Frank Gardner

Full Name:
Frank Gardner, OAM
Born:
1st October 1930
Sydney, New South Wales
Died:
29th August 2009 (Aged 78)
Mermaid Waters, Queensland
Nationality:
Australian
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

A popular and quick witted Australian, Frank Gardner was a successful all-rounder who made just eight Grand Prix starts without scoring a point. But he was a single-seater, sports car and touring car champion on both sides of the globe nonetheless.

Background and early racing career

Boxing was Gardner’s early passion and he worked as a lifeguard before first competing in speedway during 1948. The teenager was driving an MG in local car races within a year as motor racing became ever-more important to him.

Those growing ambitions were interrupted by service in the Korean War although he returned to dominate the 1957 New South Wales sports car championship with a Jaguar C-type. That success prompted a move to England two years later where he worked as a mechanic to pay his way.

European debut includes Formula 1

He joined the fledgling Brabham Racing Organisation in 1962 as a mechanic and raced its new BT2 Formula Junior car that year. However, he turned down the offer of a fulltime drive in 1963 and Brabham hired Denny Hulme instead. The tough Australian joined John Willment’s organisation in 1964 for a mix of saloons, sports cars and single-seaters. That included his GP debut at Brands Hatch when his Brabham BT10-Ford was eliminated in a startline shunt.

Formula 1 with Willment and BTCC success

Willment and Gardner entered seven GPs in 1965 with a Brabham BT11-BRM although it was an uncompetitive campaign. He did finish fourth in the Race of Champions but eighth in the British GP was his best result when points were on offer. Disillusioned and already in his mid-thirties, Gardner found refuge in saloon cars with Alan Mann’s Fords. He won back-to-back British Touring Car Championship titles in 1967 and 1968 with Falcon, Escort and Cortina.

He was not completely finished with single-seaters however. Runner-up in the inaugural European Formula 2 Championship with a works Brabham BT23C-Ford in 1967, he made an unsuccessful attempt to qualify Bernard White’s BRM P261 for the following year’s Italian GP. That was his final brush with Formula 1 although he continued in Formula 5000 and won the 1971 Rothmans European Championship with a Speed International Lola-Chevrolet.

British Touring Car Champion for a third time

He was also a winner in the Tasman Cup before retiring from single-seaters in 1973 when he felt he could no longer match his younger rivals. A third BTCC title followed later that year with his mighty Chevrolet Camaro as Gardner became the first foreign three-time champion. Now in his forties, Gardner returned to Australia and won further national titles before switching to team management.

Team management

Jim Richards won the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1985 and 1987 driving Gardner’s John Player Special-sponsored BMWs but that success was not enough to retain factory status. BMW switched its support to Peter Brock’s rival operation only for Gardner to respond in style.

He ran a private Ford Sierra RS500 with which Tony Longhurst and Tomáš Mezera promptly won the 1988 Bathurst 1000. A move into Australia’s 2000cc touring car series was rewarded with another three championship titles for Gardner’s operation and BMW with Longhurst and Paul Morris the beneficiaries.

Gardner remained close to the sport he loved throughout his life before he died in 2009 after a long illness. In tribute, Jim Richards remembered that his former boss "was a brilliant driver and engineer – he even used to set the cars up, I just raced them."

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1973 British Saloon Car Championship 1st -
1972 Tasman Cup
Lola Cars
5 0 4 1
20% win rate
3rd 27
1972 Rothmans European F5000 Championship 1 0 1 0
0% win rate
10th 8
1971 Rothmans F5000 Championship
Lola Cars
16 7 13 6
38% win rate
1st 95
1971 Tasman Championship
Malcolm Guthrie Racing
Lola Cars
6 0 2 1
17% win rate
4th 18
1970 Guards F5000 Championship
Motor Racing Research
13 (1) 7 9 2
16% win rate
3rd 52
1969 Rothmans Tasman Championship
Alec Mildren Racing
7 0 2 0
0% win rate
6th 14
1969 Guards F5000 Championship
Sid Taylor Racing
1 0 1 0
0% win rate
17th 350
1969 International Championship of Makes
Alan Mann Racing
Sid Taylor
2 0 0 0 2
1968 British Saloon Car Championship 1st -
1968 Tasman Cup
Alec Mildren Racing
8 0 3 0
0% win rate
4th 17
1968 F1 World Championship
Bernard White Racing
0 (1) 0 0 0 0
1968 European F2 Trophy
The Chequered Flag
1 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1967 RAC British F2 Championship
Motor Racing Developments
5 0 1 0
0% win rate
6th 10
1967 British Saloon Car Championship 1st -
1967 Tasman Cup
Alec Mildren Racing
7 (1) 0 3 0
0% win rate
3rd 21
1967 European F2 Trophy
Motor Racing Developments
10 0 2 1
10% win rate
2nd 34 (35)
1967 International Championship of Makes
Holman Moody Racing
1 0 0 0 0
1966 Tasman Cup
Alec Mildren Racing
8 1 3 0
0% win rate
5th 18 (19)
1966 International Championship of Makes
Alan Mann Racing
2 0 1 0 6
1966 Autocar British F2 Championship
Midland Racing Partnership
3 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
7th 2
1965 Tasman Cup
Alec Mildren Racing
7 0 3 0
0% win rate
3rd 21
1965 F1 World Championship
John Willment Automobiles
7 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1965 Autocar British F2 Championship
John Willment Automobiles
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1964 Tasman Cup
Alec Mildren Racing
4 0 0 0
0% win rate
11th 3
1964 F1 World Championship
John Willment Automobiles
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1964 Autocar British F2 Championship
John Willment Automobiles
5 0 1 0
0% win rate
5th 4
1963 Speed and Endurance World Challenge
Team Elite
1 0 0 0 0
1962 Speed World Challenge
Team Lotus Engineering
1 0 0 0 2