Australian motorsport legend Harry Firth has died, aged 96.
Firth was best known for his role as team manager for both the Ford and Holden factory teams in Australian Touring Car racing throughout the 1960s and 70s, along with his success as a driver in the early years of ‘The Great Race’.
Jane and Firth made it three-in-a-row at Bathurst in ’63, and Firth teamed up with Fred Gibson to win the Gallaher 500 in 1967; Firth’s fourth and final Great Race victory.
The Fox earned his nickname through crafty displays as both a driver and team manager, one example of which was the ‘misplaced’ racing number on one of the Ford Works Falcons at Bathurst in 1968.
Firth later said he deliberately placed the car’s racing number off-centre on the front doors to draw attention away from the car’s lower-than-standard ride height.
Harry was also well known for fashioning engineering solutions to prepare road cars for the stresses of motorsport.
The move paid off, with the Holden Monaro GTS of Tony Roberts and young rally driver Colin Bond winning the Hardie-Ferodo 500 in the team’s first year.
The pair shared a low point in Firth’s career as team manager two years later in 1974, when Brock and co-driver Brian Sampson’s Holden Torana SL/R 5000 L34 expired while leading the Hardie-Ferodo 1000 by six laps.
Firth maintained that Brock disobeyed his orders to reduce speed and conserve the car, causing the engine to cry ‘enough’ on lap 118.
Brock maintains that he did, in fact, follow Firth’s orders despite his resistance, which caused one bank of the engine to run lean. The pair still hadn’t settled the score from 1974 before Brock died in 2006.
Firth’s run as HDT manager ended after the 1977 season, but he continued as an icon of Australian motorsport until failing health saw him lead a quieter life over the last few years.
He wrote and sold ‘bush-style’ poetry which celebrated Australian Touring Car racing from the 60s and 70s, and was a regular attendee at such events as the annual Australian Muscle Car Masters at Sydney Motorsport Park.
Harry Firth was awarded the Order of Australia Medal, Australian Sports Medal and CAMS Membership of Honour, and in 2007 he was inducted into the V8 Supercars Hall Of Fame.
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