Over to Australia. . . . .
Now that Great Britain is completely without private motoring, we turn to Australia — and report Speed Hill-Climb and Race Meetings of the L.C.C. of Melbourne.
The Light Car Club of Australia, Melbourne, Victoria, is unique in being the only Australian motor sport organisation to have its own club-rooms. Although its members number little more than 350, the club also owns a hill-climb track of 760 yards of macadam surface. The climb is shaped roughly like a reversed letter S. From the start is a gentle right-hand curve for about 150 yards, then a deceptive right-hand corner, still uphill for a further 80 yards, then down over a spillway, with a dam 80 feet deep on the left. After this the track rises rapidly for 200 yards — so steeply the driver sees only blue sky ahead. A very, very tricky left-hand corner leads into the finishing straight, which conceals a reverse-cambered, left-hand bend.
At this venue the Australian Hill-Climb Championships were decided on November 2nd, 1947.
In Australia, what with exchange rates, import licences and general conditions one either drives an old car, buys an M.G. (these are now practically unobtainable), or builds a “special.” In spite of this, the L.C.C.A. put 55 starters over the line at this meeting; 3,000 spectators went through the gate and 2,000-3,000 went over the fence.
Proceedings started on the tick of midday with the only “500 ” so far completed in Victoria — Bill Lowe driving a motor-cycle-engined machine to the top in 42.18 sec. Between that time and 4 30 p.m., no fewer than 134 climbs were recorded.
Because of previous disputes as to the definition, no “stock-standard” class was run; “sports” and “racing” being designated. A new storm arose as A.I.A.C.R. regulations were regarded by many as being too restricted for Australia. However, Peter Dale, as scrutineer, sorted the classes out to the satisfaction of most, and the results give an indication of the classification.
The hill is a little too severe for the less potent vehicles to provide any spectacular moments, but Len Phillips, in the very pretty “Ulster” Austin, did a neat climb in 39.48 sec. George Webber induced his vintage Derby chassis to record 45.04 sec., while Bill Patterson, 36.84 sec., beat Graham-Austin, 38.55 sec., both driving “TC” M.G.s. In this class Tony Gaze, newly-returned from England, did a quiet cruise in his “Aerodynamic” to run third. Most regrettably his Alta did not arrive until a fortnight after this meeting.
As the 1,500-c.c. racing car class came on, so speeds went up. Arthur Rizzo, a visitor from New South Wales, won the class in 33.00 sec., climbing cleanly with a beautiful crackle from his Riley, which has a 1,500-c.c. engine in a very short chassis, and a shapely body built mainly of fibre belly-tanks. John Barraclough came next, 33.37 see., in an “Ulster” NE M.G. Magnette, while Lindon Duckett, with his Anzani-Bugatti followed, in 33.51 sec. Other “pukka” machinery in this class was Herb. Ford’s original Type 37 Bugatti and Bill Lowe’s Lombard. Harry Hawker ran out of gearbox after one run, so the amazing Chamberlain-Special did not show to advantage. This car was entirely designed and built in Melbourne. It has front-drive of a unique type, an interesting chassis, and a blown 1,096-c.c., four-cylinder, two-stroke engine with eight pistons.
The big cars then enlivened proceedings. McDonogh (Hudson Eight Special) clocked 34.47 sec. in a car completed only a week prior to event, but which handled well in spite of awe-inspiring wheelspin away from the line. Whiteford, a driver of wide experience, clocked 31.22 sec. in his Lea-Francis chassis with Lincoln “Zephyr” power plant. George Reed, Frank Kleinig and Norm Andrews, all New South Welshmen, ran next. George, driving a lowered model-A Ford with Mercury engine, went smoothly and quietly in 33.26 sec. Frank (M.G. Magnette with 4-carburetter Hudson Eight engine) clocked 30.48 sec., power sliding most of the way and using grass as well as macadam. Norm was quite as spectacular in a “special” built round an Austin truck engine, reputed to give 140 b.h.p., but the car was not altogether suitable to the hill and clocked only 32.48 sec.
Another M.G. chassis, in which Ross Davidson had installed a Mercury engine, very neatly clocked 33.17 see., and Charlie Dean then ran up in 31.19 sec. with no trouble at all. His mount was a homemade, tubular frame car with i.f.s., powered with a 3.7-litre Maybach armoured-car engine. This was its first outing, and it was most impressive in performance and road-holding.
Reg. Nutt, driving Cooper’s “special” built round a 40-h.p. Cadillac engine, clocked 30.51 sec., but in his last run ran out of road, his gyrations making spectators run from both sides of the course. The same fate befell Ern Seeliger in Denniston’s very special monoposto Itala fitted with bored-out Mercury engine and a super-streamlined body; after removing a danger sign many feet from the track the body was in such a state that it had to be left behind, but on the stripped chassis Seeliger recorded 30.78 sec.
Arthur Wylie, designer, builder and driver of an extraordinary little contraption, running on baby Fiat wheels and weighing about 8 cwt., but powered with a model-A Ford souped up to deliver 96 b.h.p., made f.t.d. and a course record. Arthur, an ex-dirt-track driver who held the previous record of 29.47 sec., clocked 29.18 sec. in spite of being air-borne most of the way. After this effort everyone else seemed rather tame, except for Lindon Duckett, who ambled up in 33.80 sec. in his 1908 Mercedes — the 18-litre engine reaching almost 900 r.p.m.
Three weeks later the same club ran a surprisingly successful race meeting on a nine-furlong oval grass-track at Nar-nar-goon, a township 40 miles from Melbourne. Owing to doubtful weather practically no publicity was given this meeting, but about 3,000 spectators and 30 competitors turned up. On the wet grass, many competitors had incidents during the time trials that preceded the races, spinning with great abandon on one corner in particular. However, no damage was sustained and, by the time the races started, the track had dried out. It was decided to run four handicaps each of two or three heats, and a final. At first only four cars were put on simultaneously, but later it was found to be safe for six. Finishes were very close and spectators were treated to eighteen 5-lap events. The L.C.C. of A. prides itself on organisation; at this meeting the average period between finishing one race and starting the next was less than five minutes.
The L.C.C. of A., in conjunction with another club, drew 35,000 spectators to a race meeting 70 miles from Melbourne in January, 1947. This was on an aerodrome not at all suitable for spectacular racing, and prize money was under £500. The club has now been granted sole permission to run on another aerodrome, much superior in every way, and only 12 miles from Melbourne. Prize money will probably be £1,500, and, in spite of drastic cuts in fuel rations, an attendance of 70,000-80,000 is confidently expected. An air display is to accompany the racing, and it does not seem unduly optimistic to hope that this meeting will do much to establish motor racing as a recognised sport in this country.