Australian motorsport icon, Allan Horsley, has sadly passed away, leaving a notable void in the motorsport and automotive industries. Horsley was highly influential in both arenas, having contributed to significant innovations and successes on the Australian race track, as well as playing a pivotal role in the development of locally-produced sports cars.
Beginning his association with Mazda in 1981, Horsley oversaw the manufacturer’s Group A Touring Car campaign alongside renowned driver Allan Moffat and the impressive RX-7. This partnership marked the beginning of a remarkable 40-plus year affiliation with Mazda, leaving a lasting legacy. Horsley’s own racing career started with his homemade race cars, which he built as a young enthusiast to compete at the Hume Weir circuit near his hometown of Bonegilla.
In the 1960s, Horsley relocated to Sydney to work as the promoter for Oran Park Raceway. During his tenure, he introduced groundbreaking entertainment ideas, including the first-ever night race. These innovations made Oran Park Raceway the most popular circuit in Australia for both drivers and fans.
Horsley’s collaboration with Moffat and Mazda quickly resulted in success, with the team achieving their first victory in the Surfers Paradise 300. Although they didn’t conquer Mount Panorama, Horsley and Moffat won the Australian Endurance Championships in 1982 and 1984. Moffat has previously described Horsley as an integral part of the Mazda racing team and a dear friend.
Horsley’s involvement with Mazda continued even after Moffat transitioned to Ford Sierras. Horsley managed Mazda’s all-star team, securing four consecutive victories in Australia’s premier 12-hour production car race between 1992 and 1995. Known for his unwavering pursuit of victory, Horsley played a crucial role in the development of one of Australia’s finest sports cars – the locally-developed Mazda RX-7 SP.
Created to meet strict homologation requirements for the 12-hour production car races, the RX-7 SP featured enhancements such as a more powerful turbocharged rotary engine, larger intercooler, and lightweight carbon fibre body panels. Originally set for a production run of 25, consumer demand prompted an extension with an additional 10 cars being produced. Horsley’s achievements in motorsport were unparalleled, combining his entrepreneurial spirit from his days at Oran Park with his astute pitwall strategies.
Mark Skaife, a six-time Touring Car champion and Mazda Motorsport driver during their inaugural Bathurst 12-Hour victory in 1992, lauded Horsley’s achievements and referred to him as a visionary. He fondly recalled watching races at Oran Park as a child and acknowledged Horsley’s introduction of match racing and night racing as groundbreaking contributions to the sport.
After the success of the RX-7 SP, Mazda Motorsport continued to make strides, creating the first turbocharged Mazda MX-5, again using the SP badge, and producing a limited run of modified Eunos 800M SP sedans. The team also built a fleet of vehicles for tarmac rallying events, including RX-8 SPs, a Mazda3 MPS hot hatch, and even a Mazda2 city car.
Horsley’s influence extended beyond motorsport as he was involved in the development of Supercross in Australia, alongside co-promoter Phil Harrison, as well as the short-lived Canberra Motor Show. He was a fervent supporter of the NSW Waratahs rugby union team and was inducted into the Motorsport Australia Hall of Fame in 2019.
Horsley retired in 2012 and moved to the NSW south coast. He is survived by his son David and his sister Mary, passing away just days before his 83rd birthday. His legacy will forever be remembered in the motorsport and automotive industries.
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