Nav­i­gat­ing a course

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Man -

It was prob­a­bly in­evitable that Phil West ended up rac­ing at Mount Panorama.

“When I was 11 or 12 we moved to Bathurst from Townsville,” he ex­plained. “In 1952 and 1953, I walked around Bathurst sell­ing pro­grams. It never oc­curred to me I could ever af­ford to go rac­ing.”

West’s rac­ing ca­reer be­gan in an un­likely way, when the qual­i­fied me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer de­cided his new road car might be too much of a chal­lenge.

“I was mar­ried and liv­ing in Fair­field in Syd­ney in 1962. The wife wanted a Re­nault Floride and I bought a Mor­gan Plus 4. The Mor­gan Car Club was pretty ac­tive back then,” he re­mem­bers.

“It was so bloody quick, com­pared to all the MGs and things I had had, I fig­ured I’d kill my­self. So I de­cided to do a bit of hill-climb­ing to teach my­self how to drive it. I just went to have some fun in a mo­tor car. I had no plan or no ex­pec­ta­tion. That led to a Lo­tus 20, then the lit­tle Brab­ham. It didn’t oc­cur to me that it was a stupid thing. I just keep do­ing it. I spent ev­ery cent I had for years.

“I bought the Lo­tus 20 to find out if I could drive. It came from Kurt Keller Mo­tors. It was very sec­ond­hand. It was a ’62 model and I bought it in 1965. They had the Cos­worth 105E Anglia en­gine and if it was a good one they had 100 brake horse­power.”

For West – no relation to Des West or AMC’s ed­i­tor – the lessons came quickly as he got to the front.

“Lo­tus 20s at War­wick Farm were a prime ex­am­ple of driv­ing. About fifty peo­ple raced then and 44 of them did 1 minute 52 seconds. Six of us did 1:46. That’s light years, and it was the dif­fer­ence be­tween drift­ing [through cor­ners] and not drift­ing.

West’s abil­ity was ob­vi­ous to stam­mer­ing Scud­e­ria Ve­loce Rac­ing boss David McKay, who had close ties to Fer­rari, plus a stel­lar driver line-up in­clud­ing Spencer Martin, Bill Brown and even Jackie Ste­wart as guest driver.

That meant West got to drive a range of cars in var­i­ous classes, from a pro­duc­tion Monaro to a Fer­rari GTB and the Brab­ham.

“A lot of peo­ple didn’t like David, but I did. He was still quick. But it was al­ways a strug­gle to get the money to­gether.”

He re­calls driv­ing the Fer­rari GTB coupe in a three-car team for SV in the 6-hour race at Surfers Par­adise, along­side a P4 and 250LM.

“It was a f**king aw­ful mo­tor car. Com­ing into Lukey Cor­ner, over the back, I was brak­ing at 180 yards while the oth­ers were at 80. It had com­plete and ut­ter rear-end break­away,” West re­calls wryly.

He also has clear mem­o­ries of the con­trast with the early Monaro, dur­ing test­ing at the same track.

“The Fer­rari was do­ing 154 down the straight, the Monaro about 124. The Fer­rari was on 10-inch-wide Dun­lop rac­ing tyres with in­board disc brakes and the Holden was on Miche­lin XAS road tyres. But it was six seconds quicker around the cir­cuit than the Fer­rari. That was some­thing that re­ally opened my eyes, and since then I’ve not been the least bit in­ter­ested in the badge on the front.”

Top and right: This story stemmed from a chat with Jim Palmer for is­sue #67’s HDRT story. Jim won­dered what­ever hap­pened to West. A mate of Phil’s saw the story and prompted him to drop us a line. Above: He raced for David McKay’s Scud­e­ria Ve­loce team. This is the Surfers Par­adise en­duro. Be­low: West raced un­til he an­swered a key ques­tion in his mind.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.