Charlie Occhipinti “The Monza Motors Man” By Chris Meaden

I remember Charlie’s exploits in Sports Cars entered under the Monza Motors banner.
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.

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 Mr Occhipinti
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 holiday period.

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.”