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REVIEW: Allan's climb to the top

AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Allan Moffat wrote about his motorsport career in his book Allan Moffat, Climbing the Mountain.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Allan Moffat wrote about his motorsport career in his book Allan Moffat, Climbing the Mountain. Contributed

DETERMINED. Winner. Champion.

Arrogant. Brusque?

Allan Moffat: Climbing The Mountain, the "warts and all" autobiography of Australian motorsport legend Allan Moffat, is two tales screaming down the home straight challenging for the chequered flag: A pedal-to-the-metal insight into the "golden era" of the sport versus, surprisingly, a character assassination of the four-time Bathurst hero.

The early narrative sets a scene instantly recognised as a win-against-the-odds classic - a Canadian family perpetually in motion, a young man who could never settle or integrate, an avenue that offered him freedom from his social barriers.

However, the tale quickly shifts a gear when Moffat lands on Australian shores. Suddenly, the reader is thrust into the "wild west of Australian motorsport", a landscape of free-for-all racing on tracks that have now either entered folklore or been lost to history. And of course, Bathurst.

Before Moffat could create his legend on The Mountain, he had to earn his dues, criss-crossing the country, oceans and continents, looking for a team, a seat and the top of the podium.

However, you can't get to the top without denting a few fenders and Moffat - a hard-nosed, opportunistic competitor - had no qualms going wheel-to-wheel with drivers, organisers and sporting bodies in some of the great controversies of those early, heady days.

And this is where the book's second tale starts to quickly fill the mirrors. Moffat was a determined driver, no doubt, whose career was built on meticulously searching for every advantage he could but, when accused of bending, if not breaking the rules, he offers little in defence or explanation, simply shrugging his shoulders and expecting the reader to take his word. Take, for example, this excerpt when he was dragged in front of the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) after being accused of cheating in 1977:

"Was I cheating? No way. Was I doing what (Holden team manager) Harry Firth had done for years? You bet. Only better."

Or how about the rumour- mill moment when Moffat lured long-time supporter Allan Horsley - the former CAMS official measurer who serendipitously signed off on his new boss's car by the fraction of a dip in the back seat - to his Mazda team.

"Naturally, given (Horsely's) role in my homologation by CAMS, there were whispers, none of them with any foundation... There was no subterfuge."

No belated revelation, no insight, no point of view or explanation. A jarring experience for someone looking to delve into the sordid history of the sport.

But with his successes, Moffat is more forthcoming. Much more. And he had every right, trekking across the world to keep his dream alive, even if he does say so himself:

"I was the Number One. Why? It's what I'd been working for and frankly what I deserved."

However it was Bathurst, that iconic pinnacle of Australian motorsport, that cemented Moffat's name in folklore. His team's famous - or infamous depending on your point of view - 1-2 finish in the 1977 running of the great race cemented his shadow across The Mountain.

Perhaps, more importantly, it was a rivalry that made Moffat the giant of Australian motorsport, a rivalry with that other heroic dynamo: Peter Brock.

The duo's on-track battles was the stuff of legends and all but began the rivalry that dominates V8 Supercars today - Ford v Holden.

So how surprising, when Moffat's career seemed to be on the wane, that Brock offered him an olive branch, a chance to race in the World Touring Car Championship.

And how did Moffat repay this goodwill? By secretly buying the chassis for the 1987 title attempt out from underneath Brock's nose.

"Some said it was a dirty trick. If I'd gone about it another way maybe I could have brought Peter along for the ride. But you had to be there."

Moffat enjoyed a long, storied and successful career, one, which on reflection, provides a broad examination of an extraordinary life which, monumentally, helped transform the sport from wild, passionate amateur into the modern roar of the V8 Supercars.

But Moffat's well-known, nay famous, ability to rub people the wrong way is not lost in his writing. His singled-mindedness, his winning at all costs mentality, his refusal to dig deep into his own controversy or accept blame - all could be forgiven if there was an ounce of humility - start to grate well before the end.

But, perhaps that won't worry the man himself one bit.

Overall, the two tales of this book come charging, like Moffat's and Colin Bond's iconic finish on the Mountain, over the lane neck-and neck.

You just have to decide which is the victor.

Topics:  allan moffat australian motorsport motorsport motorsport legend

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