Born 5 January 1942
Jim Palmer totally dominated open-wheeler racing in New Zealand through the 1960s to the extent that he won the coveted ‘Gold Star’ title four times – 1963/64 in a Cooper, 1964/65 in a Brabham, 1965/66 with an ex-Jim Clark Lotus, and 1967/68 in a Formula 2 McLaren. Arguably his greatest performances were during the Tasman Series where he could be measured against the best of the resident Australians.
After finishing eighth in the 1964 championship and sixth in 1965, he excelled during 1966 when he finished every race (including three thirds). He finished fourth in the final points standing behind Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill and Jim Clark – all of them multiple world champions.
In addition to the Gold Star titles, Jim was also first resident New Zealander home in the New Zealand Grand Prix for five years in succession from 1964, and on four occasions at the prestigious Lady Wigram Trophy race. In 1966 he tested a Ferrari in Italy with the view of being entrusted with it in the 1967 Tasman Series, however circumstances changed and it didn’t happen. He raced for Australian entrants in their Gold Star as a result of his reputation as a fast but safe pair of hands – it was in a Scuderia Veloce Brabham that he set a new lap record at Bathurst.
Jim was back at Bathurst in 1968 in a Holden Monaro as part of the factory team and shared the runner-up car. He was successful in saloons in New Zealand during occasional long distance events but when he stepped away from open-wheelers, he took delivery of a Porsche 911 which was raced successfully until rule changes forced it out. Jim then, in his quiet way, slipped out of motor racing and devoted his time to his car sales yard, his wife Judy, and their three daughters.
Despite his modesty and natural shyness, his time at the top of New Zealand single-seater racing produced such a string of results that may never be bettered. He’d had opportunities to race in Europe and his performances in the Tasman left no one in any doubt that he had the ability to race in Formula 1 – after all, in the ‘60s, it was effectively the ‘winter world championship’.
Hometown: Hamilton, NZ
Four time winner of NZ Gold Star
Five times first Kiwi home in NZGP
Four times first Kiwi home at Wigram
Highest placed ‘local’ in 1966 Tasman (4th)
Second at Bathurst in 1968 (Holden Monaro)
Holder of outright lap record at Bathurst