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#451 Ray Bell

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 22:36

Such as Max Pryor...

 

Max was best known as the Shell Tower commentator at Bathurst over a decade or so.



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#452 Ray Bell

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 23:16

Here's a bit from Max Stahl:

 

For many years the "Voice From the Top of The Mountain", our long-time mate, Max Pryor, has lost his brave battle with liver cancer, passing away in Sydney yesterday, 3rd February.

 

He was 77. Active in the motor trade and motor sport, Max was the dealer principal at Springs Motors (later Eastwood Honda) until his retirement five years ago.

 

Our sympathies go to his wife Sylvia, sisters Jennifer and Judith, sons Hunter and Kane, and daughter Melanie.



#453 Dick Willis

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 00:57

Noel Hall, Australian Cooper Climax driver, 1059-61 and then Rennmax Climax has passed away aged 82



#454 Lola5000

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 07:08

John Allison of kew in Melbourne,John built in the 80s the Allison Clubmans and was a true old car guy RIP.



#455 Ray Bell

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 13:10

The Allison was a tricky little thing... 10" diameter wheels...

 

Didn't Ross Wemyss drive it?



#456 raceannouncer2003

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Posted 13 April 2014 - 05:59

Thomas F. "Tommy" Meehan, April 4, 2014…born November 18, 1921.  Seattle area sports car racer, 1953-1962.  I'll post a separate thread.

 

Vince H.


Edited by raceannouncer2003, 13 April 2014 - 07:09.


#457 Murray Lord

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 00:48

Lyn Archer of Tasmania passed away on 4 May 2014.



#458 cooper997

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 02:07

Thanks for bringing Lyn's passing to our attention Murray.

 

He raced at least 3 Coopers that I'm aware of, an ex Crouch MkV, ex MacKay T39 bobtail and the T41, that was already ex Brabham/Mildren/Griffiths/Roxburgh by the time it got to him.

 

A quick google reveals for us non-Tassie-based, that he spent many years helping run the City of Hobart.

 

Stephen



#459 Ray Bell

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 05:32

Lyn is a sad loss, I have to say...

He has been a source of much information for me over the last several years, a very knowledgeable person and keen to help out.

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#460 B Squared

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 07:36

Longtime sports broadcaster, Gary Lee, has passed away at age 63 according to the Indy Star and USA Today.

http://www.usatoday....-dies/12660669/

#461 JacnGille

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 13:57

Longtime sports broadcaster, Gary Lee, has passed away at age 63 according to the Indy Star and USA Today.

http://www.usatoday....-dies/12660669/

Sad news indeed.



#462 E1pix

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 03:23

Thanks Brian, sad indeed.

 

We had a nice talk with him before tossing about some of his karts at a south Indy track he managed (Y2K). Great guy, great reporter as well.

 

Condolences to his circle.



#463 raceannouncer2003

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 05:44

Long-time Trans Am racer Loren St. Lawrence has passed away at age 74.  More info at these two links:

 

http://www.legacy.co...x?pid=171695400

 

http://www.racingspo...wrence-USA.html

 

Vince H.



#464 Ray Bell

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 21:52

I was informed yesterday that Leigh Vine has died...

Leigh was well known in Queensland racing with his brother Rolf, principally in sports cars. I have no further detail.

#465 Ray Bell

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Posted 24 September 2014 - 01:12

Wayne Eckersley...

Wayne was on the Niel Allen team as a youngster, he later worked for Lionel Ayers and was encouraged to go overseas to expand his horizons.

He worked with Williams in F1 and was there in the Alan Jones era, principally working with suspensions I gather.

He died about a week ago on the Gold Coast after returning to Australia, joining Audi in Melbourne and then going over to Hyundai. He was an all-too-young 67.

#466 cooper997

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Posted 24 September 2014 - 11:09

Despite a frustrating issue with the Cosworth (that meant static display), Wayne still had a smile at the 2011 Philip Island Historics, after his rebuild of FW07/4.

 

PICT0204.jpg
post image

 

I took this photo of him early on the Sunday morning on the PI front straight when a fabulous group of cars were gathered together for a photo shoot.

 

My condolences to Wayne's family and friends.

 

Stephen



#467 Pat Clarke

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Posted 24 September 2014 - 13:08

I worked for several years with Wayne at both Audi and later at Hyundai, where he worked out of the Brisbane office.

A sometimes prickly character but mostly pretty amenable and only too willing to talk about his time with Williams and March, where he built the six wheel F1 car.

 

Far too young (younger than me!  :( ) to pass away.

 

RIP Wayne

 

Pat



#468 ken devine

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Posted 24 September 2014 - 23:59

In the West we just lost John Bertina from the Caversham and early Wanneroo days. John was best known for his cut down FJ Holden.



#469 raceannouncer2003

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 06:11

Roland Selby, Tsawwassen, British Columbia, Canada.  Raced Formula Junior and Formula Ford.  More info here:

 

http://www.legacy.co...x?pid=172587508

 

http://www.gvmps.org...Roland-2012.pdf

 

Vince H.



#470 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 08:36

Murray Parker, South Australian stockcar racer in the 50s and 60s died on 31/10 at the age of 91.

Murray was a very competitive racer in his day, and still very competitive in the 90s again at the wheel of the restored green #23 Ford V8 stockcar. And you could see the smile under his helmet. He was having FUN.

He has 3 children, the oldest? Terry raced a 50s Ford V8 Special in historic racing.No23 and reputedly powered by his dads speedway engine.

His wife died a few years ago.

His business Parkers Cranes I believe is still going in the eastern suburbs.

A really nice bloke who enjoyed himself.

I put this pic up today on the V8 Specials thread. And then got a call that he had died. The pic is Bell Bay speedway in the 90s. Murray is in the green 23.

DSCF0688.jpg



#471 Michael Ferner

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 23:41

When I was in Indianapolis in 2011, one of the treats I enjoyed was a visit to the IMS museum, and while drooling over the Miller '91' on display there, one of my companions called me out and said, "Hey Michael, here's someone who wants to meet you!" Somewhat puzzled, I went over to a bench around the corner, where an old man sat, greeting me with a gruff "Wie geht's?" - it was Bill Spoerle, the chief of the IMS restoration department! I knew the name and his function, but not much more, not even that he was actually born and raised in Germany, which turned out to be our passport to an incredible afternoon. Me and my three companions had talked in advance about the possibilty of meeting up with him, but didn't hold out much hope for he was known as a somewhat difficult, even cantankerous person - a description which turned out to be so far off the mark as to be almost hilarious!

Whether it was his joy about meeting a Landsmann or not, all of us were then treated to a personal tour of the IMS restoration shop, and an endless stream of personal memories and anecdotes from half a century of US racing history - a day I will never forget! The shop alone was a sight to see (actually, it was more of a shack), virtually stuffed with racing exotica from the cracked original block of Wilbur Shaw's Indy-winning Maserati (which, to my surprise, carried a plate showing it to be No. 3033!), over a perfectly restored prewar BMW to a virtually endless array of engines in various states of restoration, and parts pertaining thereto: boxes over boxes with valves, camshafts and connecting rods, exhaust headers hanging from the rafters, carburettors, even turbochargers, wheels of all sizes and eras, inlet manifolds, crankcases, blocks and body parts, and still more of the same - hog heaven for car nuts like us!!

In conversation, it turned out that he'd come to the States in the fifties on the advice of Floyd "Pop" Dreyer after having worked for several years in the NSU motorcycle racing department, spannering for the likes of Werner Haas and Rupert Hollaus. Dreyer had been a succesful motorcycler racer before turning to the manufacture of racing cars and engines in the thirties, and was still running a big dealership for two-wheelers in Indianapolis (which is still in business even today, by the way). Spoerle not only found work at Dreyer's shop, but also the love of his life: he married Pop's daughter Marie, who sadly preceded him in death last year.

After giving up his racing team in 1957, Dreyer occasionally worked for Tony Hulman, performing restorations of cars acquired by the IMS owner, and Spoerle was soon helping out in this line of work. Together with Harold "Barney" Wimmer, the legendary mechanic of Jimmie Wilburn, Pat Clancy and Elmer George, he was finally hired as full-time restoration specialist by the IMS in 1963, a job he held for more than fifty years, even after Wimmer died in 2000. I guess you can say that both employer and employee were happy with that arrangement!

Bill Spoerle died in his sleep this Tuesday, November 4. Thank you, Bill, for the unique memories of that summer day in 2011, and RIP!

USA_599.jpg

Bill in his heavenly shop

Edited by Michael Ferner, 07 November 2014 - 00:01.


#472 Doug Nye

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 00:12

I would like to add my condolences to Bill's family and many friends. He was instrumental in sharing so many of the IMS Museum cars with the Goodwood audience over many years, was always warm and friendly and very cooperative...and interesting too.

 

DCN



#473 Ray Bell

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 00:40

What an incredible story, Michael...

I certainly hope those bucketfuls of bits don't ever get thrown out. Each must have a story of its own, though many of them we can only guess now what that story was.

The Speedway Hall of Fame is the most incredible place, I recommend it to everyone.

#474 B Squared

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 10:31

Mr. Spoerle was always very nice and very helpful to me, my Dad and brother over the years. He was always friendly, most gracious and very open in giving us access and help on our projects over the past 20 years. He will be greatly missed.

Curt Cavin at the Indy Star recalls Mr. Spoerle:

http://www.indystar....alive/18596135/

I took this shot of he and Rick Mears with the Marmon Wasp at Indianapolis in the early 2000s when Rick was to run the car, but his injured feet would not allow it to happen, Johnny Rutherford took over those duties for the day, smiling from ear-to-ear.

534bd8de-4ba0-4784-8e79-8dbdad215d89_zps

Edited by B Squared, 07 November 2014 - 11:06.


#475 Michael Ferner

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 19:42

What an incredible story, Michael...

I certainly hope those bucketfuls of bits don't ever get thrown out. Each must have a story of its own, though many of them we can only guess now what that story was.

The Speedway Hall of Fame is the most incredible place, I recommend it to everyone.


One can only hope! The Hulman-George family has a reputation for caring for these things, but it's open to speculation whether recent events have made them vulnerable to the dreaded bean counters. Essentially, there's no space any longer for people like Bill Spoerle, and for his collection of bits and pieces. I can't really imagine they will be naming a successor to his post. I guess we will have to wait and see what happens. :well:

By the way, it's good to see Doug and Brian joining in with positive comments about Bill's personality. I don't really remember how this "bad reputation" of his came to be, I just recall how we were quite apprehensive about approaching him, totally without reason as it turned out. Maybe it's his rather gruff outward appearance, which comes over in the pictures, too, I think. He just wasn't the type to openly embrace you, but behind that exterior was a heart as wide as an ocean. There's one small matter which I can't discuss in public (yet) in which he was not really helpful, but that certainly didn't have anything to do with a character defect, rather with circumstances which were entirely reasonable on a personal level. I just hope this will become clear if and when the matter will become widely known.

Here's a smiling Bill for a change:

USA_637.jpg

USA_582.jpg

The button on the right says:

"You can always tell a German - but you can't tell him much!"

#476 Haine Kane

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Posted 09 November 2014 - 16:52

Hello,

 

2 sad news from France :

 

François GUITER from ELF is dead.

At the same time Pierre TOURNADE, caricaturist from Le Mans newspapers is also dead at the age of 90.



#477 Stephen W

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Posted 18 November 2014 - 10:07

Sadly I have to report the passing of Ken Nicholls, Ken will be remembered primarily for being the designer and builder of the Nike race cars, especially remembered for the help and advice he gave to the West country hillclimb brigade many of whom used his chassis in sprints and hillclimbs. He was also the fabricator commissioned by Roy Lane to build the Techcraft hillclimb cars.

A very clever engineer, an extremely modest man who deserved more recognition than he received, his workshop often contained very rare chassis from every type of racing, Ken could always be relied upon for good advice and was never too busy to help.

His funeral is this coming Friday 21st November at the North Devon crematorium in Barnstaple at 1.40 pm



#478 Perruqueporte

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Posted 18 November 2014 - 12:42

SMITH - Ronald Charles Albert (Dad) died 7th October 2014. After 87 years, a pleasurable lifestyle and a questionable fitness level, have seemingly contributed to a loss of balance and I have fallen off the perch. A party is planned for relatives and friends (and enemies wishing to clear their conscience); announcement in due course, tickets free on application. Cremation has taken place, so no flowers prayers, hymns or other ‘old toffee’, just a good party and plenty of laughter. I shall be sorry to miss it!  Donations to the BRDC Benevolent Fund, the Brain and Spine Foundation or the Mark Hanna Specialist Foundation.

 

This wonderful notice appeared in the Telegraph a few days ago, with a BRDC reference which made me wonder if the gentleman had motor sport connections.  Do any of you TNF folk know who he was?

 

Christopher W.



#479 proviz

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Posted 18 November 2014 - 14:55

Jussi Lagerblom lost his brave battle against cancer on October 26th. He was the trusted mechanic in the 1960's of first Curt Lincoln and then Picko Troberg, travelling Europe in a jolly band of F3 racers and becoming friendly with people like Jonathan Williams, Piers Courage and Frank Williams. At Lincoln's initiative, he worked at Brabham during the winter of 1963-64, having been picked up from Heathrow airport by Ron Dennis on his arrival. Picko Troberg trusted Lagerblom with the running of his Finnish tuning shop, but by the turn of the decade he moved on to the Wihuri Corporation to head development of Sunbeam Imps for racing and rallying.

Jussi Lagerblom remained an active figure to the very end, regularly seeing his old chums to talk motor sport and astounding them with his sharp memory. He will be much missed.



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#480 Haine Kane

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Posted 28 November 2014 - 13:57

French D.B. driver, Jacques GRELLEY b 21 may 1936 d 31 august 2014 in Arlington (Texas).

 

R.I.P.



#481 ReWind

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Posted 28 November 2014 - 18:19

According to this article

http://www.dmagazine...cer-on-the-edge

Jacques Grelley at first raced using the pseudonym “Jaeger”. That means that he was identical to Jean-François Jaeger

http://www.racingspo...s-Jaeger-F.html.



#482 Haine Kane

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Posted 28 November 2014 - 21:59

According to this article

http://www.dmagazine...cer-on-the-edge

Jacques Grelley at first raced using the pseudonym “Jaeger”. That means that he was identical to Jean-François Jaeger

http://www.racingspo...s-Jaeger-F.html.

Not sure, Jacques GRELLEY and Jean-François JAEGER are 2 different persons .

GRELLEY born : 21 may 1936 dead : 31 august 2014 and live in the USA

JAEGER born : 3 november 1923 not dead and have a picture gallery in Paris



#483 SJ Lambert

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Posted 28 November 2014 - 22:47

I'm told that Ivan Tighe has passed away over night. One of Queensland's motor racing greats.

 

 

image.jpg

 

Ivan pictured here with a couple of his Queensland mates, Vern Hamilton & Lionel Ayers at Lakeside on 18 April 1971. Both these shots are by Brier Thomas
image.jpg


Edited by SJ Lambert, 29 November 2014 - 03:36.


#484 275 GTB-4

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Posted 28 November 2014 - 23:11

I'm told that Ivan Tighe hassed passed away over night. One of Queensland's motor racing greats.


P1020356TigheVincent_zps07f27035.jpg

Silverdale Hillclimb - picture from RCN

#485 ReWind

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Posted 29 November 2014 - 08:16

Not sure, Jacques GRELLEY and Jean-François JAEGER are 2 different persons .

GRELLEY born : 21 may 1936 dead : 31 august 2014 and live in the USA

JAEGER born : 3 november 1923 not dead and have a picture gallery in Paris

 

Do you have evidence that the gallery owner has something to do with motor racing?

I didn't find anything (for instance here: http://www.galerieja...triarche-en.pdf).



#486 Haine Kane

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Posted 29 November 2014 - 10:12

Do you have evidence that the gallery owner has something to do with motor racing?

I didn't find anything (for instance here: http://www.galerieja...triarche-en.pdf).

I don't remember the year, but at RETROMOBILE show, I meet Roland ROY in the D.B. stand.

He give me several address of past D.B. drivers.

I write a letter at each and I receive some answer. Jean-François JAEGER complete his file with his birthdate (for the dead date, he write : "wait" en attente in french) and the letter come from the gallery in Paris. I've got this letter in my archives.

In the D.B. book from Alain GAILLARD, there are the 2 drivers in the alphabetic appendix.



#487 ReWind

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Posted 29 November 2014 - 12:09

I’m sorry, Jean-Charles, but that does not convince me.

Let’s take a look at the data on http://www.racingsportscars.com:

There are two races for Jaeger in 1957 and five races for Jaeger in 1958, none for Grelley in these years.

1959

12 Apr: Coupes de Vitesse – Jaeger: 18th

26 Apr: Le Mans test – car # 46 Jaeger & Grelley, car # 63 Grelley & others

24 May: Targa Florio – Jaeger & Laureau: DNF

21 Jun: Le Mans 24 h – car # 46 Grelley in entry list only, car # 48 Jaeger & Bartholoni DNF, Grelley in entry list only

26 Jul: Trophée d’Auvergne – Jaeger: 13th

25 Sep: Tour de France – Jaeger & Laureau: DNF

1960

22 May: 1000 km Nürburgring - Jaeger & Laureau: 39th

26 Jun: Le Mans 24 h – car # 56 Grelley & Bouharde: 19th, Jaeger in entry list only

23 Sep: Tour de France – Jaeger & Laureau: DNF

23 Oct: 1000 km Paris – Jaeger & Masson: DNF

1961

30 Apr: Targa Florio – Jaeger & Laureau: DNF

11 Jun: Le Mans 24 h – car # 52T Grelley in entry list only, Jaeger in entry list only

Wouldn’t it be a strange coincidence that Jaeger and Grelley never took part in the same race if they were in fact two different persons?

For me it is clear: They are one and the same, and the gallery owner is only a namesake.



#488 Haine Kane

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 08:52

I’m sorry, Jean-Charles, but that does not convince me.

Let’s take a look at the data on http://www.racingsportscars.com:

There are two races for Jaeger in 1957 and five races for Jaeger in 1958, none for Grelley in these years.

1959

Wouldn’t it be a strange coincidence that Jaeger and Grelley never took part in the same race if they were in fact two different persons?

For me it is clear: They are one and the same, and the gallery owner is only a namesake.

 

Hello Rewind,

 

I ask the question at Alain GAILLARD and he confirm that was 2 differents persons.

His answer in french from AUTODIVA forum :

 

 

 

 Jacques GRELLEY grand amateur de voitures anciennes de course (il a possédé une Alpine et plusieurs D.B. des 24 Heures du Mans) habitait  les USA depuis des dizaines d'années mais revenait chaque année à Rétromobile.
Jean-François JEAGER ancien pilote D.B. a dirigé depuis longtemps une galerie d'Art à Paris.
Il s'agit bien de deux hommes différents qui, à leur manière, ont eu une tranche de vie avec les D.B.


Edited by Haine Kane, 30 November 2014 - 08:53.


#489 ReWind

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 09:56

Jean-Charles, of course you are entitled to your faith as is Monsieur Gaillard (who even misspells Jaeger).

But I see no evidence that the gallery owner was a racing driver. Alain Gaillard only repeats his claim without any hard facts.

Therefore at the moment I stick to my case that Grelley was "Jaeger".

 

Interestingly on helenaracing.org

http://www.helenarac...GrelleyJacques/

Grelley's first names are given as "Jean-François Jacques" while in fact - per his obituary - they were "Jacques Eugène". Don't you wonder where "Jean-François" comes from?



#490 Haine Kane

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Posted 02 December 2014 - 16:55

Hello Rewind,

 

I find 2 pics with Jean-François JAEGER :

 

This one taken in LE MANS STORY in 2013 from this site : http://panhard.racin...r/?page_id=4199

J.F.Jaeger-et-J.Louis-Laureau.jpg

Jean-François JAEGER is in the left with pink shirt.

 

And this one from the gallery site : http://www.communica...-ans-de-galerie

couv_article_site_0.jpg

 

For me he's the same man.


Edited by Haine Kane, 02 December 2014 - 16:56.


#491 seldo

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Posted 09 December 2014 - 12:59

Sadly, I advise the passing of a great supporter of Australian motor-sport - Jamie Blaikie.

Jamie was instrumental in the formation and fostering of the highly successful  Australian Porsche Carrera Cup, but was tragically killed in a motor accident in Fiji whilst enjoying the fruits of his recent early retirement from the industry.



#492 Ray Bell

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Posted 09 December 2014 - 18:50

Another last week...

Ben Gapp, one of the partners in Superflow Heads (Fairfield, Sydney) and a drag racing competitor as well. Superflow had a lot to do with Terry Finnigan's engines among many others.

#493 Dale Harvey

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Posted 09 December 2014 - 20:22

Ray, I think the name was Gatt not Gapp.

Dale.



#494 275 GTB-4

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Posted 09 December 2014 - 21:23

Ray, I think the name was Gatt not Gapp.
Dale.


Benny usually...but its Joe that has passed

http://www.dragnews....hts-for-buzzard

Edited by 275 GTB-4, 09 December 2014 - 21:24.


#495 Ray Bell

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 14:44


Sorry, yes, it's Gatt...

I was given the message over the phone and he definitely told me it was Ben who died.

#496 ronsimmonds70

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Posted 11 December 2014 - 03:58

Sad to report the passing of Syd Fisher.30-8-26--3-12-14.

 

Syd drove many cars during his time as a race engineer and driver, and was the workshop manager of M W Motors in Melbourne who serviced and sold Alfa's and later Suzuki cars for many years.

 

 At one time Syd shoehorned a Corvette motor into the ex Jack Myers Cooper Bristol and what a beast it was, he also had a Lotus 23 replica and in more recent times he built a very nice Lotus Super 7 replica ,calling it the Syd Fisher Special, it only took him 20 years, but it was worth it.

 

Syd drove at all the Phillip Island 500's ,for Ford and Peugeot and on a number occasions at Bathurst driving Peugeots and Alfa's with the late Paul Hawkins. Sandown endurance races saw Syd driving Peugeot's with a lot of flair.

 

Some members of the VHRR were in attendance at his funeral to honor his services to the club ,he was a life member. RIP Syd.



#497 raceannouncer2003

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Posted 11 December 2014 - 06:25

Sorry to hear this.  I believe he was a "mate" of the late 1965 Canadian champion Bob McLean before Bob moved to Canada in 1957.  Syd apparently worked with Bob.

 

Vince H.



#498 B Squared

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Posted 14 December 2014 - 16:40

Mary Davis, 1928-2014: ‘Larger than life’ former Portofino Hotel owner, racecar driver dies at 86

http://www.dailynews...iver-dies-at-86

See lower center column for the Portofino history:

http://www.hotelport...el-details.aspx

Thanks to Michael Argetsinger for passing this news on to me.

#499 Ray Bell

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Posted 15 December 2014 - 22:34

I've contact the Daily Breeze writer and obtained permission to copy the article about Mary Davis...

By Carley Dryden, Daily Breeze 12/11/14, 9:38 PM PST

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Mary Davis, the cheeky, indomitable founder of the Portofino Hotel and Marina who broke down barriers as one of the country’s first female racecar drivers and a pioneer of Redondo Beach waterfront development, died this week. She was 86.

Davis passed away Monday from heart failure in her home in La Quinta near Palm Desert after a years-long battle with dementia.

The San Diego native had quite the fascinating life, with stints tinkering with tank engines during World War II, driving Aston Martins and Mercedes-Benzes in races across the country through the 1950s, opening a West Hollywood restaurant and later as the longtime owner of the state’s first hotel situated in the center of a small-craft harbor surrounded on three sides by water.

Despite her stature as a striking, buxom blonde, Davis faced more closed doors than open ones because she was still, in fact, a woman in an era when the glass ceiling was much lower.

When she voiced her interest in buying a fuel dock on the Redondo Beach waterfront — she was later forced by the city to bid on the entire 8-acre parcel instead — men would pat her on her head. And when she told them her plans for a hotel and marina, they would shake their heads.

“‘Because you’re a woman, you can’t do it.’ You just couldn’t do it,” Davis said in a 2005 interview with the city of Redondo Beach. “I started with nothing, literally, and I fought my way to the top. ... I was very determined to make it go and I did.”

The Portofino, inspired by an Italian coastal village with the same name, turned into a first-class inn and one of the three largest hotels in the South Bay when it opened. It included a 225-boat marina, bar, coffee shop, gourmet restaurant, 25-unit apartment building, yacht brokerage, beauty salon — and the fuel dock. The hotel and marina would spur the future evolution of the Redondo Beach waterfront, which in its heyday was among the Southland’s most popular attractions.

Davis continually urged young girls to fight for their dreams, but advised them not to do anything wrong and to know their subject better than anyone else.

“I got a lot of doors open, but I made sure I knew what I was talking about before I walked through them,” she said in 2005.

Davis would own the Portofino for more than 20 years, until she sold the property in 1986 — two years before a fierce winter storm nearly destroyed the hotel. She then bought a yacht and sailed around the world. She eventually settled in Palm Desert.

“One of the great things about Mary was she had such a generous personality. Even though she became quite successful, she always remained humble,” said close friend Leon Isaac Kennedy, who produced a documentary on Davis in 2009. “She loved people. I’ve heard so many stories of her being nice to people.”

Davis was beloved by her longtime employees, and her employee Christmas parties were famous.

“She had been gone from the Portofino for 20 years and people would still run up to her and say, ‘Mary! Mary! We love you!’ ” Kennedy recalled. “They would tell me stories about how sweet she was to everybody.”

One woman told Kennedy this week about Davis’ impact on her family. After her husband did construction work on Davis’ house, Davis and the family later became friends. Davis would end up donating money for the woman’s children to attend college and for the family to go on cruises. She donated the Portofino as the venue for her daughter’s wedding and reception.

“Our whole life changed because we met Mary,” the woman said.

Davis was a lifelong spitfire.

At 15, during World War II, she quit high school to join the Women’s Marine Corps, choosing the military branch because “I thought they had the cutest uniforms.” Once her age was discovered while she was repairing diesel engines in San Francisco, she was honorably discharged and sent home.

At 17, she managed a soda fountain and later two cigar stores. In 1950, she watched a sports car race in Pebble Beach and told herself, “Hell, I can do that.”

She bought an MG and started racing it. At the time, she was one of few women in the sport and often the only one allowed on the track or in the pit with the men. She went on to nab trophies at nearly every race she competed in. In 1957, she opened The Grand Prix restaurant in Hollywood to cater to the racing crowd. The same year, she was the first woman asked to compete in the Mobil Economy Run, a cross-country driving competition featuring the top economy cars along a set route kept secret until the day the drivers left for the race.

Davis stunned the racing community and won her division in a Plymouth V8.

“They called me the world’s greatest woman driver at the time. How about that? I liked the title,” Davis said in 2005. “I was the first woman who ever won it, and I got a lot of publicity. I got more famous for doing that than for going fast.”

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Soon, her insurance company wouldn’t let her drive anymore, so she quit. Later, in the 1970s, Davis allowed the organizers of the inaugural Cannonball Run to end their highly unauthorized New York-to-California car race at the Portofino. The event, whose only rule was that entrants had to get from New York City to Redondo Beach in the fastest time possible, inspired at least three films, including the Burt Reynolds comedy classic “The Cannonball Run” in 1981.

Davis purchased the land for the Portofino with a $1 million loan inn 1960, when she was 32. And the hotel remained firmly in her hands throughout her ownership, with Davis intimately involved in all aspects — the construction, the design, the opening, the operation and later redesigns.

“She was very passionate about her business. She ran that hotel herself,” said Maryann Guthrie, whose late husband, Les, the other original waterfront lessee, was a like a brother to Davis.

A woman opening a business in the 1960s, especially in Redondo Beach, was almost unheard of, she said.

“As a younger woman at the time, I looked up to Mary,” Maryann Guthrie said. “She achieved so many successes. She was a risk taker. She was truly a remarkable person in terms of her business pursuits.”

But before all else, Davis cared about her family. Although she never had children of her own, she was very close to her nieces and nephews.

“She was just a fantastic person,” said nephew Tom Preston, who cared for Davis the past four years. “She was good to everyone, just a sweetheart. I loved her dearly.”

Preston said he and his siblings could always tell when Aunt Mary had visited the house overnight at Christmastime.

“You’d run out there and there would be bicycles and skates. She made Christmas a lifelong, wonderful memory,” he said, adding that she did the same for her employees, ensuring each one got a gift at Christmas.

Preston said that despite all of her adventures and accomplishments, the highlight of Davis’ life was the Portofino.

“She was very loving, but she was pretty ornery when she had to be,” he said. “It’s the nature of the beast when you’re a woman in a man’s world.”

Even as her health declined, her sharp wit endured.

“She had a larger-than-life personality,” Kennedy said. “And she was always quick-witted. I would call her, even recently, and say, ‘How are you?’ She’d say, ‘I’m perfect. I’m a perfect 5-foot-8.’”


Thank you, Carley, and if you feel it appropriate to add more from your earlier discussions with her please do.