Most Aussie motorsport fans would know that Allan Moffat started his career racing Lotus Cortinas, but not many would know that the little Ford took him to a giant-killing round win of the legendary Trans Am series. That victory made people take notice of his abilities and put him in line to get a run with the big race teams. Recently I came across a handful of rare photos from that important victory, which are worth sharing here.
Allans first forays into motorsport had consisted of some dabbles in club racing in Australia, but he gave it up and followed his family when they moved back to Canada. At that time, Team Lotus were in North America racing Lotus cars, including Lotus Cortinas, to help boost the image of imported Fords. Allan managed to talk himself into a job with Lotus as a gofer, as in go fer this and go fer that. But when Lotus were finished with the Cortinas at the end of the season, Allan purchased one to race himself and brought it back to race in Australia during the 64/65 summer.
Sandown Six-Hours 64
Later in 65 Allan returned to the US and over the next twelve months built up his experience and racing credentials. That included getting his hands dirty helping out Team Lotus at the Indy 500, where Jim Clark upset the locals by winning the biggest American race in a British-built rear-engined car.
Basking in the glory at the '65 Indy 500
By the beginning of 66 Allan had managed to convince Ford to pay him appearance money to race a Cortina in a newly formed touring car series, the Trans Am championship. The Trans Am would have two classes one was for under two litre cars (U2), where the main protagonists were the Cortinas and Alfa GTAs. The other class was for over two litre cars, up to five litres (O2), for the Mustangs, Barracudas and Darts. But these big cars were lacking in the development available under the rules, and the first round of the Trans Am at Sebring in Florida was won outright by the race-proven U2 class Alfa GTA of Jochen Rindt.
Sebring 4 Hours
Allan missed the first round but managed to put together an entry for the second round at Mid America Raceway in Missouri, but mechanical dramas put paid to his chances. What did go well for him was some help provided by a Goodyear race manager, Mike Babich. It was the start of a great relationship with Goodyear and Babich would continue to help Allan for many years to come.
Mike Babich towering over Trans Am legend Jerry Titus
That race was won by the Mustang of Bob Johnson and Tom Yeager, but second was still taken by a U2 car, the Alfa of Horst Kwech and Gus Andrey. Kwech had also started his racing career in Australia and would go on to be Allans rival for the rest of his time in the US. Allan was working with meagre resources at this stage, but managed to get some more help from Peter Quenet at Ford and Babich once again, to make the next round at Bryar in New Hampshire. The tight Bryar circuit was only 2.4km long and had five corners tighter than 90 degrees, so it could be considered equivalent to the original Winton circuit in Victoria: very tight and hard on the big cars.
Bryar, New Hampshire
Allan didnt make the best of starts in the race, getting away in tenth, behind six V8s, Kwechs Alfa and the factory supported Cortinas of the Alan Mann team. But the leading Barracuda blew its engine after only nine laps, putting Bob Tulliuss Dodge Dart in the lead. Bob Johnsons Mustang then attacked the Dart; the two V8s battling it out for the next hour until Johnson took the lead. Further back, Allans Goodyears were coming on strong and he made short work of Kwech, and then the Alan Mann cars, to be running in sixth.
Chasing down a Barracuda
After battling past the other Mustangs and Barracudas and he now sat in third place. At 1/3 race distance, Allan slipped past Tullius into second place and started after Johnson. Johnson and he swapped places in a prolonged duel until at last Allan took the lead when the Mustang began overheating and blew a head gasket. Now Allan led fairly easily, even managing time for a routine fuel stop without losing the lead. Allan ran out the 400km to win by a lap from a Barracuda, while Kwech and Andrey were two laps down in third in the Alfa.
Taking the chequered flag
Allan was naturally ecstatic: - After the race I asked Horst (Kwech) what he thought when I lapped him and he said, typical Moffat, youll just go off into the sunset and blow-up. I asked him what he thought when I lapped him the second time and he said, I thought Id better pull my finger out.
The spoils of victory
By Allans own admission, it was the most important win of his career. The Alfas and Cortinas would never beat the V8s again, and Allan was now considered a talent worthy of being given a paid drive.