1973 Round 1

Round One: PUKEKOHE 67pic8a.jpg (3073 bytes) 20th New Zealand Grand Prix

The first round of the 1973 Tasman Series was held at Pukekohe as the 20th New Zealand Grand Prix on 6th January 1973 on a hot sunny day. The circuit had been modified slightly from the previous year, by the addition of two chicanes, put in to slow the speeds down, following last years fatal accident of Bryan Faloon, when he tangled with Graeme Lawrence. One chicane was down the back straight and the other was at the top of Rothman's, just before entering the front straight. They were very artificial, having been made up of railway sleepers, tractor tyres and concrete kerbing. They certainly slowed the cars down, but were very damaging to cars when hit.

In spite of some stirring performances in rounds of the Australian Gold Star during 1972, few people paid much attention to the chances of Elfin-Repco driver John McCormack in the Tasman Series. He first gave notice of his intensions when he clocked third fastest practice time for the New Zealand Grand Prix, behind Matich and McRae, and ahead of Max Stewart. During practice, Radisich had a substantial oil leak caused by cracked head and was to be allowed a back row grid spot if he completed a reasonable number of laps on the morning of the race.

After practice, the make-up of the grid, alternating rows of two, was as follows:- Matich and McRae, McCormack and Stewart, Rollinson and Thompson, Oxton and Brown, Bartlett and Noyes, Posey and McConnell, Smith and Pedersen, Dunlop and Cameron, and Takahara and Robertson at the rear.

On race day, during the race morning practice, Radisich had a coming together with Oxton at the approach to the Rothman's chicane. Radisich's McLaren was beyond repair, not allowing him to start the Grand Prix, while Oxton's crew had a major job to get his car ready in time.

The start of the race was a bit hectic, because it was a rolling start and the chicane had to be negotiated. When it got started, Matich leapt ahead of the field, with McRae leading the chasing bunch. Meanwhile Oxton was still in the pits and two laps would go by before he got started. Down the back straight, McRae had closed the gap by the first chicane, and was climbing all over Matich as they braked for the Rothman's chicane. They came out side by side where there was only room for one and a half cars and Matich lurched over the kerbing thumping down hard on the other side. By the time he regained control, the field had passed him. McRae was also slightly affected and before he knew it, McCormack was through to the lead. Once ahead McCormack was not going to be easily dislodged. He was determined to win that race. Matich went into the pits for suspension repairs. After watching McCormack go by ten times, he was ready to go, but was further delayed with a flat battery. After he did get going, he hit a kerb in his efforts to catch up, and from that point on he just cruised around for the rest of the race.

Back up the front, McCormack had a two second lead on McRae, with Stewart very close behind. Stewart was the first to fall foul of the newly installed chicanes, as he clipped one of the sharp kerbs and had to pit with damaged suspension. Noyes joined him in the pits, but his trouble was with the fuel injection. He got going after three laps, but it wasn't long before he parked the car for the rest of the race.

Bartlett leads Takahara

At five laps, McCormack was holding a 2.5 second advantage over McRae, Bartlett was third with the battling group of Rollinson, Thompson, Brown, Posey, Dunlop, McConnell, Pedersen and Smith trying to keep him in sight. Smith pitted on the next lap to have his fuel injection tweaked. Oxton then hit the chicane and undid all the good work his crew had done to get him in the race.

Garry Pedersen in the Begg-Chevrolet FM4

Cameron went out on lap 11 with a shattered flywheel while Bartlett had his Chev develop massive overheating which caused him to retire after 17 laps. At around one third distance McRae made his move on the leader. He steadily closed the gap and was all set to try for the lead when he too clipped one of the chicane kerbs and he lost a lap having two wheels replaced. Unknown to watchers at the time, McCormack had lost third gear and was having to over-rev his Repco engine in second gear in many places. His lap times slowed and Rollinson began to close in.

Brown had developed a crack in his manifold and his engine had gone 'off song', while Thompson was unable to stay with his newly inspired cousin, Rollinson. Dunlop was then flagged off for supposedly traveling too slow. He believed others behind him were doing the same and when they weren't penalised, he protested to officials after his arrival at the pits. Officials eventually allowed him to rejoin, but his anger was taken out on the accelerator as he got underway and he broke a driveshaft. Robertson retired on lap 40 after depositing a large amount of oil on the track. McConnell was also experiencing problems and made a quick visit to the pits with transmission problems. Posey's drive came to an end on lap 44 when his throttle slides became jammed open with the cement dust that had been applied to the Robertson oil slick. He had to use the earth bank at the exit of the esses to brake the Surtees.

Matich in the Matich-Repco

The last thirteen laps of the race were enlivened  by Rollinson's efforts to get past McCormack. McCormack seemed to have more urge from his Repco than Rollinson had from the Chev, but the lack of third gear more than made up the difference and the Elfin driver had to use a lot of road to keep the McRae at bay. Graham McRae had worked his way back up to third, but made a quick visit to the pits with a rough sounding motor. While he was in there, Thompson moved up a place.

McCormack won the race by just six tenths of a second from Rollinson in a finish that had the crowd on their feet. Thompson was third, a lap behind, while McRae was fourth, two laps behind the leaders and just ahead of Garry Pedersen in the Begg FM4 Chevrolet, while Ken Smith in the March 722 was a whole six laps down on the leaders after a number of pit stops. Warwick Brown had actually covered more ground, but his Lola's engine expiring after running out of fuel just four laps from home and he lost third place to Thompson. McRae himself was lucky to score. His engine was growing steadily worse and would not have taken him much further.

Alan Rollinson in the McRae-Chevrolet GM1

20th New Zealand Grand Prix

Date: 6th January 1973
Venue: Pukekohe

58 laps of 2.816kms (163.33kms)

Result Driver Nat Car


1 John McCormack Aust Elfin MR5 / Repco 4994cc V8 58 67m 41.8s
2 Alan Rollinson UK McRae GM1 / Chevrolet 4995cc V8 58 67m 42.4s
3 Steve Thompson UK Chevron B24 / Chevrolet 4995cc V8 57  
4 Graham McRae NZ McRae GM1 / Chevrolet 4995cc V8 56  
5 Garry Pedersen NZ Begg FM4 / Chevrolet 4995cc V8 56  
Ret Warwick Brown Aust Lola T300 / Chevrolet 4995cc V8 54 Out Of Fuel
6 Ken Smith NZ March 722 / Cosworth 1930cc 4cyl 52  
7 Noritake Takahara Jpn Brabham BT36 / Cosworth 1790cc 4cyl 52  
8 Dave McConnell Can Surtees TS15 / Hart 1975cc 4cyl 49  
Ret Sam Posey USA Surtees TS11 / Chevrolet 4995cc V8 44 Throttle
 N/C Frank Matich Aust Matich A50 / Repco 4994cc V8 43 Not Classified
Ret Baron Robertson NZ March 722 / Cosworth 1790cc 4cyl 40 Engine
Ret Dexter Dunlop NZ McRae GM1 / Chevrolet 4995cc V8 40 Flagged Off
Ret Kevin Bartlett Aust Lola T300 / Chevrolet 4995cc V8 17 Overheating
Ret Evan Noyes USA McRae GM1 / Chevrolet 4995cc V8 15 Fuel Injection
Ret Kelvin Cameron NZ Brabham BT23C / Cosworth 1791cc 4cyl 11 Flywheel
Ret David Oxton NZ Begg FM5 / Chevrolet 4995cc V8 5 Accident
Ret Max Stewart Aust Lola T330 / Chevrolet 4995cc V8 3 Suspension
DNS Frank Radisich NZ McLaren M10B / Repco 4994cc V8    Accident

Fastest lap: G. McRae, 67.7 sec.


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