Where are they now? Bruce Collins | Columns | Gassit Garage
Bruce Collins burst onto the sidecar scene and challenged the established aces
In 1983-84, Bruce Collins (then 26) and passenger Chris Dinuzzo gave the Australian championships a red-hot go, sometimes literally. In 1983 at Oran Park they beat multiple champions Geoff Taylor/Barry Frazer, and in a brutally hot 1984 opening round at Baskerville Collins chased Doug Chivas/Marg Halliday to the finish despite a burnt foot.
They finished second to Chivas again in the ’84 Australian GP at Bathurst.
These days, Collins and Peter de Angelis compete in F2 with an LCR-Honda 600, bought from 2016 Isle of Man TT winner John Holden, and selected classic races on a Yamaha TZ500. Last year they rode in the Assen round of the Sidecar World Championship.
“It was a lifelong dream to compete overseas,” Collins said. “In the 1980s, that’s what Aussies did – had a crack at the world championships. We never quite made it back then, but I was overseas with Peter to buy an F2 outfit and thought it would be great to have a race there. We did a British title race and Assen. It was a fantastic experience and ticked one thing off the bucket list.”
Collins, whose Port Melbourne-based company has been importing and wholesaling motorcycle accessories since 1984, grew up riding mini-bikes on the family market garden in Rowville.
“I made a motocross track on another property we had at Cranbourne. The Floods got wind of that, so Gary and Trevor Flood started to come down to practice, along with other top Victorians Jack Pingelly, Bernie Ryan, Ron Dinsdale and Steve Cramer.
“I was just a young fellow of 18, but Bert (Flood) said the only thing holding me back was the bike I was on, a friend’s old Suzuki TM250. That was a nice word of encouragement from someone who knew a bit about the game, so I bought a Bultaco from him.”
Collins’ three-wheel career began when he joined the East Malvern club.
“The club president put out an advert for a fit, young man to passenger on his sidecar. I had no idea about the driver, but it was Lindsay Urquhart, an Australian road-racing sidecar legend who was racing a Wasp chassis with Kawasaki H2 engine. At my first race meeting we won the sidecar race and I won the C-Grade Division 2 solo, so I was pretty excited. I did a season with Lindsay and then went with John Armstrong on a Wasp-Norton. We finished third in the 1978 Australian Championship.
“Then I teamed up with my good friend Chris Dinuzzo, who was also riding motocross, to have a crack at road racing. We started with a heavy old chassis and H2 engine, spending more time fixing it than racing. Then we bought one of Lindsay’s chassis with a Kawasaki 650 engine and started to get some results in the Junior (650) sidecar class.
“We decided to step up again to a Yamaha TZ750. We bought a complete solo TZ and Lindsay modified a chassis to accept the engine and 13-inch wheels.
“We used that for a few seasons and in 1982 decided to import a Windle chassis from England. The only thing holding us back then was our TZ750 cylinders wearing out. At Symmons Plains in early 1983 we met the late Jim Cook and he suggested using two TZ350 barrels and made us a nice set of exhaust pipes. Two rounds into the series we’d had a win over Geoff Taylor and were equal first on points.”
Unfortunately, lack of wet-weather tyres at a rain-lashed Adelaide round, two crashes in Perth and being cleaned up on the starting line at Calder ended their charge. But they won the Victorian title and broke lap records at Oran Park and Winton.
Taylor/Frazer retired as champions at the end of 1983. Chivas/Halliday won the first two rounds of 1984, with Collins setting a new class record at Amaroo: “Commentator Will Hagon was so impressed he came to see us to say 54.1sec was the same time as the touring car record.
“We won at Lakeside and then had engine dramas at Adelaide after qualifying fastest. We led the last race at Calder until two laps from the end, when the engine seized. At that point, we decided to hang up the boots.”
But the lure of the track was too strong… “Eight years ago I took up classic racing with Peter on an Ireson-Yamaha. Peter is Chris’s cousin, but Chris half-owns the Yamaha, so it’s all in the family.”