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Open wheeler driver John Youl dies at age 77

By Peter McKay, 30 Sep 2009 Motorsport

John Youl, centre, receiving one of many trophies

He was a class act on and off the track. And we can thank him for Tasmania's premier circuit.

Weeks after the death of Frank Gardner, Australian motor sport took another body blow with news of the passing of John Youl, who was a classy open-wheeler star of the 1960s as well as being a driving force in the creation of the Symoons Plains racing circuit on his farm near Launceston.

The motor racing pioneer and prominent Tasmanian grazier was 77.

International motor sports writer and commentator Peter Windsor said he is saddened by Youl's death after a lengthy illness.

"One of the fastest and most elegant racing drivers I've ever seen," commented Windsor. "I popped in to see him a few years ago. Lovely man."

Youl was not as well-known as many of his contemporaries from the '60s, but raced against many of the greats including Jack Brabham and Jackie Stewart.

Competing against the likes of Bruce McLaren, Brabham, Denny Hulme, Graham Hill, Frank Gardner and so on, Youl was fifth in the standings in the first year of the eight-race Tasman Championship Series in 1964.

Other career highlights were winning the 1963 Horden Trophy at Sydney's Warwick Farm and placing second to Bruce McLaren in the 1962 Australian Grand Prix in Western Australia.

"I really respected John for doing what he did on a much more limited budget than many of those around him," recalled ABC motor racing commentator Will Hagon.

Symmons opened in 1960s and has been a championship venue to this day.

Youl was an inductee into the Tasmanian Motor Sport hall of Fame.

John Youl had four children - Simon, Richard, Fiona and Andrew - from his first marriage. He had three step-children, James, Robert and Emma - from his second marriage, to Anna.

Wheels extends condolences to his extended family.