Interview: John Harvey
John Harvey is one of Australia’s most versatile and accomplished racing drivers. He won numerous Speedway titles in the 50s and 60s, before switching to road racing where he successfully campaigned Brabham’s in the Australian Drivers Championship. He won the 1971 and 1972 Australian Sportscar Championship in a McLaren M6B and the 1983 Bathurst 1000 in a Holden Commodore. He became a household name in Australia during the 70s and 80s as a driver in the legendary Holden Dealer Team, alongside Peter Brock. In this interview John reveals his favourite race cars, his toughest rival and why he supports electric car racing.
What was your most satisfying race, whether you won or not?
FIA World Touring Car Championship, round 5, August 2, 1987. The Spa 24 Hours at Spa Francorchamps. We finished 1st in Class 4th outright. Very satisfying.
What was the first racecar you bought with your own money?
During my career from 1957- 1988, then 1999 -2004 in Historics, I have raced approximately 60-70 cars. I have at no time owned a racecar. (Below: Harvey spent a decade with the Holden Dealer Team)
Who was your fiercest rival and why?
Through the years quite a few. The standout, Kevin Bartlett. Why? He finished ahead of me more times than I finished ahead of him! (Below: Kevin Bartlett leads John Harvey 1966)
Which car you’ve driven is your favourite?
The #76 Kurtis Offenhauser oval track car, each and every Brabham. The standouts are the BT36 2.0 Litre Waggot, the McLaren M6B with 5.0 litre Repco V8 and Bob Jane’s Trans Am Mustang. (Below: Repco Brabham 1968, Brabham BT36 1971, McLaren M6B)
What is the greatest racing car ever built?
Mercedes Benz W196 Streamliner and Monoposto.
Which racing car would you most like to own?
Either of the above.
Was racing better then or now?
Depends on your age and therefore knowledge of history. I say, THEN.
Who is the greatest driver of all time?
Which driver, dead or alive would you most like to have dinner with?
Hey steady up, just one driver, you must be kidding! I would include Tazio Nuvolari, Bernd Rosemeyer, JM Fangio, Stirling Moss, AJ Foyt and Bill Vukovich. I would also invite their partners, ensuring unknown background happenings would be revealed!
Who was the best driver you saw, who didn’t make it?
Without a doubt, Chris Amon. Not only was he one of the very best in his era, importantly, he survived an extremely deadly period. (Ed: Amon never won a Formula 1 Grand Prix)
What was your biggest disappointment in racing?
Not winning the Australian Gold Star.
What made you retire from racing?
Time caught up.
Have you ever searched yourself on Youtube? (If so, what’s the best clip?)
No. Should I?
(Ed: Below is a good interview from John during the 1984 Bathurst 1000)
Is there an event you would still like to race in?
Yes, the Australian Grand Prix Historic Demonstration. I have at times been invited to drive some fabulous cars. I enjoy the Albert Park circuit, the wonderful organisation and the public interest in the cars throughout the four days.
Electric racing cars? Yes or No?
I was lead driver of the GM Sunraycer, which won the inaugural World Solar Challenge (for solar/electric cars) which ran from Darwin to Adelaide in 1987. So yes, I support electric car racing.
(Ed. The Sunraycer raced the 3,005 km (1,867 miles) with an average speed of 66.9 km/h (41.6 mph) , finishing the race in just 5.2 days. This was 50% percent faster than the second place vehicle. The Sunraycer has since been donated to the Smithsonian museum by GM.)
Are you optimistic for the future of motor racing?
Absolutely. From the birth of the motorcar much groundbreaking technology has originated from motor racing, which has improved every day motoring. Long may it continue.
What do you think of the historic motor racing scene?
Historic Motor Racing is the longest continuous form of motor racing in the world. It commenced early last century and continues to grow. I enjoy it both as a driver or spectator.
What is your current state of mind?
I feel contented, relaxed, and enjoy assisting a friend restoring historic open wheel racing cars. In retirement life is great with my wife of almost 50 years!
Thanks to Autopics.com.au for kindly supplying many of the images for this story.