19 September 2021 | General

TASMAN TALES: Clark and Amon battle in ’68

The 1968 Tasman Series was really a two-way contest between Jim Clark in a Lotus 49T-Ford Cosworth DFV V8 and Chris Amon who raced a V6 Ferrari Dino 246 Tasmania.

There was no Jackie Stewart and only limited appearances by Jack Brabham. Furthermore the 1967 world champ Denny Hulme had to use a privately run 1.6 litre Cosworth DFV Formula 2 Brabham due to signing with McLaren.

Previous year-by-year Tasman Series reports

1964 – The First Summer Series
1965 – Clark’s Campaign
1966 – Stewart’s Tasman Title
1967Clark Doubles Up

Clark won the title but sadly, just over a month after the series finished, he was killed in a crash at Hockenheim.

The series opened with the New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe where Amon became the first Kiwi to win since Bruce McLarin in 1964. Mostly he was a close second to Clark until the latter’s engine dropped a valve.

Frank Gardner finished second in the Alfa Romeo V8 powered Brabham BT23A. A flat battery slowed him as he came under attack from Hulme. However Hulme tangled with Laurence Brownlie (Brabham-Ford) where both were catapulted across the track and disintegrated. Hulme was unscathed while Brownlie broke a leg and a foot.

Piers Courage (McLaren M4A/FVA) and the similarly-mounted Jim Palmer were third and fourth while the BRM P261s of Mexico’s Pedro Rodriquez and McLaren retired with clutch failures.

Clark doubled up with victory at Levin after he passed early race leader Gardner. Gardner spun off later and suffered suspension damage, and Clark befell to a similar scenario. Both the Rodriguez who had held second, and McLaren BRMs had fuel related retirements.

At Wigram, Gold Leaf Team Lotus netted its first win when Clark was never headed. Amon finished second, both a lap up on Hulme, Courage, McLaren and Rodriquez. Gardner was running fourth when he blew a head gasket.

McLaren was gifted the Teretonga round when those ahead had spins. Clarke had ruled the race up until he had a 210 kmh off-road excursion, seven laps from the finish. He made a pitstop to remove the damaged nosecone and still finished second. Earlier Amon and Gardner spun in unison whilst second and third.

Gardner ended up third, a lap up on Amon who had another spin, and Courage. Hulme was sixth after a stop to tighten the rear suspension while Rodriguez retired due to his engine detonating.

The Aussie leg started at Surfers Paradise. Graham Hill joined Clark at Gold Leaf Team Lotus for a one-two result. Hill had to work hard to hold off Courage until he had a spin, and then Leo Geoghegan (Lotus 39-Repco) who couldn’t quite match the power of the Cosworth.

Courage retrieved third before the end as gastric ‘flu-ridden Geoghegan soldiered on for fourth ahead of Gardner’s Alex Mildren teammate Kevin Bartlett, and Hulme. Gardner finished ninth, Rodriguez was tenth, and Richard Attwood the Mexican’s RPM teammate in McLaren’s absence, retired before half distance. Amon’s unbeaten run was over with an engine failure.

At Warwick Farm’s sixth round, Clark’s victory gave him the series lead for the first time. There he led home another team one-two with Hill second. Remarkably none of the local Australian 2.5 litre powered cars finished.

Courage was third in front of Amon, Hulme and Rodriquez. Brabham lost two engines in practice and had similar oil leaks in the race, plus a spin and a pitstop to finish seventh in the coupled together Brabham BT21E-Repco.

Geoghegan was out with an oil dump at Creek. Fred Gibson (Brabham-Climax, engine), Greg Cusack (Brabham-Repco, brakes), Max Stewart (Rennmax-Ford, gasket), John Harvey (Brabham-Repco, gearbox), Attwood (gearbox), Bartlett (half shaft) and Gardner (camshaft) were also casualties.

It was scorching hot at Sandow for the Australian Grand Prix as Clark and Amon set the pace out in front. Brabham made a poor start, dropped to fifth before he moved up, ready to take second spot when the engine seized.

The race was a thriller with Amon attacking Clark as they negotiated lapped traffic. They ultimately finished one tenth of a second apart. Hill and Gardner were also battling, and they were split by 0.2 seconds for third and fourth respectively. Courage was lap down and ahead of Attwood, Geoghegan and Bartlett.

The series concluded at Longford where Clark arrived with a six-point advantage over Amon. Heavy downpours caused a delayed start and the race shortened to 15 laps. Courage revelled in the blinding rain to take the win. Gardner had second until he was passed on the final lap by Rodriquez.

Attwood was fourth with Clark’s fifth ensuring the series win. Hill was next from Amon seventh in front of Harvey and John McCormack (Brabham-Climax).