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Vale – Jim McKeown

A legend during the early years of the Australian Touring Car Championship, Jim McKeown has passed away.

Part of the successful Neptune Racing Team of the 1960s, McKeown was claimed by Allan Moffat to have the fastest Lotus-Cortina in the world as he spectacularly punched above his wait when the Ford Mustangs and Chevy Novas were introduced.

McKeown and Moffat’s rivalry ended with the duo pairing up to take on rounds of the US Trans Am Series in 1967. The previous year, Moffat had scored his maiden Trans Am Series at Bryar and realised he needed to lift the bar, so borrowed one of McKeown’s engines for the occasion as he joined the Canadian in a second Lotus-Cortina.

Although a loose flywheel ended the day early for Moffat, pole position and leading the early laps definitely rose eyebrows as McKeown’s ingenuity was on full display.

A winner of multiple Victorian Touring Car Championships and holder of numerous 1.6-litre lap records across the country, McKeown was one of this country’s leading drivers.

Contesting the last Armstrong 500 to be held at Phillip Island, McKeown was a class winner with George Reynolds and a year later finished on the podium at Mount Panorama.

Joining the Neptune Racing Team formed by Norm Beechey in 1964 alongside Mini star Peter Manton, the trio rose the bar in presentation and competition.

Running a successful automotive repair workshop and two truck service out of Kilsyth, a Melbourne suburb in the shadows of Mount Dandenong.

One of his first race cars was a Repco-powered Holden 48-215 and McKeown was also a regular to the nearby Templestowe Hillclimb during the early 1960s.

Finishing sixth in the Australian Touring Car Championship race at Lakeside and fourth in 1969 providing the last hurrah for the Lotus Cortina, which had by this stage been significantly outpowered by the Mustang.

McKeown went in a different direction entering the 1970s and chose a Porsche 911S, which was contentiously considered a touring car back then based on the fact it had two small rear seats.

It proved a successful move as McKeown finished second in the title race in his Shell-backed Porsche, finishing four-points in arrears to ‘teammate’ Beechey in the iconic Holden HT Monaro GTS350. During the season, McKeown took Porsche’s sole two ATCC round wins at Warwick Farm and Symmons Plains.

Fourth followed in 1971 before the Porsche was deemed ineligible for touring car competition, so McKeown moved to Alfa Romeo while retaining his 911S for sport car events.

Racing Alan Hamilton’s turbocharged mid-engined (instead of rear) Porsche 911 later in his career he secured top results in Toby Lee Series and a variety of Sports Sedan events across Australia.

A limited run at Bathurst included teaming with Beechey to finish sixth in 1971 driving a Shell Valiant Charger R/T E38 and a fourth place class result pairing partnering Geoff Leeds (who has also recently passed away) in a Mazda RX-3.

Retiring in the mid-1970s, McKeown is revered to this day for his exploits as the Repco Garage sends its condolences to partner Toni, son Dean, daughter Sonya and his many friends.