Jeff Freeman was one of the best Australian midget drivers and arguably the most charismatic, rated on a par with the legendary US professional Bob Tattersall and the idol of thousands of fans.
As a 20-year-old Freeman was introduced to speedway by coincidence when a date fell through and a mate suggested a visit to the Sydney Showground was the right option.
His career began driving the ex-Norm Jackson twin cylinder midget owned by Alan Verdich at the Westmead Speedway and he wassoon promoted to the A-grade. Prior to the 1961/62 season Freeman switched to the yellow #55 Max Linklater Holden and steered the car to a grand win in the annual Sydney Speedcar Cup and later that season finished third to Tattersall and fellow American Leroy Warriner in the World Speedcar Championship at the Sydney Showground.
After the winter season at the Winsor Speedway Freeman moved on to race the Herb Elliot Holden during the summer of 1962/63 when the Linklater car was sold to New Zealand interests. However only weeks later NSW Champion Johnny Harvey departed the Don Mackay Offenhauser and the drive was offered to Freeman. It did not take Freeman long to come to grips with the powerful American engine with a third place in his third feature race for Mackay.
Mackay booked in a trip to Perth’s Claremont Speedway and first time out Freeman set a new 1 lap track record and finished second to Andy McGavin in the feature race. The following week Freeman won the 25-lap Western Australian Speedcar Championship. Returning to Sydney Freeman placed third in the NSW title and retained his Sydney Speedcar Cup, lapping almost the entire field and sliced 4 seconds from team-mate MaGavin’s 30-lap record in the process.
Following the winter Westmead season McGavin left the Mackay team and was replaced by Johnny Harvey.
Missing out of the international glory when the Yanks were in town during the 1963/64 season Mackay and Freeman had an on again off again relationship. Freeman returned to the Linklater stable and continued to win before taking over the #76 Mackay Offy. A win over Tatersall in New Zealand set the scene for the 1964/65 international events at the Sydney Showground. Tattersall could not keep up with Freeman during the 25-lap Sydney Speedcar Trophy as he won by half a lap.
The town was buzzing as anticipation grew for the inevitable Tattersall verses Freeman battle during the 1965 Australian Speedcar Grand Prix. The 25,000 strong Showground crowd erupted as Freeman shot around the outside of Tattersall as the American tried to pass leader Barry Butterworth. Freeman went on to win the race and although Tattersall was victorious in the following weeks World Speedcar Championship, Sydney belonged to Freeman.
In total, 34 career feature race wins came Freeman’s way across the country including the victory in New Zealand at the Western Springs Speedway and the 1965 Australian Grand Prix. He also won the 1964 ¼ mile Australian Championship in Brisbane, held the 6 lap track record at Windsor Speedway, and the 3, 25, and 30 lap records at the Sydney Showground. He has match race credits over Americans Bob Tattersall and Jimmy Davies.
In a total of 107 career feature race starts at the Showground, Freeman won 19, placed second 15 times, with 14 thirds. That’s a 45% podium strike rate.
His soaring career was savagely cut short in a fatal midget accident on a rain sodden track at Sydney’s Westmead Speedway on Mothers Day, 1965 at age 27. Such was the public interest in speedway, the tragedy was front page news and a lead item on radio and television. He lived with his mother Mayfree (who passed away in 1995) in Paddington, not far from the Sydney Showground.
Mayfree was quoted as saying “If Jeff were alive now he would probably walk in here and give us all a good kick up the rump for being so darn miserable.”