THE MINI MAG. Volume 2 No.7
  July 2000

Vol.2 Home Page | Index Page

Pit Stop.
1965 Armstrong 500.
The following is an edited article on the 1965 Armstrong 500 at Bathurst, taken from the December 1965 "Sports Car World". This writer had a style all of his own!
Bathurst among other things is the scene of the annual concours d’errk. ‘Tis the only place that the wanton fall-overs or perambulating tin-cans can get away with such lewd decoration without obtaining a negative to a vehicle inspection check or at least a demolition order for being a navigational hazard to low flying aircraft. Minis with fronts in iridescent chunder and special sequins for the BMC Minis were the order of the day.

One editor was off playing hoon boy with the Marshall Vandal, Chrysallers and the Yankee lads at the Sandown Drag Strip for the Nationals. I was left to accompany the other one to the mount, but I snukked off early, retiring to the heights and leaving him to sweat hot blood in his earnest, through misguided attempts to find out what was going on in the grease pits every other second. Five minutes after I had taken up my position perched on my shooting stick on a horizontal branch over the McPhillamy Park sweeper, he arrived panting and breathless on, wait for it, a 50cc Honda bike. Naturally, dear CAMS, he was wearing a helmet, but this didn’t stop his armpits from dragging on the ground. Hell, if he isn’t the most damn awkward sight you’ve ever seen on a two foot high bike. I declined his generous offer to ride pillion down the goat track from Skyline through the apple orchards.

The whole business started on the Friday when we arrived car and caravan at Ye Grand Olde circuit in the early am. Setting up was merely in preparation for the three hours on Saturday that constituted so called practice. BMC, running motorised stopwatches, gleefully recorded laps of 3.13s and 3.14s although these failed to materialise officially as anything better than 3.18s and over. But then if you start the watches at Hell corner and clock off at Skyline …… Ford were a little less optimistic, although their times actually turned out much better than the BMC Ss.

Consecutive laps for the Hopkirk / Makinen Mini S ran at 112 & 123mph respectively, although Hopkirk later denied that he had all four wheels off the ground from Forrest Elbow to Murrays. But the public may never know the full secret behind the censored lap times.

Am in the pits on the Sunday is the scene of the strangest sights. There were the Geoghegan’s in summer lightweights by Suave, suggesting the whole thing was somewhat of a Sunday afternoon drive which it turned out not to be, for them at least. Head attire ranging from bowlers hats to fire brigade helmets didn’t help add to the serious side either.

Before they all trundled out to array themselves on the start grid, the cars in the pits got the lick and spit treatment in the biggest possible way. Anyone who has ever seen a Bathurst start before would know better you would think. The Minis staged a BMC benefit by lining up en mass after coming down off their high perches on a massive transporter.

The flag waved promptly at nine and the lead Cortina GT 500s were swallowed up in a mass of moving metal including the Studebaker Larks. Foley led the BMC charge on the grass and Makinen played hide-and-seek behind him but the two nearly didn’t get back in the pack before Hell Corner. Could have been a pretty mess. Weldon led for the first hour while the mob sorted themselves out behind. The next three hours ensued the most furious battle for placings ever seen at Bathurst. Mixing it all paint-swap and sashe through twisty bits were the Geoghegan Cortina, the Jane/Renolds Cortina, the Cooper S’s of Makinen/Hopkirk, French/Harvey and Cusack/Holden. Nothing was soared, no inches – no gentlrman in the pack. The big stuff fell first with the Welden Stude limping into the pits all hippitty hop on three wheels.

That threw Jane out in front but Foley said no sir and went through him 10 minutes later.

French was motoring and yawns down Conrod on the ton when he was overtaken by his own R7 shod shoe. He remembered to stop for Murrays and the pits to his eternal credit.

Mutter, mutter in de BMC tent and who didn’t do the wheel up first off. Tut, tut quoth Molloy, peeping under, tis a whole new front offside end we need. BMC in the shape of Evan Green or somebody waved the magic wand and there was a new one, all ready to put in. But not so smart Charlie. Rules, for the happy making of officials should be noted, and 25 laps before major rebuilds is among them. Out French went for two more laps, very slow ones mind you. But did he? Not our friend of the hairy-flatters, do-and-die, devil-may-take-the-lot French. Nothing but 100mph for the banana benders. Result? Crash bang and no transport on the mount. Cooper benders too.

Intrepid Frenchman rode down by accosted taxi and was sorely hurt digging deep to pay. Sadly, fast man Johnny Harvey rode not at all that day.

Meanwhile non-BMC official team-man Cusack crept into the lead and refused to budge despite embarrassed nudges from the best Intercontinental efforts of BMC and of course Ford. Cooper S cars, dominated class C and didn’t decorate the fence at Forest Elbow, unlike others. Back in B class Vaughan/Lane broke valve spring and the Queenslanders went for the champagne, Frazer/McGrath’s R8 went on its lid and the Clarke/Prisk Cooper split its valve spring retainer. But what about the Ford spearhead car – the Geoghegan GT? Ah woe, somehow while pitting Pete got the signal to start the car while there were still two charlies pouring in the juice.

Cusack’s private run in the Cooper S was donged on the head in his first pit stop when the little beast burst its bladder all over the tarmac. Two laps went by and the tank was half out of the car before some bright bunny detached the fuel caps and fixed it all.

Seton/Bosworth appeared out of nowhere and before anyone quite realised danced under the chequered flag with thumbs up. Teams prize went to the Cooper S types of Kaleda/Moore, Little/Pomroy and Holden/Cusack with a stupendous 379 laps.

And so it went at Bathurst 1965, Ford and BMC beat themselves soundly out of the hard cash with sheer bad pit work. It was a Bathurst without women drivers and one with some flee brained male ones.