Bathurst 1977 winning co-driver Jacky Ickx has only been back to Australia a couple of times since playing his part in arguably the Great Race’s most famous victory. So to hear his recollections we had to catch-up with him, fittingly, at Le Mans.
It’s been 40 years but Jacky Ickx has clear memories of the day he won the Bathurst 1000. The Belgian superstar, who raced in Formula 1 for Ferrari and went on to win Le Mans six times as well as the ParisDakar and more than 50 other major events, is positively bubbling.
“I remember having driven the Falcon and also that Allan Moffat was extremely quick and performing so well with these cars,” he tells AMC.
“You can imagine, as a small Belgian, arriving in Bathurst and winning with Allan Moffat. It was perfect. It was good. And I like the idea it is still the case today.”
Jacques Bernard Ickx contributed to what is likely the most famous victory in Bathurst history, sharing the Ford Falcon hardtop that Allan Moffat led to the 1-2 formation finish at Mount Panorama in 1977.
His eyes are shining bright as we sit in the Porsche hospitality unit at Le Mans in France. Ickx is keeping a close eye on the Le Mans action in his role as a Porsche ambassador, but his memories are much further away as he begins to talk.
“You leave Sydney to fly over the Blue Mountains to Bathurst. And there was an unbelievable crowd. It was the number one race in Australia,” Ickx recalls. “It’s a kind of Le Mans in a way. You camp for the weekend.
“It’s all about the atmosphere, like here at Le Mans. The people who come, they really enjoy it. And there are many aspects.
“Bathurst was not an easy track. I remember a long downhill with a jump, two 90-degree corners then up the hill, some twisty parts uphill, not so easy, especially with the Falcon, you never know where it will end – you know it’s the car that drives you, not you; you have no control over it.”
So how did a former F1 star come to be racing with Moffat in a Falcon in October 1977, a few short months after his third consecutive victory at Le Mans?
His memory is a little hazy, but he recalls meeting at a sports car event. “Maybe I met him at Le Mans. He said I would like Bathurst.
“He made the connection that I was available because I was unsuccessful in Formula 1. And it was not an easy period of time for me, with a lot of questions and no answers.”
But Ickx’s troubles, and a time when it was possible to race a wide range of cars, were good for Moffat.
“You know, on that period of time, most of the drivers were able to drive all sorts of categories simply because there was a lot of freedom. We were fairly amateur. Called professional, but amateurs.
“You were able to drive Ford saloon cars and Ferrari sports cars at the same time in ’68. We had huge freedom. And not even any talk by anyone about being exclusive.
“Everybody did it. And that’s why it makes that era so different. Now, a young one, even if you do it well, you’re exclusively in your one category.
“I won more than 50 major races: Sebring, Daytona; I won Dakar; I did the CanAm. Today you cannot do that anymore.” For Ickx, there was another Bathurst attraction. “Of course, I was flattered,” he smiles. Things changed when he drove the car, discovering how difficult the Falcon could be and how quickly his team leader was able to lap at Mount Panorama.
“It was a big challenge. It wasn’t easy for me to drive and cope with Allan Moffat. He was fast, really fast.
“It was huge, it was a big car. It was like driving a NASCAR car in a way.
“When you come out of a sports car, like the Ferrari 312 I was driving, it was fairly unstable and fairly heavy. And fairly hard to stop. You had to press the pedal, that I can tell you. “That’s why I say Allan was driving very well.” There has been talk for decades that Ickx was too hard on the Falcon, triggering the brake problems that allowed Colin Bond to close on his team leader in the closing laps of the race.