The Tim Slako Story

Corrected 29 Sep 2011

Born in New Zealand on November 30, 1948, Tim Slako always wanted to race. He is the nephew of legendary 1950s Kiwi racer Tom Clark (later Sir Thomas Clark), and began racing in NZ with an Anglis 105E with a 1500cc GT Cortina engine.

With his eyes on a professional racing career, and specially the Australian Touring Car Campionship, he moved to Australia in the late 1960s. He worked in the booming Pilbara to fund his first serious race car, a Chrysler Charger E38, for series production. This was a brand new car off the shelf, set up for racing, and it wore the number 138. It made its debut at Wanneroo Park in 1972, along with the Jim Mullins and Colin Hall cars.

After a colossal crash at the end of the downhill straight, caused by total brake loss, the Charger was rebuilt as a E49, but at the end of the season Tim Slako was back in the northwest recharging his finances, missing the 1973 season.

Next came the Torana L34, built in 1974 to race nationally in the Australian Touring Car Championship. He competed at Bathurst in the famous Hardie Ferodo 1000 for the first of nine starts in 1975, later competing regularly against Peter Brock, Alan Moffat, Dick Johnson, and in the later years, Glen Seton, Mark Skaife, and all of the younger generation Supercar drivers.

The successful L34. This car still exists, is still in WA, and its present owner is well aware of its Bathurst history (Wells/WASCC).

By 1977, after competing in his third Bathurst, driving the Ian Diffen World of Tyres L34, Tim realised he needed a proper business of his own to support his racing. The racing team was known as West Racing, so the new business was born called West Racing Motor Development, starting in Ruse Street, Osborne Park in 1977.

From 1977 through to the mid 1980s saw Tim adding more Bathurst starts to his list. He built an A9X to succeed the L34, and after a year's development it finally become competitive, just in time for CAMS to exclude older model cars, including all Toranas, from the ATCC, decreeing that, henceforth, only new cars could run. This meant building a Commodore from scratch after the huge expenditure on the A9X.

The A9X at Wanneroo (Wells/WASCC)

Slako gave up on Touring Car racing in disgust, and shifted to Australian National Formula One, that is, F 5000, buying the only Elfin MR6. He raced this in the 1980 Australian Grand Prix. Included in the starting grid was the then current F1 World Champion, Alan Jones, driving the Williams F1 car, and Bruno Giacomelli driving the Alfa Romeo F1 car. At that time, Tim also drove sprint cars at Claremont Speedway occasionally.

The Elfin had to be modified to accomodate Tim's large frame, with a higher roll bar above his head, modified fuel tanks to give him hip room, and a bulge above the pedals for foot room. He loved driving this car, although it gave him the only real injuries of his career. A header tank hose burst, dumping boiling water down his back and into the bucket seat, and by the time he fought his way out of the car he had severe burns. He was in hospital for three months receiving skin grafts.

The Elfin at Calder, 1980, with the daughter of a friend of Tim's aboard. It clearly shows the extension to the roll hoop to accomodate Tim's height. (Slako)

Again CAMS struck, suddenly abolishing F 5000 in favour of Formula Pacific, and Tim had nowhere to run the car.

In 1984, when CAMS settled on Group A for the 1985 and later ATCC, Tim bought a Rover Vitesse from British racer Andy Rouse. He recalls it as superbly set up by Andy, and very fast, reliable, and agile. It first raced in Australia almost immediately after it landed here, still in its British Esso-Daily Mirror livery. This gave Slako two good years, including a frustrating 1985 Bathurst, with Geoff Leeds co-driving.

Tim Slako in the ex-Andy Rouse Rover SD1 (Wells/WASCC)

They had only practiced with a small fuel load, and once the race started they began blowing tyres - nine of them in a row. The cause was unexpected. Under the heavy compression forces in the The Dipper, the the well-used bolts holding the bolt-together rims were stretching and opening the seam between the halves, letting the tyres go flat. As the race went on, one wheel after another was pulled to bits and re-assembled with band new bolts, and after that all was sweet. But the nine extra pit stops lost them a lot of places, and they finished 13th. However, as compensation, Tim won the three-lap publicity race for the new small Nissan saloon, against some of the top ATCC drivers.

At Bathurst in 1986 Leeds crashed the car in practice, and the car was just being finished after an all-night rebuild when the race started. After 77 laps the harmonic balance came off, and their race was over. A highlight of the year was the win in the Monroe 300 km race at Wanneroo park, again with Geoff Leeds, finishing with a 3 lap lead.

The Vitesse was also raced at Adelaide Parks circuit in support of the Australian Grand Prix, and at Wellington and Pukekohe in New Zealand, before it was sold on.

He teamed up with Alf Barbagallo to develop and run two new ATCC touring cars for Alf Barbagallo and himself. These, painted in the pink livery of West Racing, were campaigned for two seasons before the team was dissolved. A futher season with John McEntee followed, including the 1992 Twelve-Hour at Bathurst.

Tin Slako dropped out of racing for a period and then, in the late 1990s, began building a Commodore for the new V8 Supercar Series to be run by the teams. By the time the car was finished it had progressed from a VN to a VS.

It was just in time for the V8 Supercar racing setup to be sold to AVESCO, who adopted the Bernie Ecclestone Formula One business model of closed shop and franchise fees. The cost was far beyond the privateers such as Tim Slako, who went off to a different, but ultimately unsuccessful series held at Amaroo Park and Eastern Creek, the revived AMSCAR, in 1997.

It was the effective end of Tim Slako's racing career, and the VS Commodore was stashed in the back of the West Racing Workshop. Tim still owns it, in its original West Racing pink paint.