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Thread: The passing of Niel E Allen - please honour the 1971 NZGP and Teretonga winner

  1. #1

    The passing of Niel E Allen - please honour the 1971 NZGP and Teretonga winner

    Having been in decline for several years, it's sad to report that Niel Allen died unaware of those around him on August 6.

    The 'tiger' that existed within this great driver is something hard to find. One of the great statements I've heard about him came from Frank Matich:

    We would be driving back from testing our car the day before a race meeting, it would be late at night and we would go past Niel's office building. And up there on one of the high floors his light would be on, he'd be working into the night in his property development business.

    And the next morning he'd be out at the circuit and ready to go, fast from the start of practice. He could switch off the businessman and switch on the racing driver just like that. I don't know how he could do that.
    Having been a keen follower of his from the beginning to the end of his career, I have felt the greatest excitement for him right from the time of the E-type Jaguar through to F5000s. I cringed when I read in magazines the negative comments he drew and was jubilant when he set lap records and challenged the leaders. He was one of the truly great drivers, and something of a philanthropist when it came to the sport, too.

    When he retired from racing he put his two McLaren M10Bs on the market at a price which would help the buyers get a start in F5000. A great gesture from a man who knew what it cost to go motor racing.

  2. #2
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    Ray,
    When I saw Niel Allen come around Warwick Farm in 1970 driving the Elfin ME5, painted in a beautiful blue colour and a matching helmet I thought it was the best-looking race car and driver I had ever seen.
    It was immaculate and it also won the race that day. A wonderful memory.
    Sorry to hear of his passing.
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    ( Ken H )
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 08-12-2022 at 06:39 AM.

  3. #3
    Thanks for responding, Ken...

    I'm pretty disappointed at the lack of interest in this thread. Niel did two Tasman Cup series and two of the three Tasman races he won were in New Zealand.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Ray Bell View Post
    Thanks for responding, Ken...

    I'm pretty disappointed at the lack of interest in this thread. Niel did two Tasman Cup series and two of the three Tasman races he won were in New Zealand.
    Sadly so many are passing, even some prominent name NZ residents get no response Ray, and many are too young to know of them anyway. RIP Niel.

  5. #5
    World Champion ERC's Avatar
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    Before my time in NZ, not a lack of interest Ray.

  6. #6
    I appreciate that not everyone was around to remember it all, but I thought there'd be more...

    Niel was instrumental, by the way, in having harnesses mandated in open-wheelers in many parts of the world. It was his survival after the mother and father of all crashes at Lakeside that set things going. I was there that day, very much horrified at what I saw taking place before my eyes, I've written about it many times:

    Niel bought the M4a from Piers Courage. With its 1600cc FVA engine, it was nearly a match for the 2.5 Repco V8 and FPF Climax-powered cars running in the Gold Star series.

    Bob Levett and I were elated when we stopped at Tweed Heads en route from Sydney to Lakeside for the Gold Star race there. We had driven through the night in my 203 (it was freezing cold, and there were frogs everywhere in the sugar cane area north of Grafton), so getting the paper before breakfast we found that Niel was fastest in practice, having done a lap in 52.7 seconds - the best lap ever to that time, if I'm not mistaken (the International race that year was as Surfers).

    We got to the circuit and went to our favourite viewing point, near the toilet on the inside of the circuit high above the kink at the end of the straight and before the Karussell. When they came out, Niel was getting into his stride well enough. We watched him come up the straight, through the kink. At the exit, the cars went out of our sight as they were obscured by the embankment, and we saw a large puff of dust.

    Moments later we saw the McLaren - 30' in the air, upside down and backwards, its silver underside and chromed suspension parts glistening in the sun!

    It came down, tumbled and flipped itself to destruction. The ambulance driver in the pits was driving around trying to find a way onto the circuit, while the ambulance designated to serve that part of the place was still. Eventually, it moved. By that time Wayne Eckersly had run all the way from the pits and was cradling Niel's head as he lay in the tub on its side. Everything else was off the car, and the back was even torn out of the tub.

    It was our first sight of a crash that big where the driver wore a proper harness. We had to believe the worst, but it transpired that he had broken a finger. The McLaren was rebuilt, and among other things it achieved in later life was to hold the outright lap record for Racing Cars at Warwick Farm.

    I don't think Niel ever recovered memory of that day. Today he is something of a recluse, his rather glamorous wife left him and his real estate empire crumbled yet again (he developed high-rise office buildings). I don't know what he does these days, the last time I saw him he was driving an Elwyn Formula Ford in a demonstration day at the AARC's (the club who ran Warwick Farm) 20th anniversary day (or something like that) at Amaroo Park, where they went to hold their meetings after the Farm closed in 1973.
    In the same issue of Racing Car News as the report on the Lakeside race meeting at which Niel had his biggest crash appeared, Dr Michael Henderson had this article about the results of it...





    Of note in the pictures is, as I have described elsewhere, Niel in the remains of the tub lying on its side...

    Also of note is the fact that the whole crew and a marshal have run to the scene. I described previously how the ambulance at the other end of the circuit was running around in circles looking for a way to get there while the one serving this section sat beside the control tower, its driver unconcerned, and when moved to action he drove quite slowly to the scene.

    Wayne Eckersly, as I recall, was first to reach the scene. Peter Molloy is at the left in that pic, apparently supporting Niel's head.

    Peter was to have nightmares for years that the crash was his fault, I have recently learned. He had lightened the steering arms on the front uprights and one of them was broken, though who's to say whether it broke and caused the crash or it was broken in the crash.

    Niel later on consulted Jim Bertram, showing him an original steering arm and asking Jim if he thought it could be safely lightened... basically Jim said, "No, I don't think so."

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