"The Monza Motors Man"
By Chris Meaden
remember Charlie's exploits in Sports Cars entered under the Monza Motors
The Elfin ME5 was a big step up for him and he contested rounds of the
Australian Sports Car Championship. He was up against the big budget teams
such as the Bob Jane Racing Organisation which had John Harvey at the helm
of its Repco powered McLaren M6A.
It was Charlie's Chevrolet Corvette Stingray that brought him the most
success in motor racing and I fondly remember his battles with Bolwell
Nagaris in the Production Sports Car class.
Click on the
thumbnails above to see full sized photos.
The race that most stands out in my mind was a race at the Calder night
meeting in January 1974. Charlie had a race long battle with John
Latham's Bolwell Nagari which had the crowd cheering in a way that was only
normally reserved for the Sports Sedan heroes of the time. There was a
GM versus Ford rivalry aspect that the course commentators drew upon to
whipped the crowd into a frenzy on the barmy summer evening around dusk.
On this occasion the GM fans had the most to cheer about as Charlie drove to
an exciting victory.
The name Occhipinti still goes on in motor racing today with Charlie's son,
Ricky, establishing a career for himself in open wheel racing.
"Some 35 years ago there was no
Ricky Occhipinti in Australian motorsport, but there was Charlie
Occhipinti - Ricky's father. Charlie Occhipinti started racing in 1965
in the now famous Mini Cooper. What followed was a start of a 10 year
racing career described as "good fun and a great social time". Not much
has changed, except the soaring costs to race nowadays. Charlie
classified himself as a social club racer in between his car sales
business at Monza Motors in Malvern.
In his 3 years of racing his Mini Cooper he raced on the now defunct
Hume Weir and Warwick Farm circuit in Sydney, along with the old Calder,
Sandown, Philip Island and Winton circuits. And he described Adelaide's
Mallala raceway a challenge. Charlie Occhipinti raced hard. No better
example of this was competing for class honours in the Sandown three
hour race with no co-driver.
1968 saw Charlie Occhipinti a master in the 1100cc Sports Car class,
where he raced an Adelaide-built Elfin Mallala. In another three year
stint with the class, he held lap records at Hume Weir, Calder and
Winton. He sold his Elfin Mallala, but kept his love affair with Gary
Cooper's local built cars and raced an Elfin ME5, powered by a Chev V8.
Charlie's on and off racing days, culminated with him racing Production
Sports Cars - the equivalent to today's Nations Cup. In his final years
of racing he raced to victory on countless occasions aboard his Corvette
Stingray. During his last year of racing in 1974 he won 14 races
straight and had the Victorian Championship virtually won before getting
married. Philip Island of that year, was his last ever race.
While off the racing circuit, Charlie ventured into the Hotel business,
owning the Collendina Hotel in Ocean Grove. This move saw his family
business being involved in Australia's glory days of rock'n'roll, where
played host to Cold Chisel, INXS, Australia Crawl, The Angels and Jon
English, just to name a few. 1982 saw Charlie sell the surf-coast based
hotel and buy the Palais in Geelong where he ran much the same style of
business incorporating Australia's biggest bands and without doubt
becoming one of Geelong's highest profile venues, especially over the
This hectic life style took its toll, so in 1986 he sold the Palais and
went back to what he knows best, cars, and established Formula Uno
Motors on the Princess Hwy in Geelong. Charlie still owns and operates
Formula Uno today, with the help of his son Ricky Occhipinti. 40 years
in the car game, and now he is still working as much as ever, running
the business as well as running his Formula 4000 team for his son."
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