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Leo Geoghegan

Leo Geoghegan
TOTAL Team members, from left to right brothers Leo and Ian Geoghegan, with team mate Frank Matich.

The Racing Geoghegan's

Long before Liverpool (Britain) was famous for the Beatles, Liverpool (New South Wales) was known, in the motor racing world, to be the home of the Geoghegans. In the mid 1960s the two Geoghegan brothers, Leo and Ian, were members of the TOTAL Racing Team and the pair cut a swathe of successes through the intensively competitive sport of motor racing, and set lap records on every major circuit in Australia.

Their father, Tom Geoghegan, was by the mid 1960s considered to be one of the Old Men of professional motor racing. Wise in the ways of the sport, Tom guided his boys and built the complex of motor racing activity that surrounded them into a formidable fighting force, always equipped to do battle.

Geoghegan's Folly

Tom began racing himself in 1949 when he was over 40. He won quite a few races, particularly with a Holden in 1952, and then imported a Jowett Jupiter sports racing car that was to become known as "Geoghegan's Folly." He took it to Orange in Easter, 1954. Leo, at 17, was driving a Holden in the same race - his first - and the theory was that he was to follow his father and learn the way.

However, the 17-year-old found he could pass the Jupiter - and did - until he was sternly flagged into the pits and ordered to exchange cars. At the end of the race the Holden was placed second, but Tom was so angry with the Jupiter's performance that he sold it on the spot for a quarter the price. Tom Geoghegan's stubborn Irish pride was not to allow the possibility of a "Geoghegan's Folly Mark II" in the years that followed, and although sickness forced his own retirement from competitive driving in 1955 he kept on in a steady and relentless quest for the utmost in performance by the racing Geoghegans.

He insisted that every aspect of the team's performance be as near perfect as possible; the best available cars, the highest possible mechanical standard and preparation, the best presentation of the cars, trailers, tenders and uniforms identified by the Total Team colours of blue, white and red; and then, as Tom sat looking up along the track from the pits, he expected experience, intelligence, training and skill on the part of his sons to combine with that little extra Geoghegan speciality, that instinct of a really good driver, to take them capably, safely and properly across the finishing line.

Old Number One

Leo first made his name on Australian circuits in his famous black Holden - "Old Number One". It was one of Australia's best known cars, and he drove it from 1959 to 1960. The car was the fastest ever in its final fling, but Leo stopped driving it in October, 1960 when a Lotus Elite arrived. At around this time younger brother Ian was just starting to find his way around the circuits and he was to take over the Holden, and Leo switched to the Lotus Elite. He ran the Elite from 1960 to late 1961, and won 21 races from 25 starts, setting lap records everywhere.

In 1961 Leo drove his first real racing car, a Lotus 18 Formula Junior, the first one to land in Australia. He liked it so much that he ordered a new car, a Lotus 20, to be delivered later that year. It arrived in October 1961 and it was so successful and so many people were talking and-asking about Lotus cars that the Geoghegans became official Lotus agents. The 20 continued breaking lap records as the competition was starting to move, and won practically all the racing car races it entered.

In 1962 a new Lotus 20 arrived for Leo and at its first major encounter at Warwick Farm at the International meeting, won and broke the lap record, repeating this at the International at Lakeside. Then a list of cars, and a long series of successes ... Lotus Super Seven, Daimler SP250, Lotus 23, Lotus 22, Ford Cortina, Lotus 27 ... Australian titles, State titles, lap records, circuit records ... trophies, awards, laurel wreaths ... and praise for his consistent good sportsmanship and a classical driving style that was a pleasure to watch.

Unlike his brother Ian, Leo spent much of his racing career in open wheel racing cars and sports racing cars. In addition to being a multi-Australian championship winning driver, Geoghegan has the rare distinction for an Australian of having won an international grand prix, specifically the 1969 Grand Prix of Japan. He was also the principal driver for Chrysler Australia during the period (19701972) when the company supported Valiant Pacer and Valiant Charger Series Production touring car teams.

Other career highlights included victories in the following:
  • 1960 Australian GT Championship
  • 1962 Bathurst Six Hour Classic
  • 1963 Australian Formula Junior Championship
  • 1963 Calder-Lex Davidson FJ Championship
  • 1968 Surfers Paradise 6 Hour
  • 1970 Australian Drivers' Championship
  • 1973 Australian Formula 2 Championship
  • 1974 Australian Formula 2 Championship
Year Title/ Event Position Car Entrant
1960 Australian GT Championship 1st Lotus Elite Geoghegan Motors
1962 Australian Formula Junior Championship 3rd Lotus 22 Ford Geoghegan Motors
1963 Australian Drivers' Championship 13th Lotus 20B Ford Total Team
1963 Australian Formula Junior Championship 1st Lotus 22 Ford Total Team
1964 Australian Drivers' Championship 4th Lotus 32 Ford Total Team
1965 Tasman Series 14th Lotus 32 Ford Total Team
1965 Australian Drivers' Championship 3rd Lotus 32 Ford Total Team
1965 Australian 1½ Litre Championship 2nd Lotus 32 Ford Total Team
1966 Tasman Series 12th Lotus 32 Ford Total Team
1966 Australian Drivers' Championship 7th Lotus 39 Climax FPF Geoghegan Racing
1967 Tasman Series 7th Lotus 39 Climax FPF Geoghegan Racing
1967 Australian Drivers' Championship 5th Lotus 39 Repco Geoghegan Racing Division
1968 Tasman Series 11th Lotus 39 Repco Geoghegan Racing
1968 Australian Drivers' Championship 4th Lotus 39 Repco Geoghegan Racing Division
1969 Tasman Series 7th Lotus 39 Repco Geoghegan Racing
1969 Australian Drivers' Championship 2nd Lotus 39 Repco Geoghegan Racing Division
1970 Australian Drivers' Championship 1st Lotus 59B Waggott Geoghegan's Sporty Cars
1971 Tasman Series 15th Lotus 59B Waggott Geoghegan's Sporty Cars
1972 South Pacific Touring Series 8th [2] Chrysler VH Valiant Charger Austral Motors
1973 Australian Formula 2 Championship 1st Birrana 273 Ford Grace Bros – 5AD City State Racing Team
1973 Australian Drivers' Championship 4th Birrana 273 Ford Grace Bros – 5AD City State Racing Team
1973 Toby Lee Series 3rd Porsche 911S Grace Bros / Reg Mort
1974 Australian Formula 2 Championship 1st Birrana 274 Ford Grace Bros. Levis Racing Team
Leo Geoghegan at the wheel of a Lotus Seven at Katoomba
Leo Geoghegan at the wheel of a Lotus Seven at Katoomba.
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