Steve Nor­moyle

Australian Muscle Car - - Editor’s Induction -

In 1981 I was fresh out of school. To­wards the end of that year I got to­gether with a bunch of mates and (with the four of us jammed in­side a ’78-model Corolla) set off on the 880km trip from Sydney to Mel­bourne. Or to Calder Park, to be more pre­cise. It was the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive run­ning of the Aus­tralian Grand Prix at that venue, and cir­cuit owner Bob Jane had not spared the ex­pense in bring­ing some big names down un­der for the race. Some very big names in fact: the just-crowned world cham­pion Nel­son Pi­quet, along with bit­ter ri­val and the man he’d just de­posed as world champ, our own Alan Jones, as well as French ace Jac­ques Laf­fite and sev­eral other top names.

To see such a heavy­weight lineup of in­ter­na­tional stars rac­ing in Aus­tralia, in brand new, neari­den­ti­cal Ralt RT4 open­wheel­ers – and with lo­cals like Larry Perkins, John Bowe, John Smith and Al­fredo Costanzo thrown into the mix as well – was not some­thing we were go­ing to miss. It was a mem­o­rable week­end that didn’t dis­ap­point.

One clear rec­ol­lec­tion I have is of when we ar­rived at the Calder cir­cuit on race morn­ing. To our dis­be­lief, the man wav­ing his arms about di­rect­ing traf­fic into the venue’s car park was none other than Bob Jane!

Why on earth Jane was the car park at­ten­dant that day, I do not know. Maybe it was a sim­ple case of a job that wasn’t be­ing done, but which needed to be done. An­other job for Bob.

Bob Jane was a man who got things done – on and off the track.

Jane must have spent a small for­tune on bring­ing out so many top in­ter­na­tional stars for each of the ve AGPs Calder hosted. But that surely paled in com­par­i­son to the enor­mous nan­cial com­mit­ment he made a few years later with the con­struc­tion of the 1.8km NASCAR banked oval, the Calder Thun­der­dome.

It was ul­ti­mately un­suc­cess­ful, but Jane’s Thun­der­dome – the only such venue in the south­ern hemi­sphere – brought NASCAR rac­ing down un­der, and hosted the rst ever NASCAR Win­ston Cup race out­side of North Amer­ica.

Jane was a track owner, pro­moter, spon­sor (the driv­ers he’s helped over the years is too long to list here) and a driver. His ca­reer record sits com­fort­ably along­side our very best: there are not many other driv­ers with four Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onships and four Great Race wins to their name. And no one other than Jane has won the Great Race four times in a row.

As a driver Jane was a vir­tual house­hold name – although some of his cars starred al­most as much as the man him­self. Among them were the Im­proved Pro­duc­tion/Sports Sedan HQ Monaro GTS 350, the winged Repco V8 To­rana XU-1 and the big daddy of them all, the 427ci Ca­maro ZL1.

For many, Jane’s Ca­maro and the early ‘70s era in which it reigned re­mains the highpoint of our tour­ing car rac­ing his­tory. The 427 Ca­maro, Allan Mof­fat’s Boss 302 Mus­tang, Norm Beechey’s Monaro GTS 350 and Ian Geoghe­gan’s ‘Su­per Falcon’ – bru­tal, charis­matic mus­cle cars driven by larger-than-life char­ac­ters, some of whom were barely even on speak­ing terms with one an­other – at­tracted huge, spell­bound crowds.

The fe­ro­cious an­i­mos­ity that ex­isted be­tween Jane and Mof­fat added a fur­ther di­men­sion to the drama – modern-day driver ri­val­ries in Su­per­cars rac­ing seem like child’s play by com­par­i­son.

Jane had his friends and his en­e­mies. He could be com­bat­ive (to put it mildly!); he cer­tainly was not one to suf­fer fools gladly. If a ght on prin­ci­ple was to be had, then Jane was al­ways up for it – and his ghts with CAMS over is­sues re­gard­ing the run­ning of his cir­cuits were leg­endary.

When CAMS ini­ti­ated its Mo­tor Sport Hall of Fame in 2016, Jane was among the in­au­gu­ral inductees. While his in­clu­sion was a no-brainer, it may well have re­quired the pass­ing of the 20 or so years since he and CAMS were fac­ing one an­other in court for the bit­ter­ness to suf­fi­ciently fade.

In­deed, at the award cer­e­mony, the then-86 year-old Jane kicked off his ac­cep­tance speech by point­ing out that there were some CAMS of­fi­cials in the room he would like to see strapped to a rocket...

Bob Jane was a tow­er­ing gure in the his­tory of Aus­tralian mo­tor­sport. He will be missed – we sim­ply won’t ever see his like again.

To mat­ters far more pedes­trian, you may have no­ticed a dif­fer­ent nog­gin at the top of this page. That’s be­cause I’m hold­ing the fort for this is­sue while our es­teemed ed­i­tor Luke West takes his fam­ily on a well-earned hol­i­day in the US. Luke will be back in time for is­sue #106 – no doubt with lots of tales from the land of Ca­maros and Mus­tangs (and Dodge Chal­lengers).

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