Historic Sandown

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The Victorian Historic Racing Register has confirmed that 1983 Le Mans 24-hour race winner Vern Schuppan AM will be a special guest at this year’s Historic Sandown meeting (coincidentally its 24th) to be held on November 7-8, 2015.

Like so many others, “the boy from Whyalla” began his racing career in go-karts before moving to the U.K. to try his hand in Formula Ford and Formula Atlantic events. Based on some impressive results he was then signed by B.R.M. but was given only limited opportunities in non-championship Formula One events. Moves to   Ensign and Surtees F1 teams were equally unproductive resulting in Schuppan contesting only nine Grands Prix.

With the backing of team owners Teddy Yip and Sid Taylor, Schuppan embarked on a successful career in Formula 5000, winning a number of major events in Europe and the USA and setting several lap records. He returned to Australia to win the 1976 Australian Rothmans International Series in the Team Theodore Lola T332, and won the coveted “Rookie of the Year” award at the Indianapolis “500”. Also in 1976 Schuppan co-drove with Allan Moffat in the Hardie-Ferodo ‘1000’. (Later he twice joined Dick Johnson in our “Great Race” and in 1981 was signed by the Marlboro Holden Dealer Team to partner John Harvey at Sandown and Bathurst).

But Schuppan’s greatest achievements were in sports cars, especially Porsche’s “big bangers” at Le Mans. Vern has an enviable record in the world’s greatest endurance race, and after finishing 2nd in 1982, he tasted outright victory in 1983. He followed up by winning the 1983 All-Japan Endurance Championship, and in 1984 was awarded the Order of Australia for services to the sport of motor racing.

Fittingly the ‘big banger” sports cars will take centre stage at the 24th Historic Sandown meeting. Forty races will be held over the 2-day program on November 7-8, with 400 racing, sports and touring cars taking part, and Vern Schuppan AM will be on hand to meet the fans and enjoy the racing. He will be joined by a number of other ambassadors of the sport, providing race goers a rare opportunity to enjoy the action and mix with Australia’s motor racing “greats”.


Alexander Nicholas (“Lex”) Davison was an iconic figure in Australian motor sport, having won four Australian Grands Prix (1954, ’57, ’58 and ’61) and three Australian Hillclimb Championships (1955, ’56 and ’57). He drove the first Holden in international competition when he contested the 1953 Monte Carlo Rally, and competed in the 1961 Le Mans 24-hour race behind the wheel of an Aston Martin. In 1957, Davison was the inaugural winner of the CAMS Gold Star award as champion Australian racing driver, running under his team name of “Ecurie Australie”.

But there was more, much more to this amazing man. Lex Davison was President of the Light Car Club of Australia when it staged the Australian GP at Albert Park in 1956, and was the only other person to drive “Bluebird” during Donald Campbell’s successful attempt on the world land speed record. Davison sponsored the Joseph Lucas – Lex Davison Series at Calder Park in the early 1960s, a series to help encourage young drivers. He further wanted to share his motor racing experience with up-and-coming young drivers through the establishment of a unique driving academy – “a high speed classroom” as described in 1964 by motoring journalist Mike Browning.

Tragically Davison’s dream vanished when he suffered a fatal heart seizure while practicing for Round 6 of the 1965 Tasman Series at Sandown in his Brabham Repco V8.

Fifty years later his memory will live on when a Group M event for sports cars and open wheel racing cars of that era will be held at the 2015 Historic Sandown meeting – a fitting tribute to a true legend of Australian motor sport.

The Victorian Historic Racing Register’s 2015 Historic Sandown meeting is coming up on November 7-9.

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With the focus on ‘big banger’ sports cars, the 24th Historic Sandown meeting on November 6-8 will pay tribute to the great Australian driver and constructor, Frank Matich.

The Sydneysider did locally what fellow Australian Jack Brabham did internationally. Matich rejected several offers to drive overseas, including an opportunity to join Colin Chapman’s Lotus Formula One team. We can only surmise what he might have achieved had he taken up such an offer.

Matich enjoyed great success early in his career driving C-type and D-type Jaguars. He went on to win the first Australian Formula Junior championship in 1962 in an Elfin, and added four Australian Tourist Trophy titles to his impressive CV. Then in 1969 he took the Australian Sports Car championship in his self-designed Matich SR4 Repco making a clean sweep of very round.

In 1970 Matich won both the Australian and the New Zealand Grands Prix in his McLaren Repco, and in 1971 he tasted victory in the Australian Grand Prix at Warwick Farm in a car of his own design – the Matich A50 Repco.

When the Tasman Series came downunder, Frank Matich was our most competitive local driver against the top internationals – Jim Clark, Graham Hill, John Surtees, Bruce McLaren and others. He won a total of five races, and twice finished runner-up in the series (1970 and ’71). Matich went on to win the Australian Drivers’ Championship the following year in his Matich A50 Repco, capping a brilliant career.

After suffering major burns in a boating accident, Frank Matich retired from racing in 1974 to concentrate on his business interests. Sadly he passed away in May this year aged 80.

At Historic Sandown on November 6-8, the Matich legacy will be celebrated with the appearance of the all-conquering Matich SR4. Although built in 1968 by Henry Nehrybecki to contest the Can-Am Series in the USA, the car only competed in Australia, sweeping all before it. The SR4 was acquired by Repco circa 1979 and ownership later moved to Automotive Components Ltd. Proud new owner/custodian Nigel Tait acquired the car in 2005 and rebuilt the 5-litre, quad cam V8 engine while Melbourne’s Jim Hardman carried out the top class restoration.

The Matich SR4 will be just one ‘big banger’ sports car attraction at this year’s Historic Sandown on November 6-8.