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Tasman Series: Surfers Paradise 1968


Rothmans 100

Date: 11th February 1968

50 Laps of 3.219kms (160.950kms)

After a welcome two weeks’ break, the International drivers were soaking up the sun in Surfers Paradise, ready to meet the next four-week challenge in Australia. Chris Amon had a handy lead and only needed another win to put him in a hard position for anyone apart from Clark to catch. Graham Hill joined Jim Clark to make Team Lotus more formidable, and Richard Attwood arrived to team with Pedro Rodriguez in the BRM’s.

Hopes were high in all quarters. BRM, flushed with success at Teretonga, were looking forward to a more trouble free run in Australia. The Gold Leaf Team Lotus (as they were now known) were confident their two-man team would improve their already excellent chances of picking up points for the series, and Chris Amon had a new four-valve engine flown out which produced more power and gave the rear of the car more streamlining, owing to its compact shape. The Alec Mildren team now had two cars as well, as they brought Sydney driver, Kevin Bartlett, into the series in their older Brabham-Climax to back up Frank Gardner. Then there were the loners, Leo Geoghegan in the Lotus 39 Repco V8 and Greg Cusack in the Scuderia Veloce Brabham Repco V8. And right in there too just to upset the apple cart were those troublesome two, Piers Courage and Denny Hulme in the Formula Two cars which had proved so fantastically quick.

Amon set the pace in practice by getting down to Frank Matich’s outright record of 1:12.3, but Courage left everybody gasping by whipping the little McLaren around the ‘power’ circuit in 1:11.7. This really set the 2.5 drivers back a peg and Amon went back for another session and got down to 1:9.7 while Clark was only able to manage 1:9.9. Graham Hill joined Amon and Clark on the front row with a 1:10.3, and while Courage again lowered his time to 1:11.4, Gardner ousted him one spot by doing a 1:11.1. Geoghegan was the quickest Australian and faster than both BRMs and Denny Hulme with a lap of 1:11.6.

Throughout the practice, trouble was brewing with advertising on cars, and, also the colours of the drivers’ and entrants’ names on the cars. It came to a head when the Gold Leaf Team Lotus and BRM cars were refused admission to the track by scrutineers with all decals and advertising removed or covered, but without the style and colour of the entrants’ names changed to suit the CAMS rule book. After much hoo-ha, payments of $50 fines by drivers (another argument) for not having proper race permits, and alteration of the regulations by CAMS, the cars were able to face the starter for the main race, albeit with ill feeling in some quarters at the pedestrian way in which everything was handled.

At the start, Clark got into stride and was first down the main straight heading for Dunlop Bridge, with Courage right up alongside after a very powerful start. Both Clark and Amon managed to squeeze by Courage in the big sweep towards Lukey Corner, but Hill couldn’t make it in time and slipped back to follow Courage through. As Clark led out of Lukey Corner, Courage’s engine died and he lost four places, being passed by Hill, Gardner, Geoghegan and Rodriguez.

On lap four, Clark and Amon were two seconds ahead of Hill, and Courage had already closed up on Rodriguez. The Lotus-Fords and Amon’s Ferrari were almost equal in most respects, apart from the fact that the V6 had less power than the Lotus and Amon, despite having his nose alongside on the straights, wasn’t able to get enough car in front to force the issue on a corner. On the next lap Bartlett took eighth from Attwood and on the next lap Geoghegan moved under Gardner to take fourth behind Hill. Courage, now able to see the yellow Alfa V8 Brabham, closed the gap and finally took Gardner on lap 10.

Amon got past Clark for the first time on lap 11 when Clark put a couple of wheels into the dirt, but down the straight Clark kept his foot buried and re-took first position as they went into Dunlop. At the same time, Courage rushed past Geoghegan and set his sites on Hill, with the McLaren-Ford only slightly slower on the straights but picking up time like mad on the corners. Clark wasn’t able to open any gap on Amon, but the frantic slipstreaming by the red Ferrari was telling as it needed more cool air and was starting to blow out steam, getting ready to give its first trouble of the series. This was the engine Amon had tried in New Zealand, but had sent back for an overhaul after a couple of races.

On the 19th lap Hill became another victim of Courage when the maroon McLaren ducked under as they accelerated out of Firestone. After 22 laps Clark led Amon by a mere 0.2 secs with another 10 seconds back to Courage and another 4.0 secs to Hill and Geoghegan. Hulme and Bartlett were having a good scrap while Rodriguez pulled the BRM into the pits to have a fuel pump kicked to ease a sticking valve.

Amon started to lose ground on Clark on lap 24 and eventually retired the Ferrari with a cooked engine just as Courage came past the pits with a spluttering engine which almost cost him second place before it cleared and he got properly under way again. Four laps later, with Clark still 10 secs away, Courage’s motor coughed and spluttered again, causing him to lose the McLaren coming out of Lukey corner. The car did a smart 360 degree spin, but Courage caught it and set out after Hill and Geoghegan who had taken the opportunity to slip by. Geoghegan then decided that second spot was better than third and set after Hill. He placed the Lotus 39 inside of Hill on the approach to Lucas and forced the issue, but Hill picked him off again down the straight under full power.

Pluckily, Courage was back at it again. He chased and caught Geoghegan on lap 39, after which Geoghegan (suffering from gastric flu) decided not to push his engine any harder as it had started to go off song and resigned himself to fourth place and the first Australian home. Courage’s thirst wasn’t yet satisfied and he relentlessly pursued Hill. However, Clark was too far in front to be worried by anyone at this late stage and he eased off the pressure after lapping Hulme on lap 46 and coasted home 6.4 secs ahead of team-mate Graham Hill. Courage followed Hill by only 1.5 secs and Geoghegan followed through for first Australian honours while Kevin Bartlett proudly led Hulme over the line, both a lap behind the winner.

Tasman points after the fifth round were:- Amon 27, Clark 24, Courage 19, McLaren 11, Gardner 10, Palmer 7, Hill and Hulme both 6, Levis and Geoghegan 3, Bolton, Dawson and Bartlett 2, Lawrence, Stone and Rodriguez 1 each.


Result Driver Nat Car Laps Time
1 Jim Clark Scot Lotus 49T / Cosworth 2491cc V8 50
2 Graham Hill UK Lotus 49T / Cosworth 2491cc V8 50
3 Piers Courage UK McLaren M4A / Cosworth 1600cc 4cyl 50
4 Leo Geoghegan Aust Lotus 39 / Repco 2493cc V8 50
5 Kevin Bartlett Aust Brabham BT11A / Climax 2499cc 4cyl 49
6 Denny Hulme NZ Brabham BT23 / Cosworth 1600cc 4cyl 49
7 Glyn Scott Aust Lotus 27 / Ford 1498cc 4cyl 45
8 Malcolm Aldred Aust Lotus 22 / Ford 1498cc 4cyl 43
9 Frank Gardner Aust Brabham BT23D / Alfa 2472cc V8 42
10 Pedro Rodriguez Mex BRM P126 / BRM 2493cc V12 38
Ret Chris Amon NZ Ferrari 246T / Ferrari 2417cc V6 24 Engine
Ret Richard Attwood UK BRM P126 / BRM 2493cc V12 22 Mechanical
Ret Greg Cusack Aust Brabham BT23 / Repco 2493 V8 13 Spun Off
Ret Brian Page Aust Brabham BT6 / Ford 1498cc 4cyl 22 Mechanical

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