Muscle Man: John Sheppard
He mastermind the success of the Geoghegans, of Bob Jane’s team, and Brock’s A9X Bathurst wins.
With an astonishing 13 national championships and two Bathurst 1000 victories to his name, John Sheppard is arguably the most successful crew chief in local racing. Here he reviews his stellar career, and the often stormy relationships with his champions – the Geoghegans, Beechey, Jane, Brock and Francevic.
John Sheppard often says he has “a shocking attention span”, as a way of explaining the constant changes during a career in which he guided the fortunes of some of the biggest names in the sport. While it’s true he moved around a lot, he’s probably doing himself a disservice.
You don’t win 13 national championships and two Bathurst 1000s as a crew chief unless you have enormous ability and an appetite for new challenges. Sheppard wasn’t one to hang around and repeat past glories; his was a sharp mind that required new stimulation. Combined with a no-nonsense and dogmatic – some might say prickly – approach, and you had someone who wasn’t afraid of walking away from some of the giant talents and egos that made our great sport so fascinating during its glory days.
Five years with the Geoghegans in Sydney established the young Sheppard as probably the best mechanic in the sport – he was named ‘Mechanic of the Year’ in 1966 – with titles in open-wheelers, sports cars and touring cars. To further prove his adaptability, he then dabbled with speedway and won an Australian Speedcar Championship.
A brief stint with Norm Beechey was followed by the rst phase in an enduring love-hate relationship with Bob Jane that netted Jane a pair of touring car titles (1971-72) in the Camaro and sports car titles for John Harvey. Sheppo then built the famous Torana-Repco Sports Sedan.
He also created Pete Geoghegan’s Craven Mild Monaro and famously took over the Marlboro Holden Dealer Team from Harry Firth. In two massively successful seasons, he and Peter Brock cleaned up. He tried to walk away from motor racing but returned to the spotlight with Volvo in 1986, winning another ATCC with Kiwi rebrand Robbie Francevic before the team imploded.
Sheppard continued working on various racing, building and restoration projects for another two decades, including close involvement with Bob Jane’s Thunderdome and NASCAR racing, before nally retiring from “gainful employment” at the age of 75. He was recognised with an Australian Sports Medal for services to motor sport. He is now 82, married to Eileen for 61 years, and has three daughters and 12 grandchildren.