Frank Gardner obituary per BAM Media

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FRANK GARDNER Australian motorsport legend Frank Gardner sadly passed away at his Gold Coast home at the weekend after a long-time battle with illness -- he was 78. Following is the last biography written when he was BMW Team Manager,...

FRANK GARDNER

Australian motorsport legend Frank Gardner sadly passed away at his Gold Coast home at the weekend after a long-time battle with illness -- he was 78.

Following is the last biography written when he was BMW Team Manager, provided by Mike Porter with a couple of inclusions.

I have also taken the liberty of sourcing some tributes from many people who were associated with Frank in many aspects of his life.

Kind Regards
    Brett "Crusher" Murray

FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS

Frank Gardner's Funeral Arrangements
When: Friday, September 4, 2009
Where: Sacred Heart Church, 50 Fairways Drive, Clear Island Waters, Queensland
Time: 1pm

Afterwards: Lakelands Golf Club (Augusta Room), Gooding Drive, Merrimac, Queensland

BIOGRAPHY

Frank Gardner, OAM (born 1.10.30) had more than 40 years involvement in motorsport in Australia and overseas - with activities ranging from racing a Norton motorcycle at Bathurst when it was a dirt road to driving Formula One cars, and making 14 starts in the Le Mans 24-hour sports car classic in France.

Gardner began his motorsport career on two wheels, racing solo speedway motorcycles in the late 1940s. He raced a car for the first time in 1949, an MG, and won. Later he headed overseas to further his career.

He made eight Formula One grand prix starts in 1964 and 1965 driving Brabhams. His rivals included the late Jim Clark and Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, John Surtees, Sir Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, Jochen Rindt, and Denny Hulme.

Later Frank became a works driver in sports cars or touring cars for Porsche, Lola, General Motors, Ford, Brabham, and Lotus. He competed regularly in the Le Mans 24-hour event.

His record overseas included winning the European 5000 Championship, the European Formula Two Championship, the European Touring Car Championship, the British Saloon Car Championship, and the British Champion Racing Driver award.

He was also the first driver to win 100 international races for Ford and was awarded a special trophy to celebrate the occasion by members of the Ford family in Detroit.

Gardner returned home in 1975 and two years later won the Australian Sports Sedan Championship in a Chevrolet Corvair. He retired in 1977.

After retiring from racing, Frank turned to team management, and guided Jim Richards to the Australian Touring Car Championship title in 1985 in a BMW 635csi and in 1987 in a BMW M3.

In 1988 he was team manager for Tony Longhurst and Tomas Mezera when they won the Bathurst 1000 in a turbocharged Ford Sierra.

Gardner retired from being a team manager in 1995 after taking Paul Morris to the Australian Super Touring Championship title in a BMW 318i.

Frank also established the Holden Performance Driving Centre near Norwell, south of Brisbane, conducting courses in motor racing and advanced driving. He was an advocate of road safety and one of the world's foremost authorities on driver training techniques.

His 1980 book -- Drive To Survive -- is still regarded as one of the leading road safety publications ever written.

Apart from motor racing, Gardner excelled in other sports. In 1952 he swam for NSW and was captain and sweep oarsman for the surf life saving crew that won both State and National titles.

He also did seven professional boxing matches that year (1952). He graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from Ultimo Technical College in Australia. Frank was also a keen golfer and had a single-figure handicap for many years.

Over recent years he traveled to Europe regularly to participate or attend events such as the 'Goodwood Festival of Speed'.

FAST FACTS - FRANK GARDNER

DATE OF BIRTH: October 1, 1930, Sydney, NSW
LIVED: Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
SURVIVED BY: Wife of 40 years Gloria, son Steve and daughter Kristin
RACING DEBUT: 1949, MG, Sydney, Australia

CHAMPIONSHIP WINS:
European Touring Car Champion 1965
European Formula Two Champion 1966
British Touring/Saloon Car Champion 1967-68-73
European Formula 5000 Champion 1971
Australian Sports Sedan Champion 1977

LE MANS RECORD:
14 starts 1960s & 1970s

FORMULA ONE RECORD:
Debut British Grand Prix, Brands Hatch 1964
7 grand prix starts 1964 - Brabham-BRM
1 grand prix start 1965 - Brabham-Ford

SUCCESS AS TEAM MANAGER
Jim Richards - Australian Touring Car Championship 1985 (BMW 635csi)
Jim Richards - Australian Touring Car Championship 1987 (BMW M3)
Tony Longhurst & Tomas Mezera - Bathurst 1000 winners 1988 (Ford Sierra)
Tony Longhurst -- Australian Super Touring Championship 1994 (BMW 318i)
Paul Morris - Australian Super Touring Championship 1995 (BMW 318i)

PERSONAL TRIBUTES

SIR JACK BABHRAM -- THREE-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION

"This is just a very, very sad time," said Brabham. "Frank was a friend for so many years and it is sad that it has had to come to an end.

"Frank was different, a real character who everyone loved to have around -- he could make you laugh.

"He had a driving talent -- he could drive anything -- sport cars, single seaters, saloon cars, everything.

"He drove some of our cars for a while and did a great job of that.

JIM RICHARDS -- SEVEN-TIME BATHURST WINNER AND FOUR-TIME AUSTRALIAN TOURING CAR CHAMPION
* Richards won ATCC titles in Frank Gardner managed teams in 1985 and 1987.

"Frank and I raced each other in New Zealand in the early 70s and then again when I moved to Australia," said Richards. "I drove for him from 1982 to 1987 and they were probably best years of my career.

"Frank and Gloria lived in Sydney and I lived in Melbourne. Frank tested and prepared the cars and I just turned up and raced.

"He was a brilliant driver and engineer and we developed a tremendous friendship.

"In all that time I don't think we ever had bad word between each other. We just had a mutual respect for what each other did.

"Unfortunately it takes something like this a lot of the time for people to reflect and realise how great someone was."

TONY LONGHURST -- 1988 BATHURST 1000 WINNER AND 1994 AUSTRALIAN SUPER TOURING CHAMPION, BMW INTERNATIONAL DRIVER OF THE YEAR

"I guess this really is the end of an era,' said Longhurst. "I certainly owe Frank a lot for picking me up and tutoring and supporting me through my career.

"There was never any bullshit about Frank in the way he went about preparing his cars and team.

"I think when I joined him and Jimmy (Richards) he was about 10 years ahead of his time in this county.

"He was so methodical in his car preparation and presentation. He was stubborn in a lot of ways, but in hindsight that thoroughness resulted in reliability and wins and I think a lot of people could learn a lot about that even today.

"It goes without saying that he had an amazing sense of humor and half the time you did not know whether he was joking or serious and that took a little getting used to as a young bloke, but he was fun to be around.

"He was also way ahead of his time in regards to how he serviced sponsors and the relationship he had with companies like BMW, WD & HO Wills, Coca Cola Amatil and Castrol.

"It was also a bit special at Bathurst every year because we shared the same birthday (October 1) and that traditionally fell over Bathurst week.

"To help give him that race as a Team Manager in 1988 was pretty satisfying."

PAUL MORRIS -- WON THE AUSTRALIAN SUPER TOURING TITLE FOR FRANK GARDNER IN 1995.

"It is hard to find the words for someone you owe so much to," said Morris. "Frank was one of the legends of this business and I had the privilege of learning so much from him during the years I was under his wing.

"He led an amazing life and milked every minute from it.

"There were so many nights where we just sat around enjoying a glass of wine and enjoying his endless stories and jokes.

"He was not without fault, but he was one of the most knowledgeable and professional people I have ever dealt with in this sport.

"The word legend is overused a lot in sport, but not in the case of Frank Gardner."

TOMAS MEZERA -- WON BATHURST IN 1988 FOR FRANK GARDNER IN A FORD SIERRA WITH TONY LONGHURST

"I was living in England and only ever drove a couple of races for Frank," said Mezera. "One of those happened to be Bathurst -- not a bad one to win.

"He took a big punt in giving me the drive because I had only really driven single seaters up until then.

"He never had the chance to win the race as a driver, but it was his management that got us the win that day -- it just all worked for us.

"Once I moved to Australia we became great mates on the golf course -- we won a bit on the golf courses of the Gold Coast I can tell you that.

"Unfortunately Frank's quality of life was not that great over the last couple of years, but he was still sharp. I will miss him."

MARCOS AMBROSE -- TWO-TIME AUSTRALIAN V8 SUPERCAR CHAMPION AND CURRENT NASCAR SPRINT CUP DRIVER

"It is always sad to hear news like this," said Ambrose. "Frank was a terrific pioneer for Australian motorsport and was one of the guys who really opened the doors of opportunity for those behind him.

"He really did so much and it was not until I started to look at coming to NASCAR that I realised Frank was the first Australian to run a NASCAR event back in 1968.

"His contribution to Australian motorsport and the cause of road safety was inspiring and something that should be celebrated."

GEOFF BRABHAM -- LE MANS 24-HOUR WINNER

"It's a very sad day,'' said Geoff Brabham, who drove for Gardner in the 1990s. "He was one of the legends because he was very successful overseas and to me that stands people apart from those who only succeed locally.

"He had a big influence with Ford at Le Mans and his managing skills were legendary. He was pretty tough but one of those guys that if you met him head on and argued it out he respected you.

"He was definitely one of the true characters.''

JOHN STONEHAM "STONIE" -- ILLUSTRATOR AND CARTOONIST
* John Illustrated Frank Gardner's 1980 book "Drive to Survive"

"I am just very proud to have known the bloke," said Stoneham. "I was just a lowly old cartoonist, but we had a tremendous friendship which lasted many, many years.

"I spent basically three months with him as we put the illustrations together for Drive To Survive -- in a car, at the dinner table, in the front yard.

"I don't know how many stories and jokes I heard over that time, but there are not too many I can repeat. I was welcomed into his home by his family and that was a privilege.

"I also did hundreds of illustrations for BMW back in Germany to show them things Frank was doing with the car on an engineering front.

"Ironically, despite all the motor racing championships he won, the one he was most proud of was his NSW Junior boxing title. He always said that boxing was a corrupt, dirty and tough sport and he learnt so much from boxing -- hand-eye co-ordination, feet position, and balance -- all those things.

"I am going to miss him -- and the jokes."

BRETT "CRUSHER" MURRAY -- FORMER MEDIA MANAGER

"Frank Gardner was my first motorsport "boss"

"Despite the fact that I was born in the year that he won his first British Saloon Car Championship, Frank always had time for me and provided a level of respect that took me a long time to rightfully earn.

"He did not suffer fools and had little hesitation in drilling me a new butt hole when I thought I was a lot smarter than I actually was, but there was a lesson in every dressing down.

"Being around Frank was always entertaining with his dry sense of humor, his endless story telling and a guest list that read to like a motorsport encyclopaedia -- he introduced me to so many legends of the business.

"One of the toughest days I shared with Frank and the rest of our team came at Bathurst in 1992 after his good friend Denny Hulme died in one of our cars after a suspected heart attack.

"In a wave of emotion I remember writing the required media release and handing it to Gardner in the pit garage for approval.

"He read it and handed it back to me without saying a word -- tears welled in his eyes on a face of sadness I will never forget. For a bloke who grew up in an era where a driver was lost every other week, that was as emotional as I, or most, would ever see him.

"Apart from that, I now will never get the chance to get my cash back on the golf course."

TERRY MORRIS -- FRIEND AND BUSINESS ASSOCIATE

"Frank was a very unique person," said Morris. "He had a great sense of humor and was a great thinker.

"Above all his motorsport achievements I think his real contribution was his book Drive To Survive -- I think his biggest disappointment would have been governments not getting behind his road safety initiatives that were designed to save young people's lives through education.

"Amazingly he could probably drive a race car as fast at 70 as most young 18 year-olds.

"He was the first person to really make a science out of driving by thinking about why things happened -- that was his engineering background.

"He was a wonderful person to have dinner and a glass of wine with. He was never short of joke - we are still not sure where he got them all from."

-credit: bam media

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Series CAMS , F1 , F2 , LEMANS , GENERAL
Article type Obituaries