When New Zealand’s Graham McRae took out the 1973 Tasman Series he become the first – and only – driver to win the Series three years in a row.
His winning mount for 1973 was the hot pink McRae GM1 Chevrolet, powered by British developed Alan Smith engines. McRae was running hot, having just returned from winning the rich L&M Formula 5000 series in the United States.
Graham is pictured in this ad for Australian petroleum company Ampol at Adelaide International Raceway. Interestingly the image is from the 1972 series, as the following McLaren M10B is driven by Kevin Bartlett, Kevin entered a Lola T300 in the 1973 Tasman. Despite his success, Adelaide proved to be unkind to McRae as he failed to finish at this round in both 1972 and 1973.
With the introduction of Formula 5000 to the Tasman Series the stars of Formula One no longer made the long haul down under each summer. However for 1973, there was an intensely competitive field of New Zealanders, Australians and some well credentialed internationals.
The man most pundits expected to be McRae’s strongest opposition was Frank Matich, fresh from his dominant victory in the Australian Drivers Championship – or Gold Star. Ultimately Matich endured a patchy run, winning only once at Surfers Paradise.
Local hopes also rested with big name Formula 5000 heroes like Max Stewart, Kevin Bartlett, David Oxton, Johnnie Walker, Warwick Brown and John McCormack in the Ansett Team Elfin MR5 Repco.
The US contingent was led by Sam Posey. Sam came to the Tasman Series with a big reputation and experience in American Formula 5000, Indianapolis and Le Mans. From England came Alan Rollinson, one of the name drivers of British and European Formula 5000 racing, along with his 24 year old cousin, and relative new comer, Steve Thompson. The cousins would score a win a piece during the series.
McRae opened his account with a troubled run to fourth at Round 1 at Pukekohe, where a pit stop to replace two damaged wheels dropped him well off the leaders. Victory a week later at Levin and another at the Wigram Airfield Circuit near Christchurch made for a strong New Zealand leg. A consistent run in the early Australian rounds kept McRae well in the hunt, and his third victory of the series at Sandown’s penultimate round in Melbourne sealed his third consecutive Tasman crown.
Tragically the days of the Tasman Series were numbered, costs and a shift in popularity towards sedan racing sealed its fate. What had once been the pinnacle series of the southern hemisphere ended with the last race held at Sandown Raceway in February 1975.
Via: Motorsport Retro
Vern Schuppan won the Rothmans International Series Formula 5000 series, driving a Lola T332 and placed second in the 1976 Australian Grand Prix driving an Elfin MR8. In 1978 he was runner up in the Rothmans International Series.
Originally from from Whyalla, South Australia. He drove in various categories, but arguably most of his success was as a sports car driver and was heavily associated with Porsche till the end of his career.
His sports car career, particularly at the Le Mans 24 Hours flourished, firstly as a long term member of the Mirage team and later as a member of Porsche’s official factory squad. After coming close to victory many times, a win finally arrived in 1983.
Schuppan participated in 13 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix, mostly for Ensign and Surtees, making his debut on May 12, 1974. He failed to score any championship points during his sporadic six year career.
In 1971 Schuppan won the British Formula Atlantic Championship and this led to a test drive with BRM.
In 1972 whilst BRM’s test driver he tried unsuccessfully to qualify for the 1972 Belgian Grand Prix. However Schuppan had some good non-championship race finishes with a fourth in the Victory Race and a fifth in the International Gold Cup. In 1973 he finished ninth in the BRDC International Trophy in a BRM.
Schuppan competed in three Indianapolis 500 races (1976, 1979, 1981), with a best result of third in 1981 driving a McLaren-Ford. He won the 1974 and 1976 Macau Grand Prix races, dominating the 1974 by four laps.
He was the 1983 Japanese Sports-Prototype Champion, and followed his 1976 5th place finish, 1975 3rd place finish and 1977 & 1982 2nd place finishes of the 24 hours of Le Mans by winning in 1983 driving a Porsche 956 with Al Holbert and Hurley Haywood. In 1984 he finished 6th at Le Mans with former Formula One World Champion Alan Jones. He had a number of other podium finishes in the World Sports Car Championship. These include a second in the 1973 & 1982 Spa 1000km, third in the 1983 & 1984 Fuji 1000km and a third in the 1985 Selangor 800km races. Schuppan also placed third in the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship in 1984, 1985 and 1986.
With Japanese backing, he also produced a road going evolution of the Porsche 962 called the Schuppan 962CR. At the then price of 195 million yen (1.5 million USD) only six were built.
Via : Wikipedia
Frank Gardner was a regular Tasman competitor throughout both the 2.5 litre and Formula 5000 Tasman Championships. He drove various cars for the Alec Mildren team in the ’60s and had the best overall Tasman record for “local” drivers. Mainly competed in Europe where he was regarded as one of the best test drivers and carried out these duties for the Lola factory.
He was best known as a Touring car racing and Sports car racing driver, but he also participated in nine World Championship Formula One Grands Prix, debuting on 11 July 1964. He scored no championship points. Gardner also participated in numerous non-Championship Formula One races, including a third placing at the 1965 Mediterranean Grand Prix, fourth in the 1965 Race of Champions and third in the 1971 International Gold Cup.
In 1966 Gardner finished second in the 1000 km Spa round of the World Sportscar Championship. In 1967 he also finished second in the European Formula Two Championship and second in the British Autocar Formula 2 Championship. In 1970 he was third in the British Formula 5000 Championship and in 1971 was Champion.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s Gardner had podium finishes in the Australian Grand Prix – second in 1966 and 1972 and a third in 1967. He finished third in the 1967 and 1972 Tasman Series. He won the British Touring Car Championship title on three occasions in 1967 (Ford Falcon Sprint), 1968 (Ford Escort) and 1973 (Chevrolet Camaro), and was runner-up in the BTCC in 1970. In 1975 he finished second at Bathurst in the Hardie-Ferodo 1000.
After returning to Australia in the mid-1970s Gardner won the 1977 Australian Sports Sedan Championship driving a highly modified Chevrolet Corvair. That championship victory led into a team management role when he retired from full-time driving. After running the Allan Grice Touring Car and Sports Sedan team in the late 70s, it rolled into a factory touring car preparation for BMW in the Australian Touring Car Championship, a team he would run from the programs toe in the water inception with a BMW 318i turbo Sports Sedan in 1980 all the way until 1987 when Gardner’s operation was unceremoniously replaced by Peter Brock’s former Holden Dealer Team operation, although that relationship broke down after a single season. During that time his team won the 1985 and 1987 Australian Touring Car Championships with Jim Richards. Shifting to a privateer Ford Sierra team Tony Longhurst and Tomas Mezera won the 1988 Bathurst 1000. When BMW returned to the Australian championship in 1991 it was with Gardner’s team. The factory BMW team continued with Gardner, switching to (Supertouring cars in 1994) at the helm until 1998, winning the 1994 (with Longhurst), 1995 and 1997 (with Paul Morris) Super Touring titles.
When the race team was shifted in 1998 Gardner became involved in driver training. Gardner passed away in August 2009.
Via: Wikipedia and 2008 Tasman programme.
Images: Autosport Forums
Always a very quick driver who often outqualified the overseas competitors in the ’60s , especially at Warwick Farm. He also competed in Formula 5000s, first in a McLaren and then in a Matich, a car he built and designed himself. A winner of the Australian Drivers Gold Star and twice winner of the Australian Grand Prix.
Here is a story about Matich by Ray Bell
“Anyone who followed racing in the sixties and early seventies knew the name of the best driver in Australia. Frank Matich. Undisputed, even though at times he was restricted to sports cars. Everyone knew that if he had an open wheeler he’d better everyone else. (more…)
WARWICK FARM: 36th Australian Grand Prix
Date: November 21 1971
Distance: 45 laps, 162.945 km (101.25 mi)
Frank Matich was favourite to take back to back Australian Grand Prix wins on home soil. He didn’t disappoint starting the race from pole and setting fastest lap to lead home Kevin Bartlett and Alan Hamilton in their McLaren M10B Chevys. (more…)