Saturday 24th April 1982
Garrie Cooper (46), founder of Elfin Sports Cars, died from a ruptured aorta. With the help of his father Cliff Cooper, Garrie established Elfin Sports Cars in 1957 at the age of 22, with his first car being the Elfin Streamliner, a front engined sports car which first appeared in 1959, and began racing under the Elfin banner in 1962.
During the 1978 Australian Grand Prix at the fast Sandown Raceway in Melbourne, he suffered a broken leg in a high-speed crash while driving his own Elfin MR8 Formula 5000. The car was destroyed after leaving the track and crashing into the horse track rails on the back straight at over 250 km/h (155 mph). Cooper’s explanation for the high speed crash was that something broke on the car which sent him spearing into the fence.
In 1980, Cooper designed and built the first open wheel car in Australia to use Ground effect aerodynamics, the Elfin MR9 (the MR9 it remains the only F5000 ever constructed using Ground effect). This car made its race début in Coopers hands at the 1980 Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne’s Calder Park Raceway. Originally to be driven by French Formula One driver Didier Pironi who had experience driving ground effects F1 cars, Cooper himself decided to drive the car as it had only been completed before practice and did not set a qualifying time. Pironi and Cooper’s Ansett Team Elfin team mate John Bowe each drove an Elfin MR8 in the race, with Pironi finishing in third place, four laps down on the Williams FW07B Formula One car of 1980 World Champion Alan Jones.
John Bowe also drove the MR9 on limited occasions and felt that with the ground effects it had a lot of potential. However, Elfin were finding out what others had found with Ground effect in that it required stronger suspension components to cope with the higher downforce generated in the corners compared to the conventional F5000’s with Bowe reportedly receiving a fright during a race at Sandown in 1981 when the front suspension broke on the car. Unfortunately the true potential of the Chevrolet V8 powered MR9 was never reached and its racing life was limited to just one year as F5000 racing was phased out of Australian motorsport at the end of 1981.
After limited appearances following the 1980 Australian Grand Prix, Garrie Cooper retired from racing following the 1981 season.