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Vale Allan Horsley

LONGTIME motorsport identity Allan Horsley has passed away.

Horsley was best known as the promoter of Oran Park Raceway during its glory days of the late 1960s and 1970s, as well as the team manager of Mazda’s circuit racing successes in the 1980s and 1990s.

Originally from Tumbarumba in New South Wales, where he learned to drive on the family farm, Horsley raced himself initially but his future in the sport lay outside the cockpit.

Having moved to Albury as a teen, he eventually became the secretary and manager of the Hume Weir circuit, a role that saw him cross paths with both Allan Moffat and Peter Brock in the early stages of their careers, and Horsley went on to play a role in launching the latter onto a bigger stage.

After six years at Hume Weir, Horsley was recruited by the operators of Oran Park in 1968 to become its promotor.

The venue enjoyed a boom period through much of the following decade under his stewardship, with a combination of star categories and drivers, track championships, and night racing – combined with plenty of press in the Sydney newspapers – drawing big crowds and marquee sponsorships.

One of those star drivers was Brock, whom Horsley brought to Oran Park on an exclusive deal to battle the local Sports Sedan stars (the category then still known as Sports Racing Closed) in his home-built, Holden-powered Austin A30.

Horsley with Moffat during the 1983 Bathurst 1000. Pic: an1images.com / Dale Rodgers

Horsley left Oran Park in 1981 with the intention of getting out of the sport, only to be recruited by Mazda and Allan Moffat to run his assault on touring car racing with the controversial RX-7.

The following years delivered Moffat’s final Australian Touring Car Championship victory and a host of race wins, including a pair of Sandown 400 triumphs, but the rotary-powered machine never quite cracked it for a victory in the Bathurst 1000.

HORSLEY: Moffat’s lost plan to race a V8-engined Mazda

The demise of Group C meant the program wrapped up in early 1985 with a tilt at the Daytona 24 Hours, and Horsley remained with Mazda in a public relations role through the end of the decade.

He and Mazda finally conquered Mount Panorama when they returned to racing in 1992 with the new-generation RX-7.

Horsley was tabbed to run the company’s new factory racing squad and claimed a first-up win in that year’s Bathurst 12 Hour for Garry Waldon, Charlie O’Brien and Mark Gibbs.

Horsley (L) oversees a pitstop for the #7 Mazda of Allan Jones/Garry Waldon during the 1993 Bathurst 12 Hour. Pic: an1images.com / Rod Eime

It marked the start of a hat-trick at the Mountain for Mazda, with Waldon and Alan Jones leading a team one-two in 1993, while Neil Crompton and Gregg Hansford triumphed in 1994.

The wins delivered more for Mazda than just acclaim for its RX-7; Horsley’s Mazda Motorsport crew comprised of apprentices from dealerships around the country, who sharpened their skills under the direction of both Horsley and rotary guru Barry Jones.

The success and the rise of ‘super production’ racing spawned a national series in 1994 and 1995 in addition to its bannerhead enduro, leading to the Horsley-developed creation of the RX-7 SP homologation special.

The car won its first tilt at the 12 Hour in 1995, Dick Johnson and John Bowe downing strong opposition from Porsche in the first and only edition of the race held at Eastern Creek.

It wasn’t the first success for Johnson and Bowe under Horsley’s watch; he served as Dick Johnson Racing’s strategist at several Bathurst 1000s across the 1990s, including for the team’s victory in the 1994 event.

The factory Mazdas began competing in Targa Tasmania during the 1990s, and eventually shifted its entire focus to tarmac rallying, going on to claim 11 Targa class wins between 1994 and 2012.

Horsley retired from Mazda Australia during 2012 following three decades with the marque, while his achievements were recognised in 2019 with his induction to the Australian Motorsport Hall of Fame.

The V8 Sleuth team extends its condolences to the Horsley family.

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