8 October 2021 | General

TASMAN TALES: ’69 – the Kiwi’s grab the crown

After four years of British drivers winning, New Zealander Chris Amon won the Tasman Series in 1969, ahead of Austrian Jochen Rindt with Englishman Piers Courage third.

Amon was second the year before and attacked ’69 more seriously with two Ferrari 246T/69s, four 300 bhp 24-valve engines, for himself and teammate Derek Bell.

Previous year-by-year Tasman Series reports

1964 – The First Summer Series
1965 – Clark’s Campaign
1966 – Stewart’s Tasman Title
1967 – Clark Doubles Up
1968Clark and Amon battle in ’68

Graham Hill and new teammate Rindt had Lotus 49Bs while the only other overseas entry was Frank Williams who had a Brabham BT24-Ford for Courage. Jack Brabham would only contest the last two rounds.

The major change was in appearance of the cars with the addition of the big biplane-type wings, some that had manual in-cockpit adjustment.

The series opened at Pukekohe with the 16th NZ GP which Amon won for the second time. He led home Rindt who was the race leader for the first 18 laps. Along with third placed Courage, they were the only drivers to finish on the lead lap.

Next were Bell and Leo Geoghegan (Lotus-Repco) one and two laps behind respectively. New Zealander Graeme Lawrence (McLaren-Ford FVA) was sixth, a further two laps behind. Hill lasted only 12 laps before going out with a broken ball joint.

Frank Gardner (Mildren-Alfa) was wheeled off the grid with fuel pump troubles, started 15 laps late, and retired after a further 17 laps. The start was held up further when Rindt’s tachometer failed, and then Bryan Faloon leapt out of his blazing cockpit right in front of the members’ stand.

Amon took a thrilling victory at Levin, in front of Courage. The pressure was on throughout and Amon never had a moment’s respite where Rindt and Courage also led. Rindt’s car was wrecked in an accident. Hill broke a driveshaft in the early stages and never looked a threat.

Gardner and Geoghegan were third and fourth. Lawrence was fifth, defeating Graham McRae (McRae-Ford twin-cam) by a narrow margin for 1.6 litre honours.

Gold Leaf Team Lotus completely dominated the 15th Lady Wigram Trophy. High tyre wear and hot weather failed to stop Rindt who led all the way.

Around 30 seconds behind, Hill was second with Amon and Courage right behind him. Fifth and also on the lead lap, was Bell. Three laps down and sixth came Roly Levis (1.6 Brabham BT23C-FVA) after a lengthy tussle with Lawrence.

Courage romped in at Teretonga with Hill second and Amon who led from the start, placed third. The latter led initially, but only for a few laps as Courage forced his way past. Amon battled hard to keep second spot, as Hill applied the pressure until he got past.

For Rindt, a half shaft broke on the start line, meant he only went a few metres. Bell who was behind him, shunted the Lotus but was able to continue. Gardner fourth, a lap in arrears, followed by Bell and Levis. Lawrence retired with clutch trouble.

Amon started the Australian Grand Prix at Lakeside from pole and drove to victory, with his teammate Bell second and both a lap ahead of Geoghegan. Two laps behind was Hill fourth while fifth and sixth went to 1.6 litre cars of Niel Allen (McLaren) and Max Stewart (Brabham-Alfa), both four laps down.

Only eight survived the gruelling race, with seventh going to Brit Malcolm Guthrie in his F2 Brabham and eighth to Glyn Scott in a locally-built Bowin 1600.

Despite pouring rain, Rindt comfortably won at Warwick Farm, 44.9 seconds ahead of Bell. Third and fourth, one lap behind, came Gardner and teammate Kevin Bartlett. Geoghegan was fifth a further two laps behind after a race-long duel with Allen who was sixth, and first of the F2 cars.

On lap one Courage surged ahead of Amon out of the Causeway to be second, but he entered Polo too quickly and spun. Amo tried to avoid him, but the cars hit right rear wheel to right rear wheel, breaking the Ferrari’s rear upright and the Brabham’s wishbone. Hill had pitted with wet ignition.

Amon took out the final round at Sandown Park, beating Rindt. Brabham (Brabham BT31B-Repco) finished third one lap behind, with fourth and fifth going to Gardner and Bell, who were only 1.2 seconds apart at the end.

Sixth was Hill who had his throttle linkage come adrift on lap one, lost a lot of time in the pits, and finished three laps behind the winner.