HEARD OF HIM? Well I’d be surprised if you haven’t. Even if you don’t know exactly who he is you’ve probably run into him at Barbagallo Raceway. JOHN HURNEY’s usually the one busily organising you, your car and all the officials and volunteers. And inspecting the track.
Or giving driving instruction.
And offering pearls of wisdom only a lifetime of motorsport experience can afford.
I met John a couple of years back on one of my first visits to the track. New to Perth I had no idea of his standing in the motorsport community. But he made an instant impression, speaking with authority about the track, the cars and how to improve times. Subsequent encounters and I’m left with no doubt about his experience, passion, conviction, honesty and care in imparting all his knowledge. So I was very keen to sit down recently with John Hurney to understand where it all began.
The story starts the same as with many a young boy, reading motorsport magazines and admiring everything motoring. He was a regular at the Caversham race circuit throughout the 1960s. But his involvement with Barbagallo Raceway, or Wanneroo Park as it was known, goes back to the very beginning. In fact he literally helped build the track, volunteering for working bees preparing the facility for the 1969 opening.
This spelled the beginning of John’s long and illustrious officiating career. He volunteered for every job available, working his way up from toilet cleaning to Chief Flaggie, Secretary of Meeting and Clerk of Course. He progressed to the WASCC management committee in 1973 serving for a total of 37 years, 15 of those as President. In John’s words; “This was the making of me”.
As a shy book nerd at 20 years of age, he credits Max McCracken as one of the influential people in his life who encouraged him to get involved and take on responsibility.
These days John is quite outspoken on his views about the extent of responsibility and complexity volunteers are expected to take on. And I think he makes a good point. Those of us who enjoy a burst around the track, or go to spectate at the professional race meetings, may not pay much attention to the plight of the officials who give up their time for not much more than a soggy lunch, yet are required to understand a plethora of rules and regulations. Can the sport continue to attract people into these essential roles?
Eventually John put some of those responsibilities aside long enough to start his driving career and he has been fortunate enough to experience many different cars and categories. These include Clubman, Sports Sedans, Marque Sports, HQs, F2 and Formula Ford.
Renowned FF guru Bret Lupton, above, finessing John’s Van Dieman.
John talks fondly of his time driving an ex-Dick Johnson Ford Mustang GT (Greens’-Tuf), speaking of it as a great handling car. Not so pleasurable were the long hours required to prepare the car though. Apparently it ate costly components as quickly as it consumed fuel.
That led to a discussion about what, in John’s view, were the critical ingredients of a great race car. His answer was surprisingly simple. “You need a reliable car that’s relatively easy to drive and somewhat competitive”. What a great reminder to all us amateurs just to get out there and enjoy the experience!
John’s current project is a Lola – Formula Holden 1991 model 91/50 F3,000, carbon fibre tub, slicks and wings single seater (hope I got that right!). Despite a serious investment, it lost oil pressure during testing and work is ongoing to find the cause. I could see the pain in John’s eyes as he spoke of that first track outing, but thankfully he anticipates it to be ready again soon. If we’re really lucky it will be ready in time for the Speed Event Series John Hurney Sprint on July 2 – a tribute to him as the SES co-founder.
That’s not the only recognition he has received. Back in 2005 John was awarded an Order of Australia for his contribution to motorsport. That was over 10 years ago, yet he is still very active in senior official roles with WASCC, CAMS and V8s. But it’s John’s role at Edith Cowan University, managing Motorsport Engagement and helping with vehicle testing, where I suspect he is most fulfilled. The students, who clearly look up to him, have at their disposal an inspirational leader, a veritable encyclopedia of motorsport knowledge and a passionate advocate of the ‘motoring enthusiast’ who’d like nothing more than to see all young people out of the pubs and into the workshops.
According to John Hurney, motorsport is a fabulous way to teach kids management skills and discipline, while enjoying the camaraderie of hanging out with like-minded people. As he so aptly puts it:
“Winning or losing doesn’t matter. Being with friends and going home in one piece is what’s important”.
In her own words, motoring enthusiast VICKY ROWE loves spending time at the track in her Lotus Exige, poring over the latest cars and chatting to the fascinating people she encounters in motorsport and the motoring industry. In writing about her passion she hopes “to inspire others to find their perfect car and to enjoy their motoring”.
EDITED by AC