The year is 1946, it isn’t Germany!…
Many thanks to Stephen Dalton for identifying the car and driver who are famous in the pantheon of Australian motor racing indeed. Frank Pratt drove this 328 to victory in the Australian Grand Prix at Point Cook, not too far away from Rob Roy in January 1948. The event featured is the 11th Rob Roy on 24 November 1946, one of Pratt’s first drives in the car.
This much raced 328, chassis #85136, was imported to Oz by Sydney driver/businessman John Snow on one of his trips to Europe. He bought it from a German General in 1937, Snow acquired it on behalf of George Martin, president of the Light Car Club, Melbourne.
Martin raced it in the ’38 AGP at Bathurst won by Peter Whitehead’s ERA R10B, then unfortunately lost his life in the car on the return trip to Melbourne in an accident near Wagga Wagga.
Repaired, by 1946 the car passed into the hands of Geelong motor cycle racer/dealer Frank Pratt who famously won his first circuit race in it; the 1948 Australian Grand Prix, at Point Cook airforce base west of Melbourne.
As a very successful motor cycle racer he was not new to competition and racecraft. He also had a favourable handicap, the AGP was run to F Libre and handicapped for many years. Pratt scored a lucky win with high speed consistency, the car prepared by racer/engineer Harry Firth.
Dalton adds; ‘..Les Murphy (was) mentioned as a possible driver of the car, because Pratt was injured at a Ballarat Motorcycle meeting. But not car preparation, Harry Firth said he did the brakes, chassis and gearbox on the BMW. Mick Scott did the engine. Harry also mentions preparing the Gaze HRG 1500, but wasn’t allowed to do the Alta’ which Gaze retired after 5 laps.
In a race run in horrid, stifling hot summer conditions which took their toll on both cars and their pilots especially the highly strung single-seaters and racing cars, Frank triumphed.
Click here for an interesting article about Frank Pratt, little has been written about him. ‘Pratt and Osborne’ still exists as a motor-cycle dealership in Geelong, a port city 75 Km from Melbourne on Port Phillip Bay. http://www.smcc.com.au/docs/Leonard%20Frank%20Pratt.pdf
The BMW was later raced by Peter McKenna all over Australia; at Fishermans Bend, Ballarat Airfield and Albert Park in Victoria and as far afield as Southport’s 1954 Australian Grand Prix. The car passed through various custodians hands in Oz before leaving the country in the 1990’s.
‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden’, George Thomas, Stephen Dalton, Dave Sullivan, State Library of South Australia