Five new inductees in Australian Motorsport Hall of Fame

One of Australia’s greatest Supercar Drivers, Dick Johnson AM, has inducted five new members into the exclusive Australian Motorsport Hall of Fame.

The ceremony on the Tech stage at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix brings the number of inductees into the Hall of Fame over a period of 124 years to 93.

The late Garrie Cooper, Australia’s most successful domestic race car constructor and a former national sports car champion, heads the honour list across four disciplines of motor sport.

The others are five-time Motocross Champion, Craig Dack; two-time Speedway Sportsman of the Year, Bill Barrows OAM; three-time drag racing Top Eliminator Champion, Graham Withers; and the late Jack Ahearn, who was second in the 1964 World Motorcycle Championship.

Dick Johnson, already a Hall of Fame member, was made a life time Motorsport Australia Member of Honour.

The stellar lineup of heroes was selected by a panel comprising each of the five disciplines of the sport, Motorsport Australia, Motorcycling Australia, Karting Australia, Speedway Australia and the Australian National Drag Racing Association.

The Hall of Fame concept was adopted in 2016 to honour the top tier of achievers and to inspire the next generation of competitors, administrators and volunteers.

Its membership is so exclusive that it accounts for less than one inductee per year since motorsport first began in Australia on 1 January 1900, the day Federation was declared.

Garrie Cooper’s induction was particularly poignant. Several of the cars he built were on display in the Heritage paddock at the Australian Grand Prix and two of them were brought to the ceremony.

Cooper built 248 Elfin racing cars before his death in 1982, aged 46, of heart disease.

About the inductees

Garrie Cooper

Garrie Cooper was Australia’s most successful domestic race car constructor and a multiple national champion.

Garrie was Australian Sports Car Champion, 1.5litre (F2) Champion and winner of the 1968 Singapore Grand Prix, all in cars of his own design and manufacture. He was the driving force behind Elfin sports and racing cars, winners of 29 Australian and International titles.

Elfin Racing cars provided the foundation of some of Australia’s great motor racing careers, amongst them multiple champions John McCormack, John Bowe and Larry Perkins.

Garrie built his first Elfin, the Streamliner, in his first Adelaide workshop in 1959. The design, based on a Lotus 11, was so successful that he completed 22 of them before production moved on in 1963.

Elfin was at the forefront of the adoption of Formula Junior in 1961. It provided a cost efficient alternative to importation.

In 1975 Garrie won the Australian Sports Car Championship in his radical MS7, a car that converted with ease to also be a F5000 open wheeler, providing customers effectively with two cars in one.

His MR9 was the country’s first, and only, ground effects F5000 racing.

Garrie was presented with the Advance Australia Award in recognition of his contribution to the South Australian economy.

He is only the third engineer-constructor to be elevated to the Australian Motorsport Hall of Fame. The others are Phil Irving, designer of the Repco Brabham engine and Ron Tauranac AO, who was Jack Brabham’s engineering partner.

Garrie Cooper died in 1982, aged 46, of heart disease.

Jack Ahearn ASM

Jack Ahearn ASM was a multiple Australian motorcycle champion who became a trail blazer for Australia’s world champions over the past three decades.

In 1964, Ahearn won the Finnish Motorcycle Grand Prix in the senior division and finished second to the great Mike Hailwood in the world championship.

He swore not to remove his winner’s medallion until another Australian won the title. Wayne Gardner did that 23 years later.

Ahearn began flat track racing prior to World War II, set land speed records at the Coonabarabran Sprints and won three Australian Senior TTs at Mount Panorama.

He was nominated as a member of the Auto Cycle Union’s Isle of Man TT team and used it to forge a career in Europe which spanned more than a decade.

He was employed by Suzuki to develop its two stroke four cylinder competitor to the all-conquering Honda Four which carried Kel Carruthers to victory in the World 250cc Championship in 1969.

Ahearn was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for his contribution to motorcycle racing.

He died in 2007, aged 93.

Bill Barrows OAM 

Bill Barrows OAM was twice named Speedway’s Sportsman of the Year in 1980 and 1981, and has been an active and successful competitor, promoter, administrator and active volunteer.

He is credited with being one of the instigators of World Series Sprint Car racing in Australia.

Bill helped build South Australia’s famed Borderline Speedway and elevated the regional circuit to national level when he secured a round of the Australian championship. Borderline was named Speedway of the Year and Bill was made 2018 Speedway Australia’s Volunteer of the Year.

He has been a leading member of the Speedway Promoters Association and president of the sport’s Control Council.

He was second in the Australian Sprint Car Championships, won four state sprint car titles and the 1986 President’s Cup.

Graham Withers

Graham Withers is a three-time Australian Top Eliminator drag racing champion and was runner up on two other occasions. He pioneered drag racing, emulating his American hero Don Garlits.

Withers won his first national title in 1966 in a 1000hp rail dragster only three months after he entered the sport. The category was so new that it was only the second national title held.

Withers was regarded as fearless and escaped several high speed crashes, but went on to become recognised as Australian drag racing’s first full time professional.

His times by today’s standards seem slow but were groundbreaking back then. He claimed his second national title with a pass of 7.87 seconds.

His quest to become the first to crack 200mph (320km/h) was unsuccessful. His fastest achievement was 199.54mph. He crashed trying to find the extra speed.

Graham Withers became a motorsport components innovator. Many of his performance products were taken up the US market.

Craig Dack

Craig Dack is a five-time national Motocross champion and four-time Mr.MX, equalling the remarkable record of fellow Australian Motorsport Hall of Fame inductee, Stephen Gall. Gall won his titles half a decade before Dack.

Dack was arguably Australian Motocross’ first superstar at a time the sport advanced to being televised entertainment. He was given a brandname, the Dack Attack, a title which matched his riding style and his on-air persona.

Dack raced for Australia seven times in the World Motocross of Nations. His best result, with Glenn Bell and Jeff Leisk, was fourth in 1988.

Injury forced Dack to retire from active competition. He went on to become owner and manager of Craig Dack Racing Yamaha, one of the country’s leading and most enduring motocross teams. The team is a talent hub and was responsible for the discovery of world renowned Chad Reed, amongst others.