Aaron Noo­nan

Australian Muscle Car - - Maniac -

If there’s any­thing I am as pas­sion­ate about in my sport­ing in­ter­ests as my deep love of mo­tor­sport, it’s Aussie Rules football.

I love the game; I love how it’s such a huge part of where I live in Mel­bourne. There’s noth­ing like a quiet ale (or two) and a pie in the outer with mates at the mighty MCG on a briskly cold win­ter’s day.

As a long-time Hawthorn sup­porter, I’ve wit­nessed an amaz­ing era as the Hawks played in four con­sec­u­tive grand nals and lifted the Premier­ship Cup three times in a row from 2013 to 2015.

Of all of the times I have watched my team play in per­son, I saw its for­mer cap­tain and nowre­tired star Sam Mitchell play a huge chunk of his 307 games with the Hawks.

Yet, for all of the games I watched Mitchell in ac­tion in the #5 jumper, I never picked up his loose con­nec­tion to mo­tor­sport, one I only came to un­der­stand when read­ing his re­cently re­leased au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Re­lent­less.

You see, Sam’s fa­ther Wayne is the same Wayne Mitchell that raced To­rana tour­ing cars in the 1970s.

In­deed, the same Wayne Mitchell who sold his L34 To­rana to some bloke called Peter Brock in 1976 – that car be­came the Team Brock en­try driven by ‘PB’.

It went on to win that year’s Hang Ten 400 at Sandown and nished a de­layed third at Bathurst with Brock and brother Phil driv­ing.

Kiwi-born Mitchell drove in a hand­ful of Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship rounds that year and the next – in­clud­ing nish­ing sev­enth in the ’76 Ade­laide In­ter­na­tional Race­way round.

Now 64, he runs his own sur­vey­ing busi­ness in Vermont in the outer sub­urbs of Mel­bourne.

I was in­trigued to learn a bit more about a pri­va­teer tour­ing car racer of the 1970s that has some­how man­aged to es­cape be­ing ‘col­lared’ in print for a chat about his rac­ing past – so I called him and he was only too happy to oblige by tak­ing me back to where it all started.

“My one and prob­a­bly only ‘fa­ther/son’ out­ing was to Calder Race­way when I was 14 or 15 and Norm Beechey was run­ning his HT Monaro,” re­calls Mitchell of what hooked him into mo­tor rac­ing.

“I re­mem­ber look­ing at this thing ab­so­lutely gob-smacked. I guess that’s why I ended up mostly with yel­low cars – the To­rana, a yel­low Kawasaki bike and now a yel­low ski boat – I’m sure I picked it up that day watch­ing Beechey.

“I was 21 or 22 around the time of the L34 To­ranas. I had ab­so­lutely noth­ing; I didn’t even have a road car! My mates used to tow me around. I was just hav­ing some fun; the old man thought I was an id­iot do­ing it!

“I had a road-go­ing L34 and I did some drag rac­ing in it, but that was a bit bor­ing be­cause it was all over in 12 or 14 sec­onds, so I put a cage in it and did a bit of low-key cir­cuit rac­ing.

“That type of car was ex­actly what Brock and his lit­tle team were look­ing for, so they bought it and I took the cash and put a bit more with it and bought the ex-Dust­ings car.

“When the A9X stuff came out, I didn’t have enough money to up­date to an A9X – I made $10,000 a year at the time and my race car ran on that!

“When I nished with it, L34s were worth noth­ing, so I turned it back into a road car and sold it.”

Mitchell’s mo­tor­sport in­ter­est and work in sur­vey­ing came to­gether in the 1980s too – he ended up do­ing sur­vey­ing work on the con­struc­tion of the Calder Park Thun­der­dome.

Look­ing back, he reck­ons there’s one thing he was miss­ing that would have been a huge help in his time in mo­tor­sport.

“When I look back I just re­ally wish I had a men­tor to tell me what to do,” he says.

“I look at the path­way Sam’s taken though football and ev­ery­where those guys go, there’s peo­ple guid­ing them, telling them what to do.

“I guess if you come from a rac­ing fam­ily you would have the same thing to a de­gree, but all I had was that I liked go­ing fast! I learned af­ter a while that race cars run on one thing, money.”

Mitchell is still a keen fol­lower of mo­tor­sport, drop­ping in to the Sandown 500 re­cently for a look. He keeps tabs on Su­per­cars, F1 and Mo­toGP, but spends more time now in ski rac­ing.

“I run a ski race boat now, it runs a twin turbo un­lim­ited in­board – we’re out there pick­ing up a few plac­ings. We’re go­ing fast that’s for sure – it still keeps the com­pet­i­tive juices ow­ing; you’ve got to do some­thing in life!”

One thing that struck me is that Mitchell never man­aged to make a Bathurst 1000 start. He was en­tered for the 1976 race in the exDust­ings L34 with John Mc­Cor­mack but didn’t make it to the event.

“I got an en­try in for Bathurst and it got ac­cepted, but I couldn’t come up with the money to make it all hap­pen,” he says.

“That was about the end of the line for me with rac­ing.”

This might just be the start of the line of a new chal­lenge for me though – time to read a few more sport­ing au­to­bi­ogra­phies and hunt down some more mo­tor­sport links…

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