No less than the South Australian Premier, Sir Thomas Playford opens the Mallala circuit on 19 August 1961…

The marvellous venue is still with us thankfully, most Australian competitors over the years have raced there and experienced the wonderful Mallala hospitality. The track is an easy 55 km from Adelaide in flat, mainly wheat farming countryside between the Adelaide Hills and the sea.

(B Smith)

Bob Jane Jag Mk2 4.1 on pole from the Ern Abbott and Clem Smith Valiant R Types.

This race is the start of the 50 mile 1963 Australian Touring Car Championship held on 15 April and won by Jane from Abbott, Smith and Harry Firth in a factory Ford Cortina.

The South Australian motorsport community had to rustle up a circuit post-haste when CAMS ‘black-balled’ the windswept, scrubby Port Wakefield as unsuitable to hold the 1961 AGP- the South Aussies had been allocated the race that year in the one state at a time rotational system for our premier event which prevailed for decades.

(B Smith)

The photo is the start of the 9 October 1961 Grand Prix- the races ‘bolter’ David McKay is already away and out of shot.

He was pinged for the alleged jumped start which cost him the race won by Lex Davison #4 aboard one of Bib Stillwell’s Cooper T51’s. #9 is Bill Patterson, #19 Doug Whiteford and #6 Bib Stillwell all driving Cooper Climax T51 FPF’s ubiquitous as they were at the time!

Keith Rilstone is in the stunning #8 Zephyr Spl s/c and Murray Trenberth, Alta Holden alongside Keith and behind Patto. The #5 Cooper T51’between the two starters on the stand’ is John Youl, the front engined car a bit further back is, I think, Mel McEwin in the ex-Ted Gray Tornado 2 Chev. Across the road on the track’s outside is John Ampt in the Cooper T39 Jaguar and down the back is Alan Jack’s Cooper T39 Bobtail- still further in the distance are the unmistakable lines of an Elfin Streamliner sporty, entered by Peter Wilkinson.

Lets go back a step and have a look at the background of Mallala.

As with other Australian circuits Lowood and Caversham, the core infrastructure of the facility was created by the Australian Government in the form of a Royal Australian Air Force base, in this case established on land to the north of the town in 1939, and opened in 1941.

The facility operated as the ‘No 6 Service Flying Training School’ providing the next level of training- ‘medium proficiency’, to those who had gained the basics of flying at places like Parafield, to increased their experience before moving on doing more advanced training at a specialist school such as those at Port Pirie or Mount Gambier. (limiting to ourselves to South Australian bases)

Mallala was the biggest base in South Australia, at its peak it had 19 Bellman Hangars with 1900 personnel by 1942 including 285 trainees who learned to fly Ansons, Oxfords, Moth Minors and Tiger Moths. A total of 2257 trainees passed out of the school before the unit ceased to work as No 6 SFTS on 31 December 1945.

From around 1947 RAF Transport Command provided a weekly service from England to Mallala to supply the Woomera Rocket Range using Hastings aircraft- with Bristol Freighters operating a shuttle service between Mallala and Woomera.

In 1951 a Citizens Air Force squadron was formed which trained pilots on Tiger Moths, Wirraways and Mustangs. After 9 years of duty the CMF Air Squadrons were given non-flying roles and simultaneously Mallala was wound down. At about the same time the new RAAF Edinburgh opened at Salisbury in South Australia.

September 1955 Mallala Airshow, Vickers Valiant B1 flyover (Mallala Museum)

Post war migration to Australia was enormous as we took vast numbers of people from the UK and Europe, the culture shock of Australia was enhanced by ‘New Australians’ being located in camps where they were given the basics of English to equip them for work.

A portion of the existing Mallala base was converted for this purpose but ‘There were concerns about the lack of fencing around active runways and landing fields given small children were housed at the camp- the threat of bushfire was also alarming to residents…’. Accordingly the poor souls were relocated.

Mallala was used as an RAAF facility until 1960, it was put up for public auction in 1961 and acquired by a group of racing enthusiasts who recognised the potential of the facility as the new permanent home of motor racing in SA.

The original tracks lap distance of 3.38 km was reduced to 2.601 km in late 1964 when the Bosch Curve was moved closer to the Dunlop Curve Grandstand thus removing the north-eastern leg of the circuit.

The track hosted rounds of the Gold Star from 1961-1971, the Australian Tourist Trophy for sportscars in 1962 and 1968 with the single race Australian Touring Car Championship held there in 1963 and annual rounds from 1969 when the ATCC became a multi-round title.

Keith Williams moved the Mallala tectonic plates when the entrepreneur and Surfers Paradise International Raceway owner built Adelaide International Raceway at Virginia- and sought to maximise its market success by acquiring Mallala and eliminating its use as a racetrack by placing a covenant on the title limiting such future activity. A bumma.

Chrysler Australia, not too far away (70 km) in Tonsley Park and Elfin Sportscars continued to test there with Mallala coming out of the darkness when local businessman/racer Clem Smith bought the track in 1977- the covenant was deemed unenforceable with ‘Mallala Motorsport Park’ reopening in 1982.

In more recent times, May 2017, after Clem Smith’s death, the Peregrine Corporation, owners of Tailem Bend’s new ‘The Bend’ motorsport complex own the facility. Many of the photos in this piece are from Clem’s son Brentons collection circulated on social media in recent months.

In the circuits early days the airfield infrastructure remained and created a wonderful backdrop for photographs such as the one below.

It is a Victorian duel between Norm Beechey and Jim McKeown- Holden 48-215 chasing Jim in the Jewitt Holden around the aptly named Hangar Corner (turn 1). Cars in the background are perhaps Brian Sampson or the Nancarrow brothers Austin Lancer or Wolseley 1500.

(DL Brock)

The hangar was demolished in the late sixties (date would be great folks) with Brenton advising ‘the main part of the hangar was removed leaving only the northern end which was used as a workshop from around 1964. Dad used it to swap an engine between races and then demolished it when he bought the track before it’s re-opening’.

A large concrete skid pad exists where the hangar once was.

(Hawthorn)

Mallala in 1963 would have been about as far as the designers of the oh-so-late to F1 Aston Martin DBR4/250 ever expected their cars to be from the GP tracks of Europe!

Two of these cars came to Australia and were raced by Lex Davison (DBR4/250-4) and Bib Stillwell (DBR4/250-3). This chassis was raced by Lex during during 1960 and 1961 and came oh-so-close, a bees-dick in fact, of winning the 1960 AGP at Lowood in an amazing race long battle with Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati.

Pat Hawthorn raced the car from around March 1963, here the car is on the way to fourth place in the ‘Advertiser Trophy’, the 1963 Gold Star round behind John Youl, Bib Stillwell and Wally Mitchell aboard Cooper T55 Climax, Brabham BT4 Climax and MRD Ford respectively.

(B Smith)

Neptune Racing Team in Mallala attendance.

Peter Manton, Morris Cooper S, Jim McKeown, Lotus Cortina and Norm Beechey in his S4 EH Holden circa 1964. The team and drivers individually were huge crowd-pleaders at the time given the professionalism and appearance of the equipe not to forget the speed of the cars.

The SA Touring Car Championship was held over the. Easter break, on 19 April 1965 and won by Norm Beechey’s Mustang here taking an inside line (above) under Jim McKeown, Lotus Cortina with Peter Manton Cooper S and Clem Smith, Valiant in hot pursuit.

Norm Beechey from Clem Smith circa 1965 (B Smith)

Clem Smith is of course the very same man who acquired Mallala in 1977 referred to in the text.

(R Lambert)

Formula Libre race during the 1964 Gold Star, October weekend.

The front row comprises a couple of Melburnians- Lex Davison at left in a Brabham BT4 Coventry Climax and Bib Stillwell’s Cooper Monaco at right. Behind Bib is Garrie Cooper’s red Elfin Mono Ford t/c 1.5.

By this stage Bib’s Cooper was powered by the ex-Scarab/Daigh Traco Buick V8- my money is on Bib for the win- who won though folks?

(B Smith)

Mallala was Elfin country of course! The cars were built in Edwardstown and first tested by Garrie Cooper at Mallala so they tended to be quick in their backyard.

Mel McEwin #16 Elfin Ford 1500 passes Andy Brown #41 Elfin FJ Ford in the photo above during the GT Harrison Trophy, a support race over the 1963 ATCC meeting weekend. The abandoned #14 car is the BBM2 Mercedes of D Dansie.

The Trophy race was won by Keith Rilstone’s amazing Eldred Norman built fifties front-engined Zephyr Spl s/c from Wally Mitchell MRD Ford, McEwin and Garrie Cooper’s Elfin Ford 1500.

(B Smith)

Bob Jane’s E Type leads the field from the grid and provides a great panorama of the track into Hangar Corner. Flat country tends to be the norm for airfield circuits for fairly obvious reasons…

(J Lemm)

The original Officers Mess (in the background above) was re-purposed as the Clubhouse and of course the corner closeby assumed that name. As Brenton Smith observed the clubhouse existed until ‘the white ants ate it’!

Malcolm Ramsay goes through Clubhouse in his sweet Elfin 600C Repco 2.5 V8 during the October 1970 Gold Star round on the way to fourth place- Leo Geoghegan won the day and the Gold Star that year in a Lotus 59B Waggott 2 litre TC4V.

Mustangs…

Commonwealth CA-18 Mustang 23 (P51D) manufactured by the Commonwealth Aircraft Factory in Fishermans Bend, Melbourne. Aircraft are of the No 24 ‘City of Adelaide’ Squadron at Mallala in 1956.

(D Simpson)

Pete Geoghegan during the 1969 Australian Touring Car Championship meeting. He won the race on 16 June- and the championship held over five rounds.

Credits…

Brenton Smith, DL Brock, John Neddy Needs, John Lemm, Hawthorn Family, Frank Finney, Dick Simpson, oldracingcars.com, Rob Bartholomaeus for caption assistance

Tailpiece: Avro 694 Lincoln, Mallala Air Show 1956…

Government Aircraft Factory built Avro 694 Lincoln Mk30A, one of 73 built, A73-34, this plane was delivered in 1948 (F Finney)

Finito…

 

Comments
  1. Rob says:

    Mark,

    The answer to your question re the winner of the “Formula Libre race during the 1964 Gold Star, October weekend” is – Lex Davison. According to the Australian Motor Sports report of the meeting, the race was the Division 1 Scratch race and Davison’s winning margin over Stillwell was 11 seconds, with Osborne’s Cooper Climax a further 21 seconds behind.

    Cheers,

    Rob

  2. David Rees says:

    Great stuff Mark

  3. Ray Bell says:

    Perhaps the 1960 Cooper suspension wasn’t up to the same level of efficiency as the 1963 Brabham’s?

    One thing worth mentioning is that the airstrips at Mallala were all grass, the circuit is formed of service roads.

    • markbisset says:

      Ha-ha,
      Fair comment Ray, I would love to have seen that car raced by Bib in that spec. Thanks for the details about the runways. I’ve only raced there once and loved the place- time to go back.
      Mark

      • Ray Bell says:

        I recall seeing it at Warwick Farm, but Matich and the 19B had his measure. Perhaps, however, it was a part of the motivating force behind Matich putting Brabham-style suspension on the 19B?

        You have to ask, though, how much extra performance the Scarab engine had as Daigh diced with Moss in the Lotus at Sandown. Moss didn’t let him get away, yet he didn’t have enough power in his Climax to run with the leaders of that race.

      • markbisset says:

        Ray,
        The real shame with that car is that it only raced once at Sandown, so the development of it was minimal if at all. It was right that the Intercontinental Formula died in the bum I think- but it would have been interesting to see how the Scarab Buick would have gone against the Climaxes et al in 1962. One of those interesting mighta-beens. There are a few shots of the car about but none completely body off to have a really good look at the thing.
        Mark

  4. Rob says:

    Mark,

    The Jane / Abbott / Smith photo above is of the start of the 1963 Australian Touring Car Championship race. This is from the first race meeting that I have any real memory of attending, so it remains a big deal for me. Interesting in that in its first three years of existence, Mallala hosted Australia’s premier Racing Car race (the 61 AGP), the premier Sports Car race (1962 ATT) and the premier Touring Car race (63 ATCC). It seems that CAMS were kind to us South Aussies at the time.

    Cheers,

    Rob

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Rob,
      I’ll change the caption- maybe CAMS were feeling sorry for you guys given the Port Wakefield ‘shafting’? In my Adelaide years I never got the chance to drive up there and have a poke around- I believe you can still see where much of the circuit was? Scrubby saltbush country?
      Mark

  5. Ray Bell says:

    Perhaps the most disappointing visit to an old circuit I ever made. But I had to go there or I wouldn’t have seen every circuit on which the AGP had been held.

  6. Rob says:

    Mark,

    That photo of the McEwin & Brown Elfins was published in the June 1963 edtion of AMS with the caption reading “Mel McEwin (Elfin 1500) flies past Andy Brown in the G.T. Harrison Trophy event….” That race was a support at the 1963 ATCC meeting and reference to the official results indicates that Brown’s car was indeed an Elfin F.J. although it was actually #41 rather than #4. The results confirm that the #16 was an Elfin 1500 so I suppose we can’t really call it an F.J. as they were limited to 1100cc.

    Meanwhile #14 is listed as D. Dansie – B.B.M.2 – DNF with three laps completed. The Official Programme lists the car with a 2230cc engine, which I believe was a Mercedes-Benz unit.

    Keith Rilstone (Zephyr Special ) was the winner of the Trophy race from Wally Mitchell (M.R.D.) with McEwin third just ahead of Garrie Cooper (Elfin 1500).

    Cheers,

    Rob

  7. Rob says:

    Mark,

    That #63 Holden of Norm Beechey in the photo above is actually a 48/215 rather than an FJ.

    Cheers,

    Rob

  8. Rob says:

    Mark,

    I’ve had a look through some likely Official Programs and Results and have concluded that the Beechey / McKeown photo is from the Touring and Grand Touring Car Scratch Race which was Event 1 at the 1961 Australian Grand Prix meeting. Beechey won the Touring section, albeit 24 seconds behind McKeown, who won the GT section. No outright winner is acknowledged!

    The only Austin Lancer was driven by M. Nancarrow in Touring and suffered a DNF. There were no Wolseleys! Two Ford Anglias competed, both entered by Allan Coffey Motors in Touring. Car 96 driven by L. Molina placed third and car 95 driven by R. Mitchell placed fifth. I can’t read the number on the Anglia but your eyes may be better than mine!

    Cheers,

    Rob

    • markbisset says:

      Rob,
      Thanks- LOL- effectively the article will be a re-write by the time your research is done! Many thanks as always, will cycle back again over the weekend and make the edits.
      And as Ray says you would enjoy The Nostalgia Forum- have a look and join up. I am too much of a dumb-arse to be able to load piccies onto it but clever fellows like Mr Bell have it covered.
      M

  9. Ray Bell says:

    You’re good man, Rob…

    Why aren’t you on TNF?

  10. Rob says:

    If I start this sort of carry-on on another site I will never get the lawns cut.

    • markbisset says:

      I do understand the mindless distraction of a Briggs and Stratton engine too, I love the way you get points for doing something I quite enjoy with the little Sabre Toothed Tigress!
      TNF won’t take up too much of your time and they are a friendly and very knowledgeable lot!
      Mark

  11. Rob says:

    Mark,

    Something odd is going on with the clock here. I made the above post on Dec 8 at around 8am and the time stamp reads Dec 7 at 9:28 pm.

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