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The ‘big fish’ mentality that kept an Australian legend winning

Frank Gardner was the veteran of just eight grand prix starts. It could have been more, but why waste his talent if the cars weren't up to it? NIGEL ROEBUCK recalls the life of one of racing's great characters

Strictly, I’m aware that Frank Gardner doesn’t belong in a series called ‘Formula 1 Heroes’, as he would have been the first to acknowledge. As far as Formula 1 is concerned, his resume runs to only eight grands prix starts, plus a handful of non-championship races, all of them – save the 1967 Oulton Park Gold Cup, when he drove a factory Brabham – in uncompetitive cars.

Undoubtedly, he had the talent for an F1 career, but perhaps more than any other racing driver I have known, Gardner was a down-to-earth realist. “I liked the idea of F1 as much as anyone – but not at any price,” he said. “In something competitive, yes please, but I never could see the sense in driving a third-rate car, starting near the back, just so you could tell the world you were an F1 driver – and nowadays half these blokes seem to be paying for the privilege! I mean, what’s the point?”

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