Today is Australia’s national holiday, Australia Day, which commemorates the date of the first landing of convict settlers on Australia’s shores in 1788.
10. Paul Stoddart, F1 Team Principal (2001-2005)
A controversial mention in our ‘Top-10’, Melbourne-born Paul Stoddart made his fortune in selling airline spare parts and in running several airlines.
Having long held an interest in motorsport since childhood, this was reignited in 1996 when he bought several out-of-service F1 cars, before bringing in his airline as a sponsor of the Tyrrell team in 1997. An attempt to buy the Tyrrell team in 1998 failed when BAT came in with a bigger offer, but Stoddart bought most of the equipment and set up an impressive F1 factory in Ledbury, albeit with no official entry.
It was a credit to his enthusiasm that the team made it to the grid for 2001 and an achievement that they saw out the season, but the high point came in 2002 when he hired Mark Webber and his compatriot took a points’ finish on debut on home soil.
With a reputation built on surviving rather than succeeding, he campaigned vocally for the rights of the privateer teams – some might argue that his press interaction occurred at the expense of propelling the team forward – and was often a source of controversy. He sold the team to Red Bull at the end of 2005, which went on to be renamed Scuderia Toro Rosso.
9. Sam Michael, F1 engineer (1993-present)
West Australian born and Canberra raised, Sam Michael – alongside Chris Dyer – form part of a small contingent of Australians who work in the sport’s technical side, and his rise through the motorsport ranks is an interesting tale in itself.
It was while studying mechanical engineering that Michael wrote to racing team owner Gregg Siddle asking for a job. Siddle – a former manager to Nelson Piquet and Roberto Moreno – was introgued by the approach from the then-20-year-old and hired him to work in his Formula Holden (the equivalent of F3000 in Australia) team.
In 1993, Siddle referred the now-qualified Michael to Lotus boss Peter Collins, and the young Michael was hired to work on data acquisition and lap simulation. At the end of 1994, Lotus collapsed and Michael moved to the Jordan team in 1995, establishing its R&D department in 1996, where he installed a seven-post rig.
By 1998 he was promoted to be Ralf Schumacher’s race engineer, and would later engineer Heinz-Harald Frentzen to two wins in the 1999 season.
Remaining in the role for another year, he switched to Williams in 2001 as its Senior Operations Engineer, and was promoted to the role of Technical Director – a position he holds to this day – in 2004.
8. Ron Tauranac, F1 chassis designer (1962-1974)
From an early age, Ron Tauranac and his brother Austin were into building racing cars, and named their very first effort, in 1946, a Ralt, in deference to the initials in their names.
Tauranac would race his cars in some of these events, against none other than one Jack Brabham, and the pair remained in touch when Brabham ventured to Europe in the 1950s, which led to Brabham inviting Tauranac to join him in the UK in 1960.
By 1961, he and Brabham went into partnership and set up Motor Racing Developments, initially building a Formula Junior car before deciding to expand the operation into Formula 1.
The end result would see Brabham become the first driver to win a championship in a car bearing his own name, while team-mate Denny Hulme would also take a championship for the Brabham team.
Brabham retired in 1970 as the team’s competitiveness tailed off, selling his shares in the team to Tauranac, who continued for another year before selling the team to Bernie Ecclestone and returning to Australia.
His Ralt designs continued to achieve success in feeder series for many years, even after his sold his concern to the March Engineering group in 1988.
7. Foster’s, F1 sponsor (1986-2006)
Its sponsorship of Formula 1 is certainly more recent and prevalent, having been involved in the game since 1986 when it started to support the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide. That association ran until 1993, and it returned as a title sponsor for the Australian race in Melbourne between 2002 and 2006.
Meanwhile, it was also the race sponsor for the British Grand Prix (1993-6 and 2000-6) and the San Marino Grand Prix (2003-6), as well as being a primary trackside sponsor in many other races worldwide during this time. The brand also enjoyed ‘pouring rights’ at close to a dozen Grands Prix each year, as well as exclusive rights as a Paddock Club sponsor for many years.
6. Tim Schenken, F1 Driver (1970-4)
Of the twelve Australians to have contested a Formula 1 World Champion Grand Prix, just two have taken World Championship titles, three have taken race wins, and four have finished on the podium. Sydney-born Tim Schenken is your fourth man, whom many might forget was an accomplished driver in his own right.
A champion in British Formula Ford and Formula 3, Schenken made his F1 debut in 1970 with Frank Williams, before being hired by Ron Tauranac to join Brabham in 1971 – he took a podium finish at that Austrian Grand Prix while also dovetailing in Ron Dennis’ Formula 2 team.
Worried that new Brabham owner Bernie Ecclestone wouldn’t propel the team forward – an error in judgement he would later come to appreciate – he moved to Surtees in 1972 where he achieved little, but managed to win the 1000km sports car events at Buenos Aires and the Nurburgring with Ferrari.
A switch to Dennis’ Rondel F1 team went belly-up along with the entire project, and he scrambled for a drive, rejoining Williams for the 1974 Canadian Grand Prix before his career petered out with Tauranac’s hopeless Trojan team and then a one-off Lotus drive.
After more drives in sports and touring cars, he later moved into car construction and is now the race director for the V8 Supercars Championship and clerk of the course at the Australian Grand Prix.
5. Repco, Engine supplier (1966-9)
Founded in Melbourne in 1920, the Replacement Party Pty Ltd (later becoming known as Repco) existed to source seemingly unobtainable parts for imported cars. It enjoyed considerable expansion after World War II, including internationally, and when Jack Brabham and Ron Tauranac founded the Motor Racing Developments team, this happened on Repco’s premises in England.
At Brabham behest in 1964, Repco elected to build F1-spec engines using an obsolete aluminium Oldsmobile V8 engine as the basis of its design. After being tested in 1965, it made its competitive debut at the 1966 South African Grand Prix, which Brabham led much of before retiring.
The partnership took its first win at the non-championship International Trophy in May, and its first World Championship win at France, which would propel Brabham to the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship crowns. The following year saw Brabham’s team-mate Denny Hulme take the spoils with a team 1-2 by the end of the year.
But the arrival of the Cosworth DFV engine would start the decline of Repco, which found its newer designs proving less competitive against the opposition, and the pin was pulled on the engine project in 1969, having achieved an incredible 8 wins, 25 podiums, 7 pole positions and 4 fastest laps, all in just 33 races.
4. Mark Webber, F1 Driver (2002-present)
Rewind the clock to the 2002 Australian Grand Prix. One Mark Webber is making his F1 debut for the back-of-the-grid Minardi team, owned and run (on a shoestring) by the temperamental fellow-Aussia Paul Stoddart. It’s your home race and you’re trying to compete in a barely tested F1 car scarcely capable of challenging the cars around it.
So what do think when half the grid conspires to eliminate itself from the race on the opening lap, promoting you and the hopes of an entire nation into a points finish, on debut, on home soil? It is the ultimate victory for the underdog: you make it home to finish fifth, the crowd goes insane and you are the toast of the nation.
Fast forward to the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix. Mark is now in the front-running Red Bull with several race wins and a championship lead. He’s looking steady for a first championship title for an Aussie since Alan Jones in 1980. Problem is, the silly bugger fell off his bike during the week and cracked his shoulder. Don’t tell a soul, bring the car home and show your pace. Never complain, it’s the Aussie way.
But for a mishap in the rain at Korea, that title was his in the bag. Stuffed shoulder or not. Better luck in 2011, Mark. You’ve done Australia proud.
3. Alan Jones, F1 Driver (1975-86), F1 World Champion (1980)
Alan Jones was the driver with whom the Williams F1 team achieved its first major success in Formula 1, winning the team’s first World Championship in 1980.
The son of Australian racing legend Stan Jones, Alan’s childhood environment on the sidelines of many a racetrack was unsurprisingly a catalyst that would see him forge his own very successful motorsport career, becoming one of Australia’s most successful racing drivers of all time.
After making his F1 debut for Hesketh in 1975, he quickly earned himself a reputation as a typically Aussie trier, and by 1977 he picked up his first – if highly unexpected – win in the wet at the Austraian Grand Prix, and this was the platform that saw his career really blossom, as Williams came knocking for 1978.
Williams was a team that successfully understood the latest ground effect technology, and the Patrick Head designed FW07 proved a race winner in 1979 in the hands of Jones and his team-mate Clay Regazzoni. Four wins in the latter half of the season was ‘too little too late’ to mount a championship challenge, but Jones wound it all together for 1980, taking five wins en route to becoming the second Australian to win the World Championship, taking Williams’ first ever championship of many.
He would have taken back-to-back titles but for poor reliability and a fractious relationship with his team-mate Carlos Reutemann, who refused to obey the team orders stipulated in his contract. His Williams tenure ended on a high with his last F1 victory, and he quit to return to Australia.
He made a brief return with Arrows in 1983, and came back full-time with the Haas Lola concern in 1985-6, but it was a disappointment and he retired once again to become a regular fixture in the Channel 9 commentary team for the Formula 1 broadcasts.
Jones very much typifies the ‘no tricks, nothing to hide’ mentality loved by many about the Australian work ethos, and remains a popular, honest and very outspoken member of the F1 fraternity. It’s hard to think it’s been over thirty years since he took the World Championship crown.
A true favourite in our eyes, he has given Richard’s F1 a series of exclusive interviews to-date, which you can read here.
2. Sir Jack Brabham, F1 Driver (1955-70), F1 World Champion (1959-60, 1966)
Nicknamed ‘Black Jack’ by his peers, the title came about not because of any affinity with gambling, but because of his uncompromising nature on the race track. Here was a man who combined commitment and determination with talent and technical know-how to create an incredibly successful career in Formula 1 that would net him three Drivers’ Championship crowns.
Having learned to drive by age 12 and competing in midget racing at the age of 20, Brabham formed an alliance with Ron Tauranac, with whom he would later create the Brabham F1 team.
By 1955, Brabham had made his F1 debut with Cooper, and by 1959 the rear-engined Coopers had come on strongly, netting him his first victory at Monaco and a championship by the end of the year, brought about by dint of his consistency rather than sheer unadulterated speed. His championship was secured by pushing his out-of-fuel car over the finish line at Sebring to earn fourth place.
He then took the plunge of setting up his own team, with Tauranac by his side, and by 1964 he had picked up his first win and a third title in 1966. He would eventually retire from the sport in 1970, approaching his 44th birthday, and proving just as competitive as drivers half his age.
1. Adelaide, Grand Prix host venue (1985-95)
South Australia’s state capital had generally been perceived as something of a backwater city until local business Bill O’Gorman came up with the bright idea that hosting a Formula 1 race would do wonders to improve the image of the city. He secured support from the state government and flew to London to sign a deal with Bernie Ecclestone, securing a seven-year deal, starting in 1985.
And with the necessary state laws changed to allow a race, it was decided that the circuit should incorporate the city’s parks and buck the (usual) trend of being a low-speed follow-my-leader street circuit. The end result was an end-of-season race of a daunting high-speed track that proved to be one of the most popular events on the sport’s calendar.
The first event in 1985 saw the street fighter Keke Rosberg take his last F1 victory, which would be feats repeated by Ayrton Senna (1993) and Nigel Mansell (1994). The event has also seen some thrilling title deciders, with the 1986 race seeing a down-to-the-wire title chase between Piquet, Mansell and Prost go to the Frenchman when Mansell’s tyre exploded. The 1994 race saw Schumacher and Hill controversially collide, handing the crown to the German.
The racing has always been excellent at Adelaide and the circuit’s layout produced great wheel-to-wheel action, which was further heightened if the weather turned nasty.
And when in 1995 it emerged that Melbourne had snatched the rights to host the race, the city saw F1 off in famous style, with a world record crowd of 250,000 spectators turning up on race day. Who needs an Arabian ‘Tilkedrome’ when you’ve got Adelaide?