In the ‘60s, F1 Drivers Wintered by Racing in the Tasman Series

Back in the days of Formula One’s 1.5-liter years, there was no winter off-season for the best drivers. Once the Grands Prix in Europe were over, drivers and teams flew down New Zealand and Australia to compete against the locals, who put up quite a fight.


The Tasman Series was a function of restrictive Formula One engine rules and sunshine. The rules allowed the use of big 2.5-liter engines, which had been outlawed in Formula One after 1960, and the races were organized in the Austral winter, from January to March. The result was a rather high-level championship which served as a prelude to the Formula One season and a way for the drivers to make more money. These were years before being a Formula One driver automatically meant being a millionaire.

It is perhaps no coincidence that the best years of the Tasman Series, organized between 1964 and 1975, were also the heyday of Australian and Kiwi drivers: Bruce McLaren, Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme, Frank Gardner and Chris Amon were all racing in both Europe and the Tasman Series at the time. Their competition included some of the best European Formula One drivers. Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart all raced in the Tasman Series.


Jim Clark, driving various Lotuses, won three of the first five championships. The video above shows him on his way to his first, winning the 1965 Warwick Farm International, the fifth race of the seven-race season. His car was a Formula Two Lotus 32, made deliciously Australian by replacing its 1.0-liter engine with a 2.5-liter Coventry Climax.

A few years after big engines were allowed in Formula One again, drivers stopped coming to Tasman Series races and it lost its high profile. The last championship was organized in 1975.

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Fred Smith

Sprint car drivers still do this, from both ends. if you go to a local sprint car race in september, don't be surprised to see a few people finalizing travel plans to australia.