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Classic Ads: McRae wins on Ampol

Submitted by on September 13, 2010

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.

James Meale

Grab your tickets for the Lotus Sydney 2010 Tasman Revival here.

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