing season, the package debuted at the 1966 Tourist Trophy at Oulton Park, which may have been the car’s only ever outing.
While all the ingredients were present to take the fight up to the all-conquering Lola T70, the team’s efforts in a wide range of categories such as Formula 3, Formula 2 and Formula 1, where the team were victorious with the BT19, meant the BT17 took a backseat.
Another Motorclassica Brabham was the 1967 BT23E, which was constructed for Brabham to use in the Tasman Series of 1968.
The car was then sold to Bob Jane, and was briefly used by Allan Moffat, before finally finding success in the 1970 Australian Gold Star with John Harvey at the controls.
While the Brabham nameplate was at the forefront through the 1960s, Motorclassica has played host to a vast array of other machinery that has been successful, especially in Australian Grand Prix competition.
Not many people would remember Graeme Steinfort’s 1928 Austin 7 Sports, which was reconstructed from the driveline of the machine that took Captain Arthur Waite to victory in the 1928 AGP.
Contested on the original Phillip Island road course, the small car beat home the field of under 2,000cc cars over 16 laps.
Meanwhile, another car from the Graeme Steinfort’s stable, a 1934 MG P-Type Sports claimed the 1935 AGP, also at Phillip Island.
The race was run to a handicap format, with driver Les Murphy given a 29 minute head start over the field, which resulted in a slender 27 second margin after 200 punishing miles.
On the international stage, Motorclassica has also featured the Williams FW07, which took Australian Alan Jones to the 1980 World Championship, with the car also playing its part in winning that year’s International Cup for Constructors.
Jones raced the chassis on six occasions through the 1979 and 1980 seasons, claiming a total of four race victories.
These examples are only a small sample of the competition cars that have visited Motorclassica, with many more open wheel, sports and touring cars telling their own fantastic stories, with the legendary drivers often special guests.
However, sometimes it’s a road car at Motorclassica that has a bearing on the racing breed.
To finish, here’s the tale of how a manufacturer’s dabble with a homologation special fooled a motorsport governing body.
By the late 1960s, there was an arms race ongoing between the manufacturers involved in NASCAR, win on Sunday, sell on Monday was the mantra.
While brute horsepower had forever been the key to victory lane, aerodynamics was a developing black art, with the competing marques seeking any advantage they could leverage.
Ford, looking to outfox rivals such as Chevrolet, Dodge, Pontiac and Plymouth, created the 1969 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II.
To meet eligibility criteria, a total of 503 of the homologation specials needed to be produced, with the package featuring an extended forward sloping nose, some 19.5 inches (40cm) longer than the standard Cyclone, helping the car cut through the air on the high banked ovals.
However, according to many enthusiasts, only 351 out of the 503 units were ever constructed.
How could they have done this? As the story goes, Ford built 351 extended “D” nosed cars, parked them in the front and on the edges of a parking lot, totally surrounding 152 regular “W” nosed Cyclone Spoilers.
It is said that when the NASCAR officials counted the cars they just never looked closely enough at the vehicles parked in the rear of the pack…
Stories like these keep motoring enthusiasts endeared to their machines, and preserved for future generations to enjoy.
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