HALL OF FAME: Who was missing?
THIRTY very worthy people were inducted into the Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame over the grand prix weekend in Melbourne – but there were contentious omissions.
The oversights – especially that of race car design genius Ron Tauranac – have started spot fires around the country.
The Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame is an initiative from the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS), involving the governing bodies of every major discipline of motor sport in the land.
On a positive note, the 30 inaugural inductees were responsible for 29 world championships and 50 Australian championships in individual and team competition. These bold statistics are evidence of the standing of these stars in the motor sporting firmament.
They include legends from of Formula One, circuit racing, speedway, rallying, off-road, drag racing, karting and motorcycle competition.
The induction included many of Australia’s best known world champions, including Sir Jack Brabham, Mick Doohan, Alan Jones, Jason Crump, Troy Bayliss and Casey Stoner among others, along with Bathurst icons Peter Brock, Dick Johnson, Colin Bond and Allan Moffat, sprintcar legend Garry Rush, and motocrosser Stephen Gall.
The hall-of-famers included heroes going back to Lionel Van Praag, who won the 1936 World Speedway Championship, and Phil Irving, who engineered the Repco engine to power Brabham to his third world championship.
Hall of Fame chairman Garry Connelly conceded there were many worthy individuals who should have been included in the inaugural induction. But he said it was impossible to honour more than 30 people appropriately in one evening.
Maybe the answer could have been to not induct current racers. James Courtney is still an active driver, while Casey Stoner may or may not race in the future.
For mine, the most glaring omission is Tauranac, the design and engineering genius who with Jack Brabham founded the Brabham racing team and later established Ralt, one of the most successful racecar manufacturers of the day.
But he wasn’t the only one who may feel miffed.
If active competitors are eligible, how about Toby Price? Third on debut at the Dakar last year and winner this year, and the only Australian to win any class of the world’s maddest, toughest off-road race.
Geoffrey Brabham should be a shoo-in for next year, after his four IMSA GTP titles (1988 - 1991), a Can-Am championship (1981), and winning the 1993 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 1997 Bathurst 1000 for Super Tourers.
David Brabham too. He has won the 24 Hours of Spa and the Le Mans 24 Hours. The youngest of Sir Jacks’ offspring also won the American Le Mans Series in 2009 and 2010.
Mark Skaife won the 1991 Australian Drivers’ Championship, and is a five-time champion of the Australian Touring Car/V8 Supercar Championship and a six-time winner of the Bathurst 1000.
Versatile Vern Schuppan won the 1983 24 Hours of Le Mans and was also runner-up twice and third once. He was the 1976 Rookie of the Year at Indy and finished third there in 1981. Earlier in his career, Schuppan took out the 1971 British Formula Atlantic Championship, the Singapore Grand Prix in 1973, and the 1974 and 1976 Macau Grand Prix. At home, he won the 1976 Rothmans International Series, run for Formula 5000 cars,
Larry Perkins has done it all, starting with the Formula Ford Driver to Europe Series in 1971 and the Australian Formula 2 Championship in 1972. Internationally, he claimed the 1975 European Formula 3 Championship. After failing to secure a permanent drive in F1 he returned to Australia, winning the Rothmans International Series in 1979 in an Elfin MR8, and the 1979 Australian Rallycross Championship in a Volkswagen Beetle. In touring cars/V8 Supercars, Perkins won the Bathurst 1000 on six occasions, and was also a team owner.
I would support the inclusion too of Garrie Cooper, the innovative founder of the highly successful Elfin Sports Cars and a competitive racing driver in his own right. He won the 1968 Singapore Grand Prix, the 1968 Australian 1½ Litre Championship, and the 1975 Australian Sports Car Championship - all in cars of his own design.
At least the Hall of Fame selectors have plenty of choices for next time.
Here’s the full list of inaugural inductees.
Sir Jack Brabham - 3 times F1 World Champion
Alan Jones - 1980 Formula 1 World Champion
Phil Irving - Designer, Repco Formula 1 engine
Harry Firth – multiple Bathurst winner, patriarch Holden Dealer Team
Bob Jane - Bathurst and Australian Touring Car Champion, Australian NASCAR founder, circuit owner
Peter Brock - 9 times Bathurst 1000 Champion, 3 times Australian Touring Car Champion
Dick Johnson - 5 times Australian Touring Car Champion and twice Bathurst 1000 victor
Allan Moffat - 4 times Australian Touring Car and 4 time Bathurst 1000 winner
Frank Matich - Australian open-wheel champion and highly lauded engineer of sports cars and F5000s
Lionel van Praag - 1936 World Speedway Champion - our first motorsport world champion
Jack Young - 2 times World Speedway Champion
Jason Crump - 3 times World Speedway Champion
Kel Carruthers - 1969 250cc World Champion, Isle of Man 250TT Champion
Wayne Gardner - 1987 500cc World Champion
Mick Doohan - 5 times 500cc World Champion
Casey Stoner - dual MotoGP World Champion
Gregg Hansford - winner of 10 motorcycle GPs (and 1993 Bathurst 1000 and 1994 Bathurst 12 Hour)
Troy Bayliss - triple World Superbike Champion
Stephen Gall - 5 times Australian Motocross Champion, 4 times Mr Motocross, Australian Speedcar Champion
Jeff Leisk - World Junior Motocross Champion, twice Australian Motocross Champion
Ray Revell - 5 times Australian Speedcar Champion
Garry Rush - 10 times Australian Sprintcar Champion
‘Gelignite’ Jack Murray - REDeX Trial winner, London to Sydney Marathon pioneer
Colin Bond - 3 times Australian Rally Champion, Bathurst 500 Champion, Australian Touring Car Champion
Ross Dunkerton - 5 times Australian Rally Champion, Asia-Pacific Rally Champion
James Courtney - twice World Karting Champion (and V8 Supercars Champion)
Ash Marshall - Australian Drag Racing Pioneer
Mark Burrows - 7 Australian Off-Road Championships, 5 Finke Desert Race wins
Norman ‘Wizard’ Smith - Australian Land Speed Record Pioneer
Donald Kingsley Thompson - Co-Founder & inaugural President, Confederation of Australian Motor Sport
F1: And so to Bahrain…
WHAT did we really learn from the Australian Grand Prix?
The Mercedes pair is still the pacesetter. Ferrari is possibly more competitive than last year but still prone to on-the-fly strategy mis-calls. The modern F1 car is one helluva crash-resistant safety capsule. And perhaps there is some hope that Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo are near-term podium chances.
Was there more?
Fernando Alonso’s great Houdini act remains the big talking point around the bars and coffee shops, and testament to the structural integrity of the cockpit. McLaren has been in the business a long time, and it showed in Turn Three eight days ago.
For Bahrain, next weekend, McLaren has some work to do to get Alonso on to the grid. Both the chassis and the power unit were heavily damaged. And the workforce is already stretched back at Woking as the constructor toils with engine partner Honda toil to narrow the gap to the front runners. The key people had only one day off – Christmas Day – as they worked on the new cars for 2016.
After an encouraging qualifying, McLaren Honda was disappointed with the results of the AGP (and scared momentarily by the huge shunt). But both drivers ran strongly on the fringes of the top 10 before the red flag, prompting the team’s race director, Eric Boullier, to insist the squad is on track for improved results. A major upgrade is scheduled for the Spanish GP.
Boullier certainly has no concerns about the quality of his two world champion drivers. Asked by Wheels to have the pick of the grid, the Frenchman fired back with: “I’m very happy with the two guys I have.”
It was music to the ears of Jenson Button, who is out of contract at the end of the season.
Our man Ricciardo finished 24 seconds from race winner Nico Rosberg, and could have been closer but for a questionable tyre choice by Red Bull. Ricciardo believes the gap will close further. He observed that though the Red Bull wasn’t as fast as the Mercs or Ferarris, his car is closer in pace to the front-runners this year. Our Dan did set the fastest lap of the AGP, though this was late in the race when he was on fresh tyres and his fuel load was light.
We rightly occasionally slam the F1 rule-makers for some breathtaking stupidity. Focusing on changing what wasn’t broke (qualifying) when other priorities loomed large (take your pick…) was roundly bagged from every quarter – drivers, team bosses, Bernie Ecclestone, media and, most importantly, the fans. But when it degenerated into farce, the team bosses met the following morning and it was quickly dumped in favour of last year’s format. Good.
V8 SUPERCARS: Triple Eight triumph looks ominous
AFTER the largely irrelevant non-title four races at the Australian Grand Prix, the V8 Supercars sideshow heads across Bass Straight for next weekend’s round two of the championship series at Symmons Plains Raceway.
Though inconsequential in championship terms, the utter domination of the three Triple Eight Racing Holdens in the four sprints at Albert Park must have rival team owners anxiously rattling the worry beads.
Shane van Gisbergen won the overall V8 Supercars Challenge after winning three of the four races in Melbourne.
His Red Bull team mate Jamie Whincup won the surprisingly robust opening contest, but a driveline failure in the fourth race cruelled any chance of his winning the event.
Craig Lowndes was also very quick throughout the races, and left the impression that he won’t be letting fellow Triple Eight men Whincup and van Gisbergen steal the thunder this year.
The three-way scrap between Roland Dane’s trio of drivers should have some fascinating moments.
The Albert Park racing also confirmed the rise and rise of the DJR-Team Penske Ford team and drivers Fabian Coulthard and Scotty Pye. Coulthard was T8’s closest challenger at the AGP, and promised “more to come”.
The HRT pair was also strong, while Chaz Mostert was never far away in the Prodrive Falcon. What must be of concern to Prodrive though is the failure of Mark Witterbottom to yet show real signs of his championship-winning pace.
Tasmania should reveal if Frosty or anyone else has substantial firepower for the Triple Eight triumvirate.