Vale John Harvey

By: Steve Nally, Photography by: Nathan Jacobs

Presented by

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We pay tribute to the legendary John Harvey OAM

 

John Harvey, OAM. 21 February 1938 - 5 December 2020

With the recent passing of John Harvey OAM, aged 82, the Australian motorsport pantheon lost one of its greats, not that the humble Harvey would ever have referred to himself as one.

While he was a prodigious talent, Harvey was not a grandstander, rather he was a reliable and professional team player in a tough, competitive sport that has little room for pretenders and also-rans. Although overshadowed by his glamorous touring car teammate Peter Brock, Harvey was widely respected by all he worked with and raced against.

Like many of his generation, he was the consummate all-rounder. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he honed his skills on widow-maker dirt track speedways winning three NSW Speedcar Championships and two Victorian titles. In 1964 he graduated to road racing, mostly campaigning Brabham open-wheelers and won the Australian 1 1/2 Litre Championship in 1966.

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In 1971 Harvey switched to sports cars and dominated the class, winning the Australian Sports Car Championship in ’71 and ’72 in Bob Jane’s fearsome McLaren M6B Repco. In 1973 he won the Toby Lee Series for Sports Sedans driving Jane’s LJ Torana-Repco.

After finishing second at Bathurst in 1976 with Colin Bond in a Holden Dealer Team Torana L34, Harvey began a decade-long association with HDT the following year, initially as lead driver, until Brock arrived in 1978.

Harvey’s best Australian Touring Car Championship result, third in 1979, doesn’t reflect his importance at HDT as Brock’s number two. This was never better demonstrated than at Bathurst in 1983.

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When Brock and Larry Perkins’ VH Commodore’s engine blew up after only eight laps, they took over Harvey (and Phil Brock’s) car, thanks to cross-entering rules, and won the race. Harvey was also credited as a winner but not Phil Brock who didn’t do a lap. It was a controversial but legal result that no doubt left a bad taste in Harvey’s mouth but the team came first.

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When Brock took control of HDT in 1980 (supported by Holden dealers) and also began building modified Commodore road cars under the HDT Special Vehicles banner, Harvey became workshop manager. Loyal to a fault, Harvey was the last man to leave HDT Special Vehicles in 1987 after Holden withdrew its support following Brock’s infamous ‘Energy Polarizer’ debacle.

The demise of HDTSV was the low point of 1987 but the high point for Harvey was teaming with Allan Moffat to win round one of the World Touring Car Championship at Monza in a VL Commodore Group A SS.

That same year Holden and Tom Walkinshaw formed Holden Special Vehicles and, with his experience steering HDTSV, Harvey became HSV’s first employee and Sales and Marketing Manager. Harvey played a critical role in getting HSV off the ground, right down to finding its first premises.

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And it was Harvey who stood his ground against Managing Director John Crennan, insisting HSV’s big seller should be called a ClubSport, with a capital ’S’ for sport. He was also Holden Motorsport Manager for a period and instrumental in signing Craig Lowndes to the Holden Racing Team, a very astute decision.

Harvey retired from racing after finishing 14th with Kevin Bartlett in the 1988 Bathurst 1000 in a VL Commodore SS Group A SV but continued working with HSV until his retirement in 2001. In 2018 he was inducted into the CAMS (Motorsport Australia) Hall Of Fame.

In an interview on the website Speedcafe, John Crennan said of Harvey, after his passing: "Yes, decency would be the one word that sums up John Harvey."

Unique Cars extends its condolences to John Harvey’s family and many friends.

 

 

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