The Mini Mag

Volume 1 Number 7 September 1999.


And the Mini Cooper S

John, the old bloke who still thinks he’s a young bloke, was born at Deniliquin NSW in 1934 and has been in the building industry for 50 years. He started with motor cars when being taught to drive after tennis at midnight in Melbourne in a mate’s father’s car. The father didn’t know.

John started rallies and hill climbing in several cars, including Vauxhall, Austin 8 Tourer, FX and FJ Holdens, Simca, Volkswagen and 34 Dodge ute to name a few. He first got involved with a Cooper S in 1968 when brother in law, Bob Brown, ( who raced with success against Manton, Foley, Beechey, Jane and others ) entered for the Datsun 3 hour race at Sandown that year. I had never been in a Cooper S before and must confess it frightened the daylights out of me. At Saturday’s practice, first lap in, I thought the tree at Dandenong Rd Corner was about to end my racing career. I settled down a bit after that and one hour later had my times within one second of Bob’s.

On Race Day, Bob drove to the grid, but when race time arrived, the Cooper S wouldn’t start! Somebody near the start line suggested it may be a rotor button. In those days, the driver was allowed to repair the car and drive on. We lost 6 laps after a run back to the pits for a replacement rotor. By the time it came to my drive we were 3 laps down, After a team discussion, it was decided to replace me with Ted Brewster, a more experienced driver. The car finished one and a half laps behind the class winner with no clutch. After that, I campaigned the Cooper S for 3 years in Club sprints etc with some success. I tried a E38 Charger in 1971 – should have left that alone!

I moved to Brisbane in 1974 to a very quiet time. Motor racing started again when Brad (my son), began with a Mini Cooper and then a Cooper S in 1985. I followed him around like a drooling puppy dog, enjoying his success in breaking the Mt Cotton record every time he ran, being the Queensland and Australian App ‘J’ Hill Climbing Champion.

In June 1987, I purchased a Cooper S from Tony Conn. Tony had brought the Cooper S with him from Tasmania and raced it in Sydney before moving to Brisbane. This is the MK2 now owned by the Rob Watson family. I told my family that I wanted another go at racing before I got too old. With this car, Brad took me to Lakeside to show me the way round. I think he ordered the rain just to make me more nervous. The rain got pretty heavy and when I lost it before the bridge, and spinning all the way down to the next bend and not hitting anything, we called the practice off. 1987 Historics was my first Race Meeting. With times of 1-18. I knew I had a long way to go. It took a couple of years to get down to 1-06. On rare occasions I get a low 1-05, but still a long way from Brad’s 1-03.58, which still stands today. It’s early days yet, but I hold the Group N B 0-1300 Class record at 1-31.27 at Ipswich Raceway.

In 1991, Brad was fortunate enough to have a drive in Bob Holden’s Toyota Corolla. It was then we decided to purchase an ex T.R.D. Fwd Corolla and run Bathurst. Things went well till Sunday morning practice and it looked like our race was run when we hit the wall. A terrific effort by the T.A.F.E. boys and our own crew as we wheeled the car into pit lane for repairs with 5 minutes to spare before the start. We lost 6 laps during repairs and joined the race only to drop a valve in the 28th. Such is the fickle nature of motor sport as most of our readers will attest.

The Corolla came out again in 1993 for the Shell Series, and after 14 races with only one D.N.F., we finished 4th in the 2 lt Class and 17th outright. The best part was our prize money paid all of our costs with Brad driving very well that year.

The 1993 Bathurst was done with sponsorship from Chris Madden with lots of drama leading up to the race, and then when the bonnet wrapped itself around the windscreen at 240ks down Conrod, Brad drove two and a half hours with no screen or back window. Chris then took over and after five and a half hours, the race was over with a rod out the side of the block.

But back to the real cars - Cooper S’s!.

Brad and I have run at most of the circuits in Eastern Australia. We probably had our most enjoyable meetings at the Adelaide GP support events. This track really demanded full concentration. I think there were 12 gear changes per lap! It was the only time I have had the brake fluid boil after the race, but it was OK during the running. Other top courses were Eastern Creek and Winton.

Brad hasn’t had his derriere in No.14 for some time. Pit crewing with a Super Tourer sees to that. But his old man is still having a good time in “ole faitfhul”, winning only his second race ever at the H.R.C.C. Ipswich Historics in July this year, so Brad has some catching up to do.

The current blue and silver Mk1 Group N B has now clocked up approximately 130 Race Circuit events and 50 plus hill climb meetings. I do my best to have the car at the start line for most of our meetings. I have a great time racing with and against all the Group N drivers, who give me heaps – but I like it.

I don’t know what the future will bring. We are preparing another Cooper S Mk2 replica for Group N C. The Corolla should be back in action soon to run in Sports Sedan class, but of course if anyone wants to lighten their “piggy bank”, I could always get out the golf clubs.