Veteran driver at Leyburn Sprints

QUEENSLAND racing hero John French will be joined by two venerable reminders of his winning career when he makes a rare on-track appearance at the Leyburn Sprints this weekend.

Fans will be able to see the 80-year-old former Bathurst 1000 winner in action at the wheel of a rally-bred Subaru Impreza Spec C during the annual round-the-houses time trials for historic, classic and high performance cars on Saturday and Sunday.

Also competing in the 210-strong field of cars will be French’s driving partner in the 1981 Bathurst win, Queensland icon Dick Johnson.

Meanwhile, one of the cars most closely associated with French during his long career – his 1962 Australian GT Championship-winning Centaur Waggott GT – will be on track in the hands of its current owner.

Honoured as one of Queensland’s most successful and best-liked drivers of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, John French has been a regular guest at the annual Leyburn Sprints but has rarely competed in the event.

The invitation to drive the Subaru in the Special Interest 4WD class came from the car’s owner, Brisbane motorsport identity Fred van Tuinen.

“John was a Subaru dealer, so he should enjoy this car,” Mr van Tuinen said this week.

“It’s a rare rally version with upgraded engine, transmission and brakes. It will be pretty quick and I’m sure a champion like John hasn’t forgotten how to drive a quick car.”

Race Director Dennis Brown said it would be a treat for spectators to see “Frenchy” in action again.

“John was a great Queensland driver in Bathurst Falcons, Mini Coopers, the Centaur Waggott, Alfa Romeos and many other cars, and he remains a great personality still popular with fans everywhere he appears,” he said.

“To have John, Dick Johnson and the Centaur here will be among many reasons to come to Leyburn this weekend.

“There will be numerous innovations for our 16th celebration of the 1949 Australian Grand Prix, including the V8 Supercar Drivers Challenge, new grandstands, a show and shine, grand prix historic display, great country food and market stalls.”

Racing starts at 8am both days and tickets for the Leyburn Sprints are on sale now at www.leyburnmotorsprints.com.au. Adult tickets cost $15 per day or $25 for the weekend and can be downloaded in printable form.



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