(Classic Auto News)

Bruce McLaren blasts past the Royal New Zealand Airforce control tower building during the 1965 Lady Wigram Trophy.

The reigning Tasman Cup champion finished second in his Cooper T79 Climax to Jim Clark’s Lotus 32B Climax with Jim Palmer’s Brabham BT7A Climax third. Clark won the title that summer with wins in four of the seven rounds.

Wigram Aerodrome was located in the Christchurch suburb of Sockburn, now named Wigram/Wigram Skies. It operated as an airfield from 1916, and as an RNZAF training base from 1923 to 1995.

Sir Henry Francis Wigram was a successful Christchurch businessman, politician and promoter of the fledgling aviation industry. He gifted land for the airfield to the Canterbury (NZ) Aviation Company (Sockburn Airport), later the land was re-gifted to the RNZAF.

The Lady Wigram Trophy was named in his wife’s honour.

Charles Kingsford Smith’s Fokker F.VII Trimotor Southern Cross at Wigram having made the first Tasman flight from Sydney to Christchurch on September 10, 1928 (discoverywall.nz)

 

Wigram August 1937. The first aircraft is a Gloster Grebe, others include De Havilland Tiger Moths, with Vickers Vildebeests at the end. Happy to take your input/corrections (natlib.govt.nz)

The first motor racing event took place at Wigram in 1949 when the Canterbury Car Club organised the NZ Championship Road Race meeting on February 26.

Winners of the Lady Wigram Trophy subsequently included many internationals such as Peter Whitehead, Archie Scott Brown, Ron Flockhart, Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart and Jochen Rindt. Other F1 drivers who won around the hangars include Graham McRae, Larry Perkins and Roberto Moreno.

Suss this series of excellent Talk Motorsport articles which tell the Wigram motor racing tale in full; Wigram Motor Racing: The First Decade | Talk Motorsport

The 1949 feature, the NZ Championship Road Race was won by Morrie Proctor’s Riley 9 at the far left of this photograph.

The legendary Ron Roycroft leads in his ex-works/Sir Herbert Austin, Austin 7 Rubber-Duck s/c from Hec Green in a Wolseley Special with Bob Christie aboard an MG TA Spl at the tail of this group.

(teara.govt.nz)

Jack Brabham leads Bruce McLaren, Brabham BT7A Climax and Cooper T70 Climax, at Wigram with the Port Hills forming a lovely backdrop in 1964.

Bruce won the 44 lap race from Jack with Denny Hulme’s works Brabham BT4 Climax third.

McLaren won the inaugural Tasman Series. His three wins in New Zealand matched Brabham’s in Australia, but Bruce’s 39 points haul trumped Jack’s 33. 

Brabham was the dominant marque that summer, Graham Hill and Denny took a race win apiece aboard their BT4s giving Motor Racing Developments a total of five wins in the eight rounds.

Reg Parnell’s 3.5-litre Ferrari 555 Super Squalo alongside teammate Peter Whitehead’s similar car in the Wigram paddock – note the hangars – in 1957.

Whitehead took the win from Parnell with Horace Gould’s Maserati 250F third. See here for more these cars; Squalo Squadron… | primotipo…

1957 starting grid panorama (I Tweedy)

BRM’s Ron Flockhart won the 1959 race from pole in a convincing display, he gets the jump in the P25 here with the obscured Coopers of Brabham and McLaren immediately behind, and Syd Jensen’s at right.

Frank Cantwell’s Tojeiro Jaguar is on the left, then Ross Jensen’s light coloured sharknose Maserati 250F, then Tom Clark’s Ferrari 555 Super Squalo #22.

Jack Brabham crouched in the cockpit of his Cooper T55 in typical style during the 1962 running of the Wigram classic.

Stirling Moss won again in his final New Zealand victory, aboard a Rob Walker Lotus 21 Climax (below) from Brabham, with John Surtees third in a Cooper T53 Climax. Jack and John used 2.7-litre Indy FPFs, while Moss’ was a 2.5.

Moss motors away in Rob Walkers’ Lotus 21 Climax #935, who is aboard the chasing Cooper T53? (MotorSport)

We have lift-off in 1967.

Frank Gardner’s four cylinder Coventry Climax FPF was going to struggle against the 2.1-litre BRM V8s of Dickie Attwood and Jackie Stewart on the right.

Frank finished a good fourth in a series of great speed and reliability, but up front at Wigram were three different V8s; Jim Clark’s 2-litre Lotus 33 Climax, Attwood’s BRM P261 and Denny Hulme’s 2.5-litre Brabham BT22 Repco.

Clark won the series with three wins from six championship rounds. Stewart won two and Jack Brabham, Brabham BT23A Repco one. The BRMs were quick, as they had been in 1966 – Stewart won the Tasman that year – but the transmissions wouldn’t take the additional punch of the V8s, which that year were bored out to 2.1-litres, rather than the 1.9-litre variant of the original 1.5-litre F1 V8 which did the trick the year before.

The cars are on the start-finish straight and lining up for Hangar Bend. Look closely, there are two BRM P261s in the mix so it’s probably 1966 or 1967, not 1968 I don’t think.

Christchurch enthusiast Geoff Walls remembers this era well, “It was the most fabulous fast circuit as those airfield situations can be, particularly rounding Bombay Bend onto the main straight/ runway at 100mph before really opening up for the length of the straight.”

“The Lady Wigram Trophy weekend was always in the Summer school holidays so on the Thursday, practice day, and again on Friday, some mates and I used to bike to the airfield, hide our bikes in the dry grass covered ditch parallel with the main runway, crawl through the wire fence and then sprint across the track at the right time and into the middle of the circuit where all the cars and drivers were for the day, great stuff!”

“In later years the Country Gentlemen’s Historic Racing and Sports Car Club used to hold a race weekend there with 250 entries and I was Clerk of the Course, also great occasions on the circuit. That was a great social occasion too and I do have photographic evidence!!”

(G Danvers)

This photograph was taken in October 1968 from the top of the water tower, looking east towards the control tower. Don’t the hangars in the foreground make the control tower building which looms large over Bruce McLaren in our opening shot seem small!

(T Marshall)

Adelaide Ace John Walker – later 1979 Australia GP and Gold Star winner – with Repco-Holden F5000 V8 fuel injected thunder echoing off the hangar walls.

It’s the ’74 Tasman round, the tremendously talented Terry Marshall has captured the perfect profile of JW’s unique Repco-Holden powered Lola T330 with a perfect-pan. His DG300 Hewland was hors d’combat after 20 laps. John McCormack won in another Repco-Holden powered car, Mac’s Elfin MR5 was timed at 188mph on Wigram’s long straight, the two VDS Chevron B24 Chevs of Teddy Pilette and Peter Gethin were second and third.

Six months earlier, closeby, this BAC 167 Strikemaster Mk88 was pictured in repose. The jet-powered trainer and light attack machine had bones dating back to the 1950 Percival Provost.

(John Page)

 

(T Marshall)

Dave McMillan won two Wigram Trophies on the trot in 1979 and 1980 aboard one of Ron Tauranac’s most successful designs, a Ralt RT1 Ford BDA Formula Atlantic/Pacific.

They were good wins against strong opposition too. He won both races in 1979, in front of Teo Fabi and Larry Perkins in one race, and Fabi and Brett Riley in the other. In 1980 he was in front of Steve Millen, second in both, and Ian Flux and David Oxton in third.

An RNZAF Douglas A-4 Skyhawk single-seat subsonic fighter on display during the Wigram Wings and Wheels Exhibition February 1986 weekend.

(canterburystories.nz)

Credits…

Classic Auto News. The talkmotorsport.co.nz website provided most of the photographs, I’d love to provide credits to the snappers concerned if any of you can oblige. Terry Marshall, John Page, canterburystories.nz, Isabel Tweedy, the Gary Danvers Collection, discoverywall.nz, teara.govt.nz

Tailpieces…

Piers Courage, Brabham BT24 Ford DFW alongside the similarly powered Lotus 49Bs of Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt at Wigram in January 1969.

Chris Amon’s Ferrari Dino 246T is behind Jochen, Frank Gardner, Mildren Alfa V8 behind him.

Perhaps the Tasman Cup high point was 1968 when the field included two works Lotus 49 Ford DFW V8s, Amon’s factory Dino V6, works BRM P261 V8 and P126 V12s, Jack Brabham’s Brabham BT23E Repco, and various other Repco V8 engined cars, Alec Mildren’s Brabham BT23D Alfa V8 and the rest.

Jochen Rindt won the 1969 LWT, it was the great Austrian’s first Team Lotus, ok, Gold Leaf Team Lotus, victory.

He won from Hill and Amon with Chris winning the Tasman that year with four wins in the seven rounds.

(G Danvers Collection)

RNZAF Wigram in 1992 complete with a Tiger Moth and 11 Airtrainers ready to boogie, the wonderful building is still with us, and as a Listed Heritage Place always will be.

The government rationalised their military properties in the 1990’s, in that process RNZAF Wigram was closed in September 1995. Wigram Aerodrome then operated until March 2009 when it was progressively redeveloped for housing. The aviation connection continues though, the Christchurch Air Force Museum is located on the northern side of the old aerodrome.

Finito…

Comments
  1. Gary Russell-Brown says:

    Can’t help but notice the similarity of this circuit layout to that of the old Caversham (W.A ) one- although the r5acing was clockwise in the west. I guess most circuits based on airfields would probably look much the same. .

  2. Alec Hagues says:

    Hey Mark – that’s Angus Hyslop in his distinctive blue and white Cooper T53 ‘chasing’ Stirling Moss in the 1962 Lady Wigram Trophy race. Angus finishes 6th and is first resident Kiwi home (again), but I’d have to concede that in this shot he has probably just been lapped by the great man.

  3. Greg Thomas says:

    Very good piece on Wigram. There’s a massive tome of a book out which is the complete history of the Motor Racing Club up to it’s amalgamation with the Canty Car Club. I’ve never been able to afford it….Pics, and credits, the full grid pics from in front of the front row that are around are I think all by Ian Satherly a ChCh photographer who didn’t publish much. One minute sign goes up and Ian rushes out with a small stepladder, climbs it and takes the pic. Down and off track. I was at school with his son. The grids from the side I suspect are Vic Browne. Very well known local photographer.

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Greg,
      Sounds like a good book, I was not aware of it. Shall add it to the list.
      I’ve only been to Christchurch once, many years ago. It’s on the list, with ‘Wigram’ a must see!
      Mark

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