New Zealand Classic Car - - Motorsport Flashback - Pho­tos: Terry Mar­shall Jim Mur­doch in the Begg 018 at Levin in 1975

To say that Jim Mur­doch adapted well to the power of For­mula 5000 is some­thing of an un­der­state­ment. He went from the Begg JM1 For­mula Ford to the fi­nal car to come out of Ge­orge’s famed ‘Toyshop’ in Drum­mond with seam­less ease. The in­crease in power was close to five­fold, but Jim had wings-and-slicks ex­pe­ri­ence from when he’d run For­mula At­lantic in the UK. As he ex­plained, “It was about the same cost as do­ing For­mula Ford.” The JM1 (so named be­cause Ge­orge Begg rec­og­nized Jim’s part in the car’s de­sign and con­struc­tion) took Mur­doch to run­ner-up in the New Zealand cham­pi­onship, the car run­ning in or­ange livery that broke with Begg’s tra­di­tional ‘farm ma­chin­ery yel­low.’

Jim ex­plained the rea­son be­hind that colour change, “I don’t like yel­low so I con­vinced Ge­orge we should do it Mclaren or­ange.”

That was an easy sell, but for the 18th and fi­nal Begg — the 018 — there was a con­ces­sion. The main part of the body would be royal blue, but with ‘Begg yel­low’ wings. The fin­ished prod­uct looked much more ar­row-like than did the pre­vi­ous bul­bous Begg FM5.

Af­ter a dif­fi­cult in­tro­duc­tion in the Gold Star rounds in late 1974, the new combo wasn’t given much hope in the Tas­man Cham­pi­onship that kicked off at Levin over the first week­end of Jan­uary. Jim strug­gled through to bring the poor-han­dling car home sixth.

A week later at Pukekohe for the Grand Prix and, af­ter an in­spired de­ci­sion by Ge­orge to start on rain tyres, a force­ful Mur­doch went from sixth on the grid to sec­ond by the end of the first lap. Aus­tralian War­wick Brown con­trolled the race out front, but de­spite a spin, Jim kept hard at it. Big names dropped by the way­side as the Begg ploughed on, with Mur­doch hav­ing the race of his life to bring the Begg home in run­ner-up spot.

So, was Ge­orge over the moon, or ready to scold his driver for not win­ning? “He was pretty chuffed,” re­calls the driver 40 years later. To put ic­ing on the cake, Jim was pre­sented with the Bruce Mclaren Me­mo­rial Tro­phy for the first Kiwi home by Bruce’s dad, Les — that link be­ing par­tic­u­larly strong given that Ge­orge had worked at Mclaren in 1968, and Jim af­ter that.

Across the Ditch

The points then dried up for the Begg équipe at Wi­gram and Tere­tonga, but the cam­paign in Australia went from bad to worse as the car was with­drawn due to a tired en­gine at Oran Park, while Ade­laide pre­sented cool­ing is­sues that hadn’t been ap­par­ent in New Zealand. >

Since the Tas­man Cham­pi­onship started Kiwi driv­ers have dom­i­nated the se­ries, and an Aus­tralian had never won over­all honours. That changed in 1975

The for­get­table sortie was capped off by a dam­aged car at Sandown in the se­ries fi­nale. The other Ki­wis in that race were Graeme Lawrence, Chris Amon and Kenny Smith — and for the for­mer, it was a cham­pi­onship show­down. The Hamil­to­nian went into the fi­nal race with 30 points from wins at Levin and Ade­laide while, re­mark­ably, also on 30 points were Aus­tralian-mounted Aussies Brown and John­nie Walker. In ad­di­tion to win­ning at Pukekohe, Brown had won at Oran Park. Walker, mean­while, had won at Surfers and then fin­ished ei­ther third or fourth in ev­ery other race. The re­main­ing rounds had been won by Gra­ham Mcrae ( Wi­gram) and Amon (Tere­tonga).

For Lawrence it was a case of get­ting back to where he’d been prior to the enor­mous ac­ci­dent in the Grand Prix at Pukekohe in 1972. That crash had de­stroyed his Lola T300, and nearly de­stroyed him. He’d re­turned with an F2 Sur­tees be­fore get­ting the newer T332 in time for the 1974 se­ries. Although he was com­pet­i­tive, it wasn’t un­til 1975 that it all started com­ing to­gether again, as he re­calls 40 years on, “I was very com­fort­able with the car — and very com­fort­able with my­self.” He re­calls win­ning the 1975 se­ries opener at Levin where he’d had a good battle with Brown — the Syd­neysider prob­a­bly the favourite to take the ti­tle from the out­set, and ul­ti­mately he’d “won the race fairly early on. But it was a grouse battle for a while — we both stopped for more fuel and pretty much ran at the front the whole time.”

By the end of the four races in New Zealand the points ta­ble showed Brown and Lawrence both on 15 points, Walker with 13, while Amon and Mcrae both had nine each from their re­spec­tive wins. Then the three ti­tle con­tenders won the next three races in suc­ces­sion, mean­ing that they each had iden­ti­cal points af­ter seven of the eight rounds.

Sat­is­fy­ing Victory

For Lawrence, the win at Ade­laide was en­joy­able be­cause he had Brown and Walker on his tail, “It’s hard to say which was the more sat­is­fy­ing victory. War­wick was a hard charger — but a good, clean driver.” As for Walker, Graeme re­calls him as “very good — a bit stead­ier than WB.”

Like Lawrence and Brown, Walker was run­ning a Lola T332 — but uniquely he had for­saken the ubiq­ui­tous Chevrolet for the Repco Holden. The South Aus­tralian, how­ever, put him­self out of con­tention right at the start, and GL re­mem­bers the crash vividly — “Oh it was a big one, al­right.”

So, now the cham­pi­onship was down to just the Kiwi and the Aussie.

Since the Tas­man Cham­pi­onship had started, an Aus­tralian had never won it — Graeme had fa­mously beaten all the V8s in the first year of F5000 in the ex-amon Fer­rari Dino, but that was five years ear­lier, and he’d been through a lot since. In the race, both Brown and Lawrence had prob­lems — with Graeme’s putting him out with nine laps to go — but the Aus­tralian ploughed on to fin­ish sixth, good enough for the fi­nal point, and to snatch the ti­tle from un­der the Kiwi’s nose.

That se­ries also saw Kenny Smith fi­nally shake the ‘small car’ driver tag, as he be­came in­creas­ingly com­fort­able with the 5.0-litre V8-pow­ered cars, and he steered his Lola T332 to a run­ner-up fin­ish at Surfers. It would seem the tran­si­tion proved suc­cess­ful, as four decades on he’s still hard at it.

1975 Tas­man Cham­pion, War­wick Brown (Pat Burke Rac­ing Lola T332) at Wi­gram

Wi­gram 1975 — Gra­ham Mcrae leads off in the first lap fol­lowed by War­wick Brown

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