16 March 2016 | General


Orange has produced some very good racing drivers over the years including the late Max Stewart and more recently Tim Leahey, the latest driver from the central west to be announced as a competitor in the inaugural Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour race to be conducted at Mount Panorama over Easter.A regular national-level race winner Beric Lynton has had Leahey sharing the driving periodically in his BMW 1M. The Queensland BMW dealer took no time snapping Leahey up for the 6 hour race when it was first announced it was going to be held, and they would have to rate as one of the top chances of victory.”We’ll go alright, and if the cars right we should be up there with them,” Leahey said.One only has to look through the Orange car dealer principals racing record to appreciate just what he has done in the sport, for he has competed in an incredible amount of categories, starting as a youngster in karts in 1992.From a motor racing enthusiasts point of view his greatest achievement was when he was competing in the Australian Drivers Championship behind the wheel of a Reynard 92D in Formula Holden, when he held the outright track lap record at both Oran Park and Sydney Motorsport Park (Eastern Creek).He captured the Sydney Motorsport Park lap record in the 2000 season, a 1m:22.51sec lap, and it stood for seven years until the German Nico Hulkenburg broke it in an A 1 GP meeting driving a Lola Zytek. When Oran Park was closed to make way for a housing estate in 2010, the record 1m:01.67sec set by Leahey also in 2000 still remained, so it will be his forever.He has seven starts in the Bathurst 1000, all with well known drivers and in top line teams, his first in 1999 with John Briggs driving a Briggs Motorsport AU Ford Falcon.Among other starts, he drove for Garry Rogers Motorsport in a Holden Commodore VT in 2000 with Greg Ritter, as teammates to the race winners Garth Tander / Jason Bargwanna, while he also drove for Lansvale Smash Repairs with Cameron McConville (Holden), Paul Weel Racing in an AU Ford Falcon with Paul Weel, with the Scot John Cleland in a Brad Jones Racing Ford and in 2005 with Mark Noske in a HSV Dealer Team Holden VZ.His best Bathurst 1000 result was in 2004 when driving for K-Mart Racing, he and Steve Owen  finished an impressive 8th outright.He also contested the Bathurst 12 Hour  race on two occasions, 2009 and 2010, on both occasions with good friend the actor Eric Bana and Peter hill in a Mitsubishi Evo X. He also contested the Carrera Cup driving for Greg Murphy Racing , and in 2003 finished fourth in the championship behind Jim Richards, Peter Fitzgerald and Marcus Marshall.On top of that he was lead driver for a Volkswagen factory team in GTP Racing, and also was a competitor in the Mini Challenge.One of his biggest victories was definitely in 2007 when he and the late Allan Simonsen won the Australian Tourist Trophy in a Ferrari F430 at Sandown Raceway.However, it is his open wheeler racing days that he said he fonder memories of.”Yeah the win with Allan (Simonsen) in the TT driving the Ferrari was up there amongst them, but my fondest memories in racing go back to my open wheel days in Formula Ford and Formula Holden.I really enjoyed my days racing Formula Ford and Formula Holden more.He raced in Formula Ford after karts, and in 1993 driving a Van Diemen finished third in the Australian formula Ford Championship taking two round wins along the way.”I remember the Winton 2000 round (Australian Drivers Championship) in Formula Holdens when I got pole position, then went on to win both races on Sunday, Leahey said. The Australian drivers championship was always Australia’s premier title, and in 2000 Leahey finished a strong fourth.- by Brian Nightingale