Frank Gardner was an Australian motor racing pioneer in every sense of the word. Raised in a working class family in Sydney, his life was shaped by his racing uncle after the untimely death of his father due to a drunk driver.
Trained as a mechanic, Frank ventured to England and found himself as an engineer on the factory Aston Martin effort that won the Le Mans 24 Hour in 1959.
He developed his passion for driver coaching as a mechanic at the famed Jim Russell Driving School in the UK before becoming Jack Brabham’s first appointed employee at Brabham.
As a driver, he competed in nine official FIA Formula 1 Grands Prix and 11 non-Championship Formula 1 races in Brabham and BRM equipment – scoring two podiums in those non-Championship races.
He won his class at Le Mans in 1961 with David Hobbs, who is now a respected journalist and commentator, had one NASCAR start in 1968, won the European Formula 5000 Championship in 1971 with the Lola factory and took three British Saloon Car Championships.
Gardner took three podiums in the Australian Grand Prix in the era when the best of Europe would spend their winter in Australia – and the New Zealand Grand Prix in 1972.
In Australia, his touring car career featured a Sandown 500 win and runner up place at Bathurst but perhaps he is most fondly remembered as a team manager of the iconic JPS BMW Factory Team, which he ran from 1980 through to 1987 – where he was also the test driver. His familiar white terry towelling hat was almost as iconic as the gleaming black and gold BMWs.
While consulting to Tony Longhurst’s Ford Sierra team (which netted a Bathurst win in 1988), Gardner established what is now known as the Norwell Motorplex on the Gold Coast.
He published two books – the Racing Driver’s Manual in association with Castrol and Drive to Survive, he was an accomplished boxer and surf lifesaver – competing internationally.
Frank sadly passed away in 2009 in his Gold Coast home, however his teachings and legacy are carried on through every program at the Norwell Motorplex.
Paul Morris is the only driver to have won the three current major races at Bathurst – the Bathurst 1000, Bathurst 12 Hour and Bathurst 6 Hour. He is also renowned as Australia’s leading racecar driver trainer.
Morris’ racing career began in speedway ‘bombers’ on the Gold Coast before switching to circuit racing in the famous one-make Gemini Series of the early 1980s.
His Bathurst 1000 debut came in 1991 with a class victory with Geoff Full in a Toyota Sprinter, a feat he’d back up three years later with Altfrid Heger in a BMW.
The 2014 last lap victory with Chaz Mostert was arguably the most tense Bathurst 1000 finishes in history.
Morris is considered one of Australia’s most adaptable drivers, having driven just about every form of the sport – including Indy Lights for PacWest, NASCAR West Series, dirt track Sprintcars and Stadium Super Trucks – where he became World Champion in 2017.
He is focusing his energies to impart the knowledge instilled in him by the likes of Frank Gardner onto Australia’s next generation of motorsport superstars through activities at the Norwell Motorplex and the Paul Morris Racing Academy.
“Roger Federer’s coach won’t beat him at Wimbledon, but he will improve Roger’s technique so he can win Wimbledon” – Stephen Robinson’s philosophy on driver coaching.
Stephen Robinson is the Head Instructor at the Norwell Motorplex and develops each program that the facility has to offer, from the basic defensive driving course, through the off-road activities and the Paul Morris Racing Academy.
Having been part of the Norwell Motorplex team for over a decade, Stephen – or “Robbo” as he’s more likely to answer to – is one of the most experienced driver trainers, coaches and program developers in Australia.
He raced for more than 10 years on the racetracks of Australia, including being a regular race winner in the V8 Utes category when it was at its height.
Robbo is an integral part of the development of the Paul Morris Racing Academy and has worked with many of the best racers in Australia to develop their racing techniques, along with giving thousands of drivers just like you the techniques they need to be safer and more aware drivers on our roads.
Alfreda – or more commonly known as “Alfie” – has been the face of the Norwell Motorplex for over 20 years. One of the most respected corporate venue managers and event directors in the Australian automotive space, Alfreda went from a career in stenography to corporate event management at the Sydney Cricket Ground and Sydney Football Stadium before moving to Queensland and taking up her role as Frank Gardner’s PA.
That role has morphed into her being the lifeblood of the Norwell Motorplex and ensuring the wheels all continue to turn in the same forward direction.
She’s seen various iterations of race teams come through the venue from Group A, 2.0 Litre Super Tourers, Supercars, Sprintcars and everything in between.
Alfie’s understanding of what clients need to get the absolute best out of their time at the Norwell Motorplex and effortlessly catering for every request has been crucial to her success and the success of the venue.
Her ‘get it done’ nature is renowned throughout the Australian automotive industry and Norwell Motorplex clients know that if they want something done, all they need to do is ring Alf and it will be done!
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