When a leading a sportsman hits the headlines following a night on the town, I can’t help thinking about past times in my motor sport career.
Had today’s mobile phone/camera technology been around during the ’70s and ’80s, a lot of drivers and crew members would have had a lot of questions to answer.
It was a different era where everybody partied. I distinctly remember the first interstate race meeting I went to. It was at Warwick Farm with the Stillwell team, we were running the Formula Ford and the little Escort.
On the Saturday after practice we went across the road to the Grand Hotel and everybody was there. I can still see KB (Kevin Bartlett), Max Stewart, all the big time Formula 5000 drivers. Norm Beechey, Bob Jane, Jim McKeon… everyone was over there having a beer. Even (Allan) Moffat socialised at different times. It was the done thing to get on the booze on a Saturday night and roll up again at the track on Sunday morning.
Many a time we partied hard on a Saturday night in Kings Cross after racing at Oran Park or Amaroo Park and everybody played the game.
The writing was on the wall though when Bob Jane introduced breath-testing at the Thunderdome. I remember going to a drivers’ briefing when I was racing my HQ Holden and Al Basnight testing me at 8.00 in the morning. I had to wait around and drink a lot of coffee and then take another test because we’d been out for dinner the night before and we’d had a skinful. That was part of the deal back then.
Today it’s a much different thing. Supercars drivers don’t even drink, they are like elite footballers. They don’t drink during the season and if they do its seven days before a race meeting so it is totally out of their system when the meeting begins. They have dieticians and things like that, which we had none of.
Pat was ready to punch-up Moffat over it and probably a lot of people wished he had have done it, but we were always there to protect him.
Interestingly, Peter Brock, Colin Bond, Beechey and Moffat are still rated better than the drivers of today but they lived a normal life. They didn’t go to gyms and have dieticians or anything like that.
Not all of the questionable behaviour involved drinking. I distinctly remember one time when we went to the Las Vegas Formula 1 Grand Prix, which was run in the car park of Caesar’s Palace.
We decided if we ever got lost, we would meet in a particular bar in Caesar’s Palace. There was a bunch of guys from Australia there and the driver I was with ended up with a ‘Miss World’ hanging off each arm.
We sat down and had a few drinks with them, and later we all had lunch. I leaned over to the driver and said, ‘You do realise these aren’t nice little Christian girls, these are girls of the night and they are going to want to be paid”. He replied, “What are you talking about. They came up to talk to me, they are nice girls”. He was so naive he thought they were your everyday pickups. Well, let me tell you, they weren’t, and they wanted plenty.
Fisticuffs were never far away, either. Pat Purcell, who worked for Bob Jane at the time, used to play with Moffat’s mind and you always wondered where it would end up. We had to block Moffat’s vision of Pat at different times on the dummy grid because he would do a number on Moffat by glaring at him.
Pat had a go at Moffat once at Warwick Farm after Allan had run into Bob and spun him off the track. Pat was ready to punch-up Moffat over it and probably a lot of people wished he had have done it, but we were always there to protect him. We used to laugh about it often.