Doug Green blasts his oh-so-famous ex-Ascari/Gaze/Davison Ferrari 500/625 chassis #5 down a suburban West Australian, Bunbury street on 26 December 1960, a far cry from the European circuits on which it won Alberto’s two World Championships in 1952 and 1953 …
Western Australia has a rich history of racing on street circuits; Albany, Collie, Katanning, Mandurah and Narrogin in addition to Bunbury all had street racing at one time or another.
Bunbury’s racing history is particularly long. The Indian Ocean port city services the farm, mining and timber industries of Western Australia’s South West 175 Km south of Perth and had car and motorbike racing ‘around the houses’ up until 1988.
Racing commenced there in 1938 with the running of the ‘Bunbury Flying 50’ on a large circuit in the town itself, Allan Tomlinson the victor…
The first event, held over 25 laps of the roughly 2 mile course on 14 November 1938 was won by Allan Tomlinson’s MG TA Spl s/c in 63 minutes. The race, a handicap as was the case for much of Australian motor racing for decades, such was the relative paucity of racing cars let alone vehicles of equivalent performance, was a big success. Norm Kestel and Jack Nelson were 2nd and 3rd in MG TA and Ballot V8 respectively with Kestel, in a TA similar to Tomlinson’s pushing him hard all the way.
The 22 year old Tomlinson was a very fast, skilful and thoughtful driver, his performance in Bunbury, off a handicap of 40 seconds and setting the fastest race lap at 2:24.0 was indicative of his pace.
In fact he was a ‘child prodigy’ by the standards of the day having only started racing aged 18 at Lake Perkolilli in 1936. He drove a Ford V8 in the stock car handicap and scored an excellent win. Subsequently he raced a midget at Claremont Speedway and then bought the MG TA for regular racing and competition work.
He was employed in the family business, the Tomlinson & Co foundry and engineering shop and applied those resources and his own mechanical skills well. The TA arrived shortly before the premier race in WA, the Albany GP, in 1937 and was quickly fitted with a Marshall blower and stripped of all superfluous parts. Allan drove well but the cars brakes failed on lap 16, he sailed through the barriers of Salvation Army Corner, unharmed!
During 1937 he continued to perform strongly at track meetings at Dowerin, with a couple of wins and in the WA Car Clubs Hillclimb at Victoria Reservoir.
His first major success was in the 1938 Albany GP, that Easter he won off a handicap of 3 minutes 30 seconds from Jack Nelson’s Ballot V8 and Kestel’s quick MG TA. The handicappers were onto him though, his Bunbury handicap was 40 seconds but the youngster and his team were further modifying the MG away from the gaze of authority. Tomlinson, Bill Smallwood and Clem Dwyer carefully rebuilt the engine and clad the racer in a light, pretty, aerodynamic monoposto body which was painted blue. Extensively tested, the car was running perfectly, the race win the reward for careful attention to detail.
Tomlinson and the teams fanatical attention to the preparation of the car was unusual and remarkable for the day. They were about to show the east coast ‘big boys’ just how to prepare for, and drive a motor race.
In early-December the team loaded the little 10/6 Marshall Rootes supercharged, aluminium bodied MG onto a ship in Fremantle for the short voyage to Port Adelaide.
On 2 January 1939 Tomlinson won the Australian Grand Prix on the immensely demanding, 8.6 mile long Lobethal road course in the Adelaide Hills.
The team had a spare T Type for Tomlinson to explore and master the swoops, dives and blind corners of the place. He also walked the roads, studying the gradients and topography closely. Historians still debate the speed of the little MG on that day, with its trick axle ratio it was good for 130mph, with Tomlinson claiming later speeds close to 140! There were some much faster cars in the race, Jano straight-8 Alfa Romeos and others, but whilst many drivers were on the brakes or a trailing throttle Tomlinson used skill and circuit knowledge to go flat where others were not…
Allan returned triumphant to WA aboard the ‘Kanimbla’ and was given an informal reception at the Albany Council Chambers on 8 January. The team then returned to Perth and on to another big victory, this time the ‘Great Southern Classic’ at Pingelly over 25 miles- ‘his fourth successive motor racing win in twelve months’ The West Australian reported.
Disaster struck at the Tomlinson foundry in East Perth on 4 May 1939 when Allan, whilst fixing an oil blower to a piece of machinery, had it explode, badly damaging three fingers on his left hand; two were later amputated in Perth Hospital, the lacerated index finger recovered. A ‘rock star’ in Perth by this time, his progress was covered daily in the local press. Tomlinson recovered but did not race again in 1939, the winds of war were blowing by then of course.
Sadly the Lobethal course that gave him his greatest win bit him very badly during the New Years Day 1940 ‘South Australian Hundred’.
The young driver was lucky to escape a very high speed trip through the countryside; he accidentally tagged the back of a Morgan, left the road and went through the bush, down an embankment and ended up against a tree in a roadside camping area. He broke his ribs, received internal injuries, shock and a long stay in Royal Adelaide Hospital. Whilst the car was not badly damaged-the body was dented and the wheels buckled, but the engine and chassis were undamaged according to Bill Smallwood.
As to Tomlinson, a highly promising career was over. After 5 months in hospital Allan returned to Perth with intentions to race but with the outbreak of war, motor racing ceased. Post-war Tomlinson had a lifelong involvement in the WA Sports Car Club and VSCC. He died aged 95 having lived a full life.
Now, where was i?! Back to Bunbury!
The Bunbury town circuit layout was used again post-war in November 1946 albeit the cars raced in the opposite direction to 1938. In 1950 the Australian Motor Cycle TT was held on the same layout.
The relative isolation of Carey Park, a suburb 3.5Km south east of Bunbury allowed the ‘Bunbury Flying 50’ to take place again in 1960. Competing vehicles were mainly production sports cars, the exceptions Green’s Ferrari 500 and Jack Ayres 1.5 litre, supercharged GP Alta. Ray Barfield’s ex-works Aston Martin DB3S was a sports car of considerable performance too.
The race was also called the ‘Carey Park Flying 50’, whatever it’s name results have been hard to find although photographer/historian Ken Devine believes the feature race, these photos are from that event, was won by Green’s Ferrari. If any of you have a race report I’d welcome you getting in touch.
Jack Ayres’ GP/F2 Alta s/c ‘010’…
Geoffrey Taylor’s first Alta sportscar was built in 1929.
He decided to build a 1.5 litre, supercharged GP car post-war, the first of which appeared in 1948. The three cars built had ladder-frame chassis and wishbone suspension with rubber as the spring medium. The third of these cars, ‘GP3’, bought by Irish motor trader and wheeler-dealer Joe Kelly in 1950 was powered by a DOHC, 1496cc, SU fed, two stage Rootes type supercharged engine developing 202bhp at 6000 rpm. It contested non-championship F1 races and both the 1950 and 1951 British GP’s at Silverstone in Kelly’s hands finishing over 15 laps in arrears of the winners in both years.
Later ‘GP3’ was fitted with a Bristol engine by Kelly to contest F2 events, the sophisticated supercharged engine was then fitted to Alta ‘010’, a hitherto F2 chassis raced by Robert Cowell in 1949/50. The story of father and ex-Spitfire WW2 pilot Cowell is an interesting one as he became she; Roberta Cowell was the very first transgender Brit, the operation took place in 1951.
The car was bought and imported into Australia in 1956 by Gib Barrett of Armadale, Melbourne. Gib and Alf Barrett were formidable racers for decades both pre and post-War, Alf Barrett one of the all time greatest Oz drivers.
The car was fettled and finished 1oth in the post Olympic Games 1956 Melbourne GP at Albert Park in Gib’s hands, it was sold soon thereafter to Perth’s Syd Anderson in 1957. And so began an intensive period of racing for ‘010’ in WA. Syd raced it in the 1957 AGP at Caversham near Perth but retired, the race was won by Lex Davison and Bill Patterson in the Ferrari 500/625 also featured in this article.
Jack Eyres then bought ‘010’ racing extensively in the West in all kinds of events, he was 5th in the ‘WA Trophy’ Gold Star round in December 1960, that race won by Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati. By the following August, Caversham Gold Star round Ayres had moved on to a Cooper MkV powered by a 1.1 litre Ford engine, with the Alta raced by new owner, Jim Ward.
The old car had by the early sixties become uncompetitive and dilapidated, the cars restoration was commenced by Jim Harwood in WA in the later 1960’s and finished by Lotus doyen John Dawson-Damer in outer Sydney. Graham Lowe owned it before it passed to Peter Briggs museum at York in WA, which was fitting given the cars WA racing period. ‘010’ was fully restored and always looked a treat when it appeared at Australian Grands Prix and other special events. Sadly the car left Oz some time ago, it recently appeared at Retromobile, offered for sale.
Ferrari 500/625 Chassis #5, 3 litre…
Ferrari 500 #5 is said to be the most successful Grand Prix car of all time; it won 6 of the 7 championship Grand Epreuves held in 1952 and 9 in 1953 to win Ascari’s two drivers titles.
I don’t plan to cover the detailed history of this car now, it seems appropriate to do so in an article about Lex Davison who achieved so much Australian success in it; the 1957 and 1958 AGP’s, the very first Australian Drivers Championship, the ‘Gold Star’ in 1957 to name a few.
Lex eventually sold his beloved car to West Australian Doug Green in 1960. It had finally become uncompetitive in the eastern states but still had a year or so of relevance in WA.
Davison wasn’t done with front-engined GP cars though, he very narrowly lost by a cars length the 1960 AGP at Lowood, Queensland to Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati in a superb Aston Martin DBR4 before finally changing to ‘the mechanical mice’ as he described Coopers, winning his fourth and final AGP at Mallala, South Australia in a T51 Climax in 1961.
Davison bought the Ferrari off his friend, Tony Gaze, after the NZ summer races in 1956, Gaze had success with it in 1954 and 1955 having acquired it from the factory fitted with a 3 litre sportscar ‘750 Monza’ engine for the Formula Libre events common globally at the time.
The Fazz was eventually bought by Tom Wheatcroft in the late 1960’s, the first car for his famous Donington Collection, it’s identity as Ascari’s chassis unknown at the time Tom acquired it. The car had chassis number ‘0480’ when bought by Gaze. During the restoration of the car the provenance of it was investigated by Doug Nye amongst others and confirmed after careful ‘forensic examination’ and in communications with Ferrari.
Doug Green bought ‘5’ in 1960, having graduated from an 1100cc Cooper. He got to grips with it, racing extensively in WA, soon improving upon Davo’s times in it at Caversham. He contested the Caversham Gold Star rounds in 1960 and 1961 finishing 4th and 2nd in thin fields, respectively. He sold the car in 1963 upon retirement from racing.
The Ferrari 500, designed by Aurelio Lampredi, used a ladder frame chassis typical of the period, suspension at the front was double wishbones and coil spring /dampers. A De Dion rear axle was used, the gearbox mounted to the diff and connected to the engine by a short propshaft.
The F1 2 litre engine was a 1985cc in line 4 cylinder engine with DOHC and 2 valves per cylinder. Magneto’s provided the spark and Weber 58DCOA3 carburettors the fuel, the engine gave around 185/190bhp@7500rpm. When acquired by Tony Gaze a 3 litre Monza engine was fitted, this gave circa 290bhp. Power is quoted from 245-290bhp depending upon the source.
Bunbury probably won’t be known to most Aussies other than those who have visited the Margaret River region in which case you may have made a fuel ‘pitstop’ on its outskirts.
My brother lives in Perth and has a place at Gnarabup, Margaret River so I know the place a bit, but its motor racing history had passed me by until seeing these fabulous photos posted on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ by Ken Devine. On a future visit I’ll drive the circuit(s), which you can still do.
The Carey Park track itself, for Perth readers and visitors who may want to drive it, used Clifton, Victoria, Arthur, Stirling, Wittenoon and Prinsep Streets, Upper Esplanade then Wellington, Wittenoon and Carey Streets. The map below will make more sense of it when you visit.
In fact the Carey Park road circuit, 3.5Km from the centre of town was only one of many used down the decades in greater Bunbury.
Racing started on the ‘Bunbury Central Circuit’, which as the name suggests was in the centre of town. Car racing ceased between 1947 to 1960 but motorcycle racing continued on this circuit and then the ‘Bunbury Moorelands Little Circuit’, also known as the ‘Glen Iris Circuit’. This track was laid out on public roads next to the Preston River and was ideal as the area was rural and so caused little drama to the public. The Bunbury Motorcycle GP meeting was held annually there from December 1963 to Easter 1974.
‘TQ’ Speedway cars raced on the ‘Carey Park Short Circuit’ of .95 of a mile in late 1958 ‘The South Western Times’ in its article before the meeting helpfully advised spectators to ‘…take the greatest possible care while watching the (5) races…under no circumstances should they cross the road while races are in progress’. So ‘Carey Park’ was used by speedway cars in advance of road-racers two years later for the 1960 ‘Bunbury Flying 50’.
In March 1975 the Bunbury Motorcycle Club hosted heats for the WA Road Racing Series around the streets of Davenport, Bunbury’s industrial area, 6.5Km from the town centre. This layout was also confusingly called ‘The Ring Road Circuit’ as it incorporated the new Busselton By-Pass and North Boyanup Road, well known to Perthies visiting ‘down South’ as they call a visit to Margaret River and beyond.
This fairly ugly locale was used in 1975/6/7 before the move to the altogether more visually attractive and challenging ‘Bunbury Back Beach Circuit’ in 1980. In Australian Beach Lingo a ‘Back Beach’ is a surf beach and a ‘Front Beach’ is calmer water, I’ve no idea from where this derives! This fairly wild looking circuit overlooking the Bunbury break was used from 1980 to 1988. Then there are the local drags and speedway venues- they like their motor racing down south!
Ray Barfield’s Aston Martin DB3S chassis #9 was a car of impeccable provenance and specification…
The car was one of two built for works use in 1956, chassis #10 the other, whilst the successor design, the 1959 Le Mans winning DBR1 was in development.
DB3S/9 was first raced in the GP of Rouen as a warm up to Le Mans on 8 July 1956. Peter Collins raced it to retirement with bearing problems but Moss was 2nd in DB3S/10 behind the winner, Eugenio Castellotti’s works Ferrari 860 Monza and ahead of the 3 litre Maser 300S of Jean Behra.
At Le Mans on 28/29 July, ‘9’ was driven by Moss/Collins, the lead factory car was ahead of the field but finished 2nd after gearbox problems slowed it. Ninian Sanderson and Ron Flockhart won, a lap ahead of the Aston in an Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D Type. The AM ‘LM6’ 2922cc engine fitted for Le Mans developed 219bhp @6000rpm- good for 150mph at La Sarthe.
Moss won in the car at Oulton Park in August, and at Goodwood on 18 Septenber Roy Salvadori was 2nd to Tony Brooks in another DB3S. The last appearance of DB3S’9′ as a works entry was at Goodwood on 22 April 1957 driven by Brooks, he was 3rd.
The car was rebuilt and offered for sale by Aston’s as they focussed their attention on the new DBR1 and was bought by David McKay, the Australian racer/journalist keen to acquire a works car having owned an earlier customer DB3S, chassis ‘102’ a car David raced as part of ‘The Kangaroo Stable’. This group of three DB3S Astons raced by Australians David McKay/Tony Gaze, Tom Sulman/Jack Brabham and Les Cosh/Dick Cobden in 1955 is a story in itself.
Australian oil company Ampol provided financial support for the purchase, the car immediately became the fastest sportscar in Australia, winning upon its debut at Bathurst in October 1957. David won 8 of 9 races in it finishing 2nd only once, to Doug Whiteford’s Maser 300S in the Tasmanian TT at Longford. McKay’s last race in DB3S/9 was at Bathurst in October 1958 when he won the 100 mile Australian TT from Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Climax and Ron Phillips Cooper T33 Jaguar.
The car passed through Stan Jones hands in Melbourne, he only raced it once, before being bought by Barfield in mid-1959. The Mount Helena racer used it regularly in the West through to the Christmas Cup meeting at Caversham on 22 November 1963, fittingly, he won the 5 lap sportscar scratch race.
In 1956 when built the DB3S was pretty much the state of the sportscar art in terms of specification, it was closely derived from a road car and could, fairly easily be driven on the road. By 1963 the long distance racing paradigm was perhaps best defined by the specialist racing, mid-engined Ferrari 250P- a 3 litre V12 engined car which was far from a ‘roadie’ however much Enzo Ferrari tried to position the 250P’s cousin, the 250LM as such. The point here is just how focussed sports-racing cars became and how much racing technology changed in a very short period of time.
Barfield then retired from racing, it was fitting that the wonderful ex-works Aston won its last race however insignificant a 5 lapper at Caversham in 1963 was relative to 24 hours at Le Mans in 1956!
Ray retained the car inside it’s Rice Trailer on his farm outside Perth, famously keeping the engine fully submerged in a container of oil, having discovered a crack in the crankshaft, for 25 years.
Many people knocked on his door to buy it over the years including David McKay on more than one occasion but all were aggressively turned away. Finally a big wad of cash allowed Sydney’s Kerry Manolas to buy it, sight unseen, and it was not a pretty sight when he did see all of its components in October 1987! The car was superbly restored by Gavin Bain’s ‘Auto Restorations’ in Auckland. I wonder where in the world it is now?
Oh to have seen the Ferrari, Alta and Aston race on the Carey Park streets in the ‘Bunbury Flying 50’ all those years ago. Three amazingly interesting and diverse cars in the one race, and all so far from ‘home’!
The Nostalgia Forum particularly the contributions of Terry Walker, Ray Bell and Ken Devine. 8Wforix.com, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, oldracingcars.com
The Ken Devine Collection, Julian Cowan, Terry Walkers Place, Jodie Krikkie, Wayne Patterson Collection
Tailpiece: Vin Smith, Alpha Peugeot 1.5 s/c…