Home' V8X Supercar Magazine : Oct Nov 2018 Issue 107 Contents SUPERCAR XTRA
“So my sponsor said, ‘Look, we’d like to see you step
into a Porsche, otherwise we’ll have to look for some-
body else that is running a Porsche’. It was at the time
when Alan Jones came back to drive that car for Alan
Hamilton when they first did that GT championship
in 1982, not long after AJ had retired from F1. Bruce
Spicer owned the car that John Latham raced a few
times, which we’re now restoring, and Bruce had some
health issues, so I bought the car from him to satisfy
“I’d never driven a Porsche and I went straight from
turbo with 800 horsepower – a fair bit more than the
Pantera ever had – so I wrestled with that to learn how
to drive it. I finished second to Jones that year. The fol-
lowing year (’83), because I’d had a bit of fun in that 935,
Alan Hamilton decided to sell his car that Jones had
raced and I bought it. It was a good year because I ended
up winning the championship in that car.
“Those two years in the Porsches brought me to the
attention of the factory in Germany. I was over there
for a prizegiving at the end of ’83. I met the Kremer
brothers and as a result of that, in ’84 I was invited to
have a run at Le Mans with them. If I hadn’t been in a
935, I guess I wouldn’t have got that opportunity – even
though it was probably a bit out of my depth.
“We started ninth and finished ninth. Tiff Needell and
David Sutherland were the other drivers. Tiff had an
off during the night, through no fault of his, knocking
a bit off each end, so we went from up around fifth to
way back down the bottom and then we worked our
way up to ninth.
“It was a frustrating old race, but the opportunity
came about through doing well here in the 935, so that’s
why I have a soft spot for the 935s. Then we finished
fifth at Sandown and I was again the best Australian
French also finished sixth at Bathurst that year with
Geoff Russell (father of Supercars co-driver and GT racer
David) in a VK Commodore, earning a rare recognition
for his combined achievements. One of the very few
items of personal memorabilia on display at his new
factory is the Sport Australia award he received for his
Le Mans/Bathurst/Sandown results.
Nominated by CAMS, he was honoured for the best
single effort Australian sporting performance of 1984.
The framed certificate citing his “outstanding perfor-
mance” sits on a stand in the boardroom. “I was very
proud of that,” he smiles.
French is matter-of-fact about his skill behind the
wheel and his enduring ability to continue racing as a
“I was never a professional driver,” he shrugs. “I was
self-taught. I didn’t go to driving schools or any of that
sort of thing. Frank Gardner helped me a little bit when
I first bought the Pantera because that was the first car I
drove with slick tyres. But I think some of my speedway
stuff, which I did before I got my first CAMS licence in
1968, actually helped me quite a lot.
“The first car I really raced on the bitumen was a big
old Chev Impala two-door coupe. Prior to that, I’d just
been involved in speedway cars and hot-rods, which
became Sprintcars. I started in speedway in 1960. I used
to run at Tracey’s Speedway at Maribyrnong.
“I don’t play golf or tennis or anything like that. I just
do what I enjoy, which is racing, and while I can still go
around at a reasonable pace, I’m happy to keep doing it.
I enjoy the Mustangs. The old ones are hard to drive and
not as enjoyable as the TA2 car.”
French has just added a Bentley Continental GT GT3
to his collection and doesn’t rule out racing that as well.
“I’m certainly looking forward to giving that a squirt
around Phillip Island to learn how to drive it,” he grins.
“I’ll drive it and see what I think of it before deciding
what to do with it.
“I bought it not necessarily to race, but to add to my
collection because I enjoy my Bentley Continental GT
road car so much.”
On his longstanding passion for classy black and gold
liveries – assumed to be inspired by the iconic mid-
1970s F1 John Player Special Lotuses – French says the
explanation is even simpler.
ABOVE: Tickford’s 2013
holds pride of place in
BELOW: French finished
in sixth in a Holden VH
Commodore SS at Bathurst
SX107 p44-48 Foges French.indd 47
7/9/18 3:57 pm
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