Although Ray Molloy began racing a Mini in 1963, it wasn’t until the 1970s that he made his mark as one of Australia’s top Mini drivers.
Ray had his first race in 1959, in his MGA at Fisherman’s Bend. He then bought a VW Beetle, but had a disastrous start with it, rolling it over five times during practice and not even making race day.
An FJ Holden followed, before Ray decided to get a Cooper Mini. “Manton had the Minis, so I thought I’d have a crack at them. I went to a 998 Cooper when they came out (1962) and I ran that for a couple if years in hillclimbs and sprints.
In 1967, though, Ray took a very different path, buying Lou Molina’s Monza and racing in Sportscar and Sports Sedan events. He had a lot of success, too, including the 1967 Sports Sedan Championship at Sandown. He wasn’t so fortunate in the Sportscar Championship, though, as he remembers. “I blew a (radiator) hose down there, and I got passed by Bob Jane, who was going about 40mph faster down the main straight in the aluminium E-Type.”
After a season trying Formula 2, he returned to the Minis, and began a very successful relationship with them for 25 years or so.
But it was in the mid-1970s that his racing really bloomed, alternating between Sports Sedans and Touring Cars. He won the Super Minis racing series three times and the Australian Sports Sedan Championship in 1976.
One of his lasting memories is winning the 1978 Australian Mini Challenge at Phillip Island. “There were 36 Minis from all over Australia, and I won that by eight seconds. That was a shocking track. It was full of potholes and different surfaces, and the track was just breaking up. I hadn’t been down there for 31 years and I got invited down there with the Mini Club (for the Phillip Island Classic in 2009), and I was so surprised at the change. It’s beautiful. It would be lovely driving down there now, but in the ’70s it was a shocker.”
“The track was so rough that my engine fell out. It was only the subframe holding it in and I had my leg around the gearstick for the last three laps. The others all fell to bits, but mine seemed to last.”
“I was also awarded an Australia Day Award, for success in sport. So, that one’s a prized possession.”
Ray also has fond memories of the old Hume Weir circuit (detailed in Issue 5), and held the Mini lap record there upon the track’s closure. “It was terrific, a nice little circuit. Good for a Mini”, he says.
Another high point for Ray was racing at Bathurst in 1974 to 1976, although the results don’t do him justice. “The three Bathursts were good fun. I did one with Johnny Lord and the next two years I ran my own car with Alan Braszell. In that ’74 race, I had slowed down because it was raining at the top of the Mount, so John dragged me out of the car and went out and then crashed the thing.”
John Lord recently admitted the crash was his fault (Issue 22) when he said; “We were leading our class by three laps, when I had a brain fade. It was a wet weekend and there was a bit of a ridge at the top of McPhillamy Park that channelled the water. I slowed down to what I thought was about three-quarters race speed, but got it all wrong and crashed. The irony was I had already decided to come in for wet weather tyres on that lap.”
If you would like to read the rest of this story, order your copy of Issue 27 of The Mini Experience. <plumshop>47</plumshop> <plumshop>48</plumshop>