TOMORROW’s Wanneroo 300 at Barbagallo Raceway has immense significance for the family and friends of the late FRANK CECCHELE. The WA Sporting Car Club is paying tribute to an esteemed Life Member by leaving the front row of the 300 grid empty, as a mark of respect. Gordon Mitchell will take Frank’s victorious Fiat Uno Turbo, an extraordinary machine that performed so admirably in the 300 of the ’80s – and is still purring along just as it did when Gordon last raced it in 2002 – for a demonstration lap ahead of the start. It is a fitting celebration of Frank’s legendary career as a longstanding Club member. And his immeasurable contribution to the local motor racing scene over many decades.
Image: Courtesy CECCHELE FAMILY.
GORDON, a former Club President, recalls some insightful memories of his great friend, colleague and mentor.
“FRANK was a true engineering legend of West Australian motor racing, even before I came along. I used to go to Caversham with my elder brother Malcolm in the 1950s and ’60s – before I was old enough to get my driver’s licence – and spectate as a teenager. I would be in awe of any car that had Cecchele Motors on the side of it. John Hurney would have similar memories of him as well, I am sure. If there was one thing I will remember about Frank’s fabricating and engineering capabilities, it would be that someone would only have to say something was impossible and Frank would take that as a challenge and set about proving everyone wrong. The repair of the aluminium bodied Alfa GTA was an example of that as everyone thought it was impossible. Another example was when I put the deal to Frank that if I provided my turbocharged Rover V8 engine to put in his ex-Brian Foley Alfa Romeo GTAm with me as the driver. Frank thought that was a fair deal and agreed to what turned out to be a 20-year collaboration between us. However when I took the motor to him and we tried to install it in the Alfa there was no way it was going fit, as we tried to maneuver it in on the engine crane. My little heart dropped as I thought that would be the end of our deal before it had even started. I said to Frank. there is no way that is going to fit in there and expected to have to take my motor away again and miss out on our partnership. Frank’s answer was to leave the motor with him, and he would make it fit! A few days later he phoned me and invited me to his workshop. There was the Turbo Rover motor sitting snuggly in the Alfa Romeo engine bay. The rest, as they say, is history!
“And you are right, Adrian. Frank Cecchele was a real gentleman!
Another former Club President, JOHN HURNEY, had this to add:
“I remember the stunning impact made by the Alfa GTA – fettled by Frank and driven by Gordon Stephenson – when it debuted at Caversham. It made all the other Touring Cars instantly obsolete as it howled around the bumpy old airfield circuit, usually on two wheels. Looking back now, it is too easy to forget that Frank was a true benefactor of the sport, and the WASCC. I say this because he didn’t race himself at all at Wanneroo. But he entered cars year in, year out, just for the pleasure of seeing them race. There were several seasons when Frank entered a Sports Sedan and Street Car at every meeting, and then finished the season off by entering three cars in the Wanneroo 300! In recalling Frank’s sheer enthusiasm for motor racing, I well remember Gordon telling me about this absolutely pristine Fiat Abarth 131 road car Frank had recently imported in the early 1980s – thereafter known as the red Abarth 131. I hurried around to Newcastle Street to look at this beautiful machine. Even then, these were sought-after cars and a stock road-going one with no motorsport mods was a real rarity. Frank was adamant that it would never be raced – especially as he had another 131 Abarth ex-tarmac rally car that lent itself to 2-litre Sports Sedan racing. Fast forward a few months and there was the red Abarth 131 entered in 2-litre Street Car racing – battling hard with my friend Steve Pretzel’s RS 2000 Escort. A little later the red car was sporting a turbo and racing in outright Street Cars! Frank loved racing so much he just couldn’t help himself. Our sport needs more people like Frank who seek nothing from the sport except for the fun and satisfaction of competing.”
VALE FRANK CECCHELE
EDITED by AC