13 August 2021 | General

TASMAN TALES: McLaren’s 1964 win opens Tasman Series story

After a series of unrelated races in Australia and New Zealand from 1960 to 1963, Warwick Farm promoter Geoff Sykes together with the Confederation of Australian Motorsport and the Association of New Zealand Car Clubs Inc formulated the Tasman Cup, a summer series made up of four races on each side of the Tasman Sea.

It was open to racing cars, similar to the then-current Formula One machines but utilising F1 engine rules that were obligatory up to 1960. So effectively, obsolete 2.5 litre F1 engines were eligible.

British-based Kiwis and Aussie expatriates relished their return to home soils and dominated the inaugural series. Denny Hulme won the opening round before Bruce McLaren took out the next three. Over to Australia it was Jack Brabham who won rounds five to seven. But even if he scored four in row it wouldn’t be enough win the series. That race went to Great Britain’s Graham Hill while McLaren who finished second, took the trophy.

The first round was the Vic Hudson Memorial at Levin. In front of 14,000, Hulme in a Brabham BT7A-Climax, passed American Timmy Mayer on lap nine to lead to the finish. Mayer maintained second ahead of his Cooper T70 Climax teammate McLaren, and the similarly-mounted Tasmanian John Youl.

Brabham opted for a limited Kiwi program and made his Tasman Cup debut at Pukekohe, the second round also the New Zealand Grand Prix. He won a heat before staking a narrow lead over McLaren after Mayer was initially in front.

Hulme and Frank Matich (BT7A) also relegated the American, but Mayer would eventually finish third. Matich went out with a blown piston and Brabham tangled with the lapped Tony Shelly and was literally catapulted out of the race.

Shelly and his Lotus/Climax went on to finish behind Youl and NZ’s Jim Palmer (Cooper/Climax). McLaren finally broke through for his first home GP victory at his eighth attempt.

The next round was the Lady Wigram Trophy where McLaren dominated despite starting from eighth. Hulme held second until the final lap where an engine bearing issue allowed Brabham to sneak past. Youl, Palmer and Shelly were the next three finishers.

Hulme looked to have the Teretonga International, the fourth round, in his keeping with a sizable ten-second lead. That was until he came unstuck in the sweeping loop and damaged the Cooper’s suspension. McLaren won over Mayer, Palmer and Shelly.

The Australian leg kicked off at Sandown with the 29th AGP and the opening round of the Australian Drivers’ Championship. It was a tough 63-lapper where only nine of the 24 starters finished. Brabham and race leader McLaren battled through the first half before the latter retired when a conrod went through the block.

Braham recorded a handy win. Bib Stillwell (Brabham BT4/Climax) and Youl hauled in Mayer who laboured with a fuel-related engine miss, yet still managed fourth. Hulme came fifth ahead of Palmer and Arnold Glass (Lotus 25/Ford) in the first of 1.5 litre cars.

At Warwick Farm a week later, Brabham led from the start and kept McLarin in his mirrors throughout. Mayer was third ahead of Hill, Hulme, Stillwell, Shelly and Lex Davison. Matich suffered suspension damage after an off at Creek corner, and Youl stopped when the crown pinion broke.

At Lakeside Matich and Mayer showed the way from the start. The former dipped out first when the engine threw a rod. Several laps later Mayer suffered the same fate at the same spot. The left Brabham in front and he stayed there.

McLaren and Hulme vied for second until they tangled at the Karrasel with just a couple of laps remaining and put Hulme out with a puncture. Youl was the beneficiary as he took second while McLaren settled for third. A lap down were Gardner, Shelly and Glynn Scott in a Lotus 27/Ford.

The final round was at the 4.5 mile (7.2 kilometres) Longford circuit, where racing happened on real roads once a year. The weekend was overshaded with tragedy when Mayer crashed at over 170 kmh into a tree after getting airborne over the hump off King’s Bridge. He died whilst transported to hospital.

Brabham led the first lap from Hill, Stillwell, Matich and McLaren, and after several laps the latter two had relegated Stillwell. Matich was having engine issues and ceded his spot to McLaren before Brabham  disappeared when the Hewland gearbox gave up.

Hill took a ten-second victory over McLaren, Matich stoutly held onto third by a tenth of a second over Youl while Davison was next.

NEXT WEEK: The 1965 series brings more from Brabham, Clark, McLaren, Hill, Gardner, Stillwell and more!



  1. Bruce McLaren (Cooper) 39
  2. Jack Brabham (Repco Brabham) 33
  3. Denny Hulme (Repco Brabham) 23
  4. Timmy Mayer (Cooper) 23
  5. John Youl (Cooper) 21
  6. Graham Hill (Repco Brabham) 12
  7. Bib Stillwell (Repco Brabham) 10
  8. Jim Palmer (Cooper) 9
  9. Tony Shelly (Lotus / Lola) 8
  10. Frank Matich (Repco Brabham) 4