Posts Tagged ‘1985 Australian Grand Prix’

(M Bisset)

I got a chuckle when i came upon this harvester on Albert Park Lake last Tuesday morning, i thought my farmer brother in law had taken a wrong turn at San Remo and somehow ended up in the lake…

My run or walk is usually well before dawn, this craft and the waste truck into which it loads its haul of reeds and weeds has been moored near The Pavilion for a couple of weeks, it was the first time i’d seen it in action.

It moves along too, its not likely to set any speedboat course records mind you.

(Parks Victoria)


Yachts racing on the Albert Park Lagoon (The Illustrated Australian News 5 July 1879)


Les Maloney’s ‘How-Do’ skiff on the lake in 1954 (L Maloney)


‘Darren Muir Bad Influence Blown Lites Team’ Albert Park Lake 1970s at a guess (paranoid)


Jacques Villeneuve ’rounds up a few Bertrams’ in his Williams FW18 Renault during the first Albert Park AGP weekend in March 1996 (AGPC)

The Lake was home to yachts and speedboats long before racing cars were let loose for the first time in 1934, and then officially in 1953- click here for a brief history of early racing at Albert Park;

On my many laps of the place I’ve often thought an elite level boating event run over the GP weekend made sense, it seems plans were afoot to do just that in 1996 until the greedy eff-wun pericks stepped in the way.

Bob Carter wrote on OzBoatRacers that ‘The real story about the demise of Albert Park Lake (as a speed boating venue) has nothing to do with water depth.’

‘I promoted the Aussie F1 Series for five years and ran a round on Albert Park Lake and what is now Docklands. I was closely involved with Melbourne Major Events (the people who run the GP F1 race and bikes at Phillip Island) to run a round of the F1 powerboat series in Melbourne at either Albert Park Lake or Docklands.’

‘Docklands was really too small a venue so Albert Park Lake was the choice. The concept was to run at Albert Park in conjunction with the first F1 car race in Melbourne (in 1996).’

‘We brought Nicolo di San Germano (world UIM- Union Internationale Motonautique F1 promoter) to Melbourne to check the Albert Park venue and met the people from Major Events. We were on track from the Melbourne end but the deal fell over when the F1 car people sad no to the boats as a support event- i understood they felt a bit threatened by the spectacle of the F1 boats. Never before has there been a World F1 car GP and a World F1 boat GP staged at the same venue on the same weekend’ how good would that have been on an ongoing basis!? And yes, i know, the pedestrian pontoon across ‘The Neck’ could not have been put in place- big deal.

Carter finishes his piece in by observing ‘The knockback ended any chance of ever running an F1 boat GP on Albert Park Lake. The Act of Parliament that underscores the GP at Albert Park specifies that there can only be one motorsport event in the Albert Park parkland precinct each year. This restriction was intended to prevent the venue becoming a motorsport track for cars and bikes and no doubt power boats.’

A current F1 boat (unattributed)


Adelaide Festival Centre launch of the 1985 AGP event by South Australian Premier John Bannon- he is aboard Jack Brabham’s 1966 World Championship winning Brabham BT19 Repco (unattributed)


Adelaide AGP 1985, the end of lap 1 with Patrick Tambay’s Renault RE60B chasing Marc Surer’s Brabham BT54 BMW, an Arrows A8 BMW, McLaren MP4/2C TAG-Porsche and Ferrari 156/85 (unattributed)


Longtime former Bob Jane racer John Harvey giving current Bob Jane racer Gerhard Berger some good old fashioned Aussie hospitality in one of the Group C support races in 1985. Kevin Bartlett in the Mitsubishi Starion ? and who else is back there in the Alfa  GTV6 with Charlie O’Brien in the other BMW 635 CSi? What happened there Harves? (unattributed)


Who could forget Niki’s last GP, McLaren MP4/2C TAG-Porsche- he did two AGP’s back to back, the 1984 F Pacific event in a Ralt RT4 Ford BDD, DNF after a prang with a back marker and DNF in the race won by Keke Rosberg’s Williams FW10 Honda (unattributed)

The signing of Albert Park as the host venue for the F1 Australian Grand Prix split both the motorsport community and Melburnians within a bulls-roar, or rather a Vee-Ten scream of Albert Park down the middle.

We all loved the Adelaide AGP. Full stop.

The Victoria Park venue, the road circuit created thereon using a mix of existing roads and bespoke bits, the carnival weekend with yer mates away from the little sabre-toothed tigress and the kiddy-wids, the fantastic variety of support events, the way ‘Big Country Town’ Adelaide embraced the F1 Circus- it was just sensational, no other word does it justice.

But the cost of the race, in a democracy at least, can be, and often is a political football.

South Australian Labour Government (our progressive party) Premier John Bannon achieved a political coup when he secured Bernard Charles Ecclestone’s signature on a contract to stage an F1 race in Adelaide from 1985- race fans were orgasmic with delight at finally having a world championship event here, the last truly F1’esque Tasman Series was run in 1969- it was a very long time since current F1 drivers and cars raced in Australia.

Bannon ran an expansionary, imaginative administration, but, like Labour’s Victorian Premier John Cain, the push to make their State Banks more entrepreneurial was to their, and taxpayers considerable cost when the lack of sufficient oversight and due diligence of the enterprises investments meant the banks had to be re-capitalised or bailed out after unbelievable clusterfucks of political and management incompetence.

By mid 1992 Bannon was well and truly in the political merde to such an extent that he had to resign as Premier that September. In Victoria similar problems impacted both John Cain and his successor, Joan Kirner, and so the unthinkable seemed possible, Liberal (our conservative party) leader, Jeff Kennett, who had already lost two Victorian elections and was pretty much regarded as a bit of a joke, seemed half a chance in the next state poll.

Ecclestone and Bannon, apart from their business relationship also had good personal rapport, but South Australia’s budget problems meant the future contract to retain the AGP had still not been finalised.

By the reaction of Judith Griggs, CEO of the Australian GP Corporation and Ron Walker, Jeffrey Kennett has just given the chequered flag to a Save Albert Park cyclist, June 1994. Kennett was and is a character, he ran a successful advertising agency in Burwood before entering politics, so he innately understood the needs of business unlike most of our ‘political elite’. Refreshingly he wasn’t the Australian politician stereotype either- that is a ‘St Fondles’ educated narcissistic ex-lawyer permanently physically aroused by their own ongoing pointless cunning linguistics which never deliver any policy substance or outcome. Kennett was the real deal, an absolute goer who marshalled a very effective Cabinet and got the state moving again with sound economic management and sensible investment in infrastructure which still serves the joint well a couple of decades on (J Lamb)


Grand Prix enthusiasts gather in support of Albert Park circa 1994…The biggest of these anti-Albert Park AGP rallies attracted over 20,000 people, the SAP were still generating a monthly newsletter twenty years after the first race- they may well still do so (unattributed)


AGP start 1996 with Jacques Villeneuve getting the jump over teammmate Damon Hill- Williams FW18 Renault and the two Ferrari F310s of Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine (J Atley)


Hill, one of the Bennettons, a Ferrari wing, Rubens Barrichelo’s Jordan 196 Peugeot on the ground and the similar airborne car of Martin Brundle indulging in a spot of lap 1, turn 3 Jordan aerobatics which did not do the car much good but fortunately left the plucky, popular Brit unharmed. The other Bennetton on the outside, and the rest (Herald Sun)

Former Lord Mayor of Melbourne, partner in local builder/developer Hudson Conway, Federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party, head of Melbourne Major Events, friend and ally of Jeff Kennett- Ron Walker, sniffed an opportunity with Bannon marginalised in the sin-bin and renewed his regular onslaughts upon Bernie to shift the race from Adelaide to Melbourne, and so it was, over a period of months, a contract was negotiated and signed, and then kept secret for a year at Bernie’s request.

By that time (from October 1992) Kennett was Premier of Victoria- a job he did brilliantly for two three year terms, only bulk hubris cost him another one or two terms, and his Liberal Party buddy, Dean Brown headed a government in South Australia- Ron Walker’s terrible ‘kiss of death’ the day after Brown’s election win on 14 December 1993 was to inform him the Vics had knocked off Adelaide’s tourism jewel in the crown- his devastation and that of South Australians generally was complete. Poor ole Jeffrey was button-holed in the streets of Adelaide for decades by antsy South Australians, the fact that he was President of the Hawthorn Football Club didn’t help his cause of course!

Both South Australia’s and Victoria’s economies at the time were in dire trouble- the AGP was important economically but also symbolically to both states, whilst anger raged in South Australia about the loss of the Grand Prix even greater passion was being vented in Melbourne about its win.

Amongst the best places to live in Melbourne are parts of South Melbourne, Albert Park and Middle Park, the trouble for Jeffrey was that the good citizens of these suburbs all vote for the Liberal Party, they were Jeff’s own supporters many of whom were well connected and rather vocal using about it. The poor bastard couldn’t go to a Dribble Party gig- the most boring gatherings on the planet mind you, having done my share in the cause of commerce, without being bailed up by some well nourished chappie in tan trousers and blue blazer whinging about that ‘bloody race in my park ould boy’.

Even angrier of course were the self-righteous left wing, arty-farty, commo, poofter bastard, tree-hugging whale kissers (to use a Sir Les Patterson descriptor in part) living in St Kilda, Prahran, Windsor and Port Melbourne- Jeffrey didn’t give a rats about this mob mind you as these nasty folks voted Labour, or even worse were the flower pot mob living in Pixie Land at the bottom of the garden- they of course voted Green.

Reg Hunt, Maserati 250F leads Lex Davison, Ferrari 500/625 during the 48 lap 150 mile March 1956 ‘Argus Trophy’ at Albert Park won by Hunt from Davo and Kevin Neale in the Maserati A6GCM 2.5 litre Hunt raced throughout 1955- tickets available for this meeting as below (unattributed)



Stirling Moss winning the 1958 Melbourne Grand Prix aboard a Rob Walker Cooper T45 Climax in the final weekend of racing before the modern era, in November 1958. Concerned citizens living closely to the park in the mid-nineties, other than old-timers, could quite reasonably argue they bought in the area to enjoy the peace and serenity of the park not the complete opposite…(unattributed)

And so it was that the ‘Save Albert Park’ group was formed by February 1994 of a very large unholy alliance of people with absolutely nothing in common and completely opposite political views but who united in their hatred of any change to their park including a race week which was going to impact upon the normal progress of their Mercedes four-wheel-drive or wheezy Peugeot 504 as the case may be, in and around their lovely bayside suburbs.

Some of the ‘SAP’ public rallies were anti-Vietnam War in size for chrissakes, the Save Albert Park nutbags endurance and commitment had to be admired though as they maintained a DAILY vigil with a couple of folks sitting at a table knitting Melbourne Footy Club scarves whilst sipping lots of Earl Grey tea surrounded by anti-GP posters near the corner of Queens Road and Albert Road for well over a decade after the race commenced.

The amazing thing is that despite the fairly dubious economic net benefits of the Gee Pee to the state, which even I struggle to justify, the race has bi-partisan support- every now and again some pollie gives it a bit of a slap but the race, thankfully is with us and as a Windsor dwelling tree-hugging nuffy I am very thankful for that!

The park is a wonderful communal resource made better by Jeff’s investment in many improvements as part of the quid pro quo with the locals including regular harvesting of the reeds which otherwise cause sclerosis of da lake, said harvester is about where I came in with this strange piece of boats, cars and politics.

The ever entertaining Glen Dix does his thing as Damon Hill crosses the line to win the first Albert Park F1 AGP in his Williams FW18 Renault 3 litre V10- the venue having hosted Formula Libre AGPs in 1953- won by Doug Whiteford’s Talbot-Lago T26C and 1956- the victor Stirling Moss, Maserati 250F (J South)


Damon Hill had the unique experience of winning the last AGP in Adelaide in November 1995- the last race of the season, and the first AGP at Albert Park in March 1996- the first race of the season, here he is in Dequetteville Terrace in Adelaide, Williams FW17B Renault V10 3 litre (unattributed)


(Gay Dutton poster art)

Due process and managing the punters expectations…

The politics and management of nudging public opinion back in the direction of racing in the park started in February 1993 with the ‘Back To The Lake’ public event in which 250-300 ‘classic cars’ did some laps of a circuit created by roads on the west side of the lake- not the full ‘old circuit’ using perimeter roads mind you.

I had an Elfin NG Formula Vee and ASP 340 Toyota Clubman at the time and ran the latter in this event about which I remember very little, other than that track time was minimal. It was a beautiful day which attracted lots of spectators and plenty of ‘wotizzit mister’ questions about ones car which was nice.

The public policy or political point is that the gig wasn’t about the competitors but was rather an important step in the process carefully constructed by Melbourne Major Events with ‘Field Marshall Walker’ and his small band of Lieutenants at the helm heading in the direction of a prize- racing in Albert Park which was made slightly easier to achieve thanks to a confluence of political events in North Terrace and Spring Street.

More practically in this process, in mid 1994, the new government commissioned a ‘Master Plan for Albert Park’ from The Hassell Group (town planners and architects) and Melbourne Parks and Waterways, who had administrative responsibility for Albert Park, as to it’s redevelopment in the future.

It would only be of interest to locals but shows the professionalism which was deployed to make the precinct a vastly superior community resource for all than it was before the hundred million dollars was spent.

Sydney. Where did you say? Really…


Every now and again the Sydney Morning Herald runs a story about the Harbour City lifting the race from Melbourne, but I’m not so sure that will ever happen.

These pissant GPs which have popped up in the last decade or so in places nobody has heard of or wants to visit has kept the price of having a GP very high.

Perhaps in a post Covid 19 world some GPs will choose to not renew their contracts which may create, say again, may create some competitive tension in Australia, and let’s not forget the good ‘ole Melbourne/Sydney rivalry which is never too far below the surface.

The last bit of nonsense about a Sydney GP speculated in 2015 about a race using the bridge, the Cahill Expressway and Bridge Street before jumping onto York Street and back across the bridge – I thought it was completely bonkers taking as it would, a big chunk of the track away from spectators, the bridge that is.

But, ever constructive and helpful, here is the best GP track on the planet- walk it the next time you are in Sydney and tell me what you think, I lived in Millers Point for a decade from 2003 and this was my every other day early morning run route- it is a locals layout with backdrops which simply cannot be bettered.

The start of the race will on ‘The Hungry Mile’ on Hickson Road, a nice bit of local history as it is the place unemployed dock workers queued for a days work to load a ship during The Depression, hence ‘The Hungry Mile’ epithet.

We then have a straight run between the Barangaroo Parklands towards town on the right with the steep stone escarpment to the drivers left as they jostle for ‘Napoleons’- a medium sharp left hander into Napoleon Street which rises gently straight for 100 metres to a tight left-hander at ‘Kents’.

Kent Street continues to rise gently as the drivers have tall apartment and office buildings on the left and open space on the right as they head north back towards the harbour, the road flattens as they pass Stamford Apartments on the left and Observatory Tower on the right.

On the approach to Observatory Hill Park on the high escarpment to the right the cars pass The Rocks Fire Station on the right and my old apartment building ‘Highgate’ on the left before doing a sharp left- and then right into High Street before heading downhill gently and up the other side again- this stretch is open to the drivers left with Barangaroo below and has Harbour Trust housing on the right side of the street- this stretch is about 400 metres long before turning right into Argyle Street for a 1 km run past the Lord Nelson on the left and again Observatory Hill park on the right towards Circular Quay in the distance.

This section of the track is very open- there is heaps of space for spectators and stands to the left and natural vantage points from Observatory Hill down to the track- with the Hero of Waterloo an easy stroll for a quick ale- its one of Sydney’s oldest pubs.

Argyle Place is straight and flat for the first 500 metres and starts to drop gently downhill towards Circular Quay at Cumberland Street- the sound of the cars going through The Argyle Cut will be unbelievable- now we are in the heart of The Rocks, braking hard and going gently downhill to turn left into George Street- the drivers will have a glimpse of the blue-green Quay waters and a Manly Ferry perhaps- after the left the road is straight for 500 metres before jinking right onto Hickson Road and then what will be a very fast open right-hander parallel with Campbells Cove- there are heaps of ‘money shots’ along this stretch across to the Opera House, Bridge and North Sydney.

The road then sweeps open left fast past Dawes Point itself and then runs along close to and parallel with the Harbour before turning left at Pier One- there is a hotel on the right and heaps of open space to the left for spectators and high above on the escarpment from the bottom of Lower Fort Street looking down- plum, stunning viewing actually, my seat might be somewhere here.

The drivers are now onto the last third of the track, which comprises a 500 metre straight, opening to a flat gentle right past the Walsh Bay wharves on the right and the Hickson Road eateries and Sydney Theatre Company on the left before a medium fast left at the Towns Place intersection- we are still on Hickson Road and then a fast blast through the short tunnel with the Palisade Hotel high above us and then 500 metres before hitting the start finish line and commencing another lap.

Walk it folks and then let me know if that isn’t potentially the best city road circuit on the planet. Ok then second best after Monaco.


Mark Webber’s Williams FW26B BMW during its 2005 Sydney Harbour Bridge runs the week before the AGP.


Circa 1970’ish i guess with the Arts Centre spire in St Kilda Road in the background- the water never looks that blue to me.


One for you many aircraft nutters.

RAAF Westland Wapitis from Point Cook, site of the 1948 AGP BTW- formation flying over Albert Park Lake circa 1930- planes used for, amongst other things Forests Commission of Victoria, aerial bushfire reconnaissance.


Villeneuve from Hill in 1996- exit of Pit Straight and beyond- didn’t he take to GP racing from Indycars in a way i wished Michael Andretti had done so a few years before- the BAR era took him backwards didn’t it.


(The Age)

Janey in trouble trying to do a three point turn during the November 1958 meeting. Bob Jane, Maserati 300S.

That eye-talian coachwork is looking slightly the worse for wear, he did eventually get the hang of this motor racing caper- check out chummy to the right with the fag in his mouth, all ready to set the hay bales alight.


Some attractive young ladies if you like that sort of thing, in these politically correct times i should even the score with some blokes. hmmm, maybe not.


Bugger off and go home for gods sake- enough is enough like.

Labour’s John Thwaites addresses a sea of angry SAP ants, 1994.


Thank the big fella up above than Martin Brundle was hunky-dory after this lot, it really would not have been a good look to lose a driver first up, not that it was the last of Albert Park’s involuntary aerobatic performances.



AGP start 1953, Albert Park’s first race meeting on the 21 November weekend.

Lex Davison, HWM Jaguar, Stan Jones in Maybach 1 and Doug Whiteford in his Talbot-Lago T26C on the right.

#11 is Ted Gray, Alta Ford V8, #7 Frank Kleinig’s Kleinig Hudson Spl, #20 back a bit is Jim Gullan in an MG K3 and #6 is the Peter Vennemark dariven Maserati 4CL.

Doug Whiteford won from Curley Brydon’s MG TC Spl and Andy Brown in an MG K3.


St Kilda Swamp aka Albert Park Lake in 1876 (St Kilda History)

Arcane, barely relevant but just because its down the road from me…

The aboriginal Kulin tribe who first inhabited the area 40,000 years ago were the first users of an enormous salt lagoon which formed a part of the delta where the Yarra met the sea- hunting and fishing, they caught eels and fish in conical shaped nets watched by over 130 different species of water birds including ducks, swans, grebe, coot, cormorants as well as possums, bats and reptiles.

The area to the south of what became known as the Yarra River, its low sides skirted with marshes covered with luxuriant reeds, wild grass and herbage comprised a series of brackish lagoons and low lying marsh formed by the flow of the Yarra to the Bay near St Kilda- early settlers reported on the areas beauty and abundance of wildlife.

Emerald Hill ‘a gum and wattle tree forest’ was the name given to the high point of the land in South Melbourne. Some early geographers queried whether the Yarra was really a river and characterised it as a tract of marsh or swamp drawing a parallel with the fens of Lincolnshire which were drained, a model that ‘the Yarra and other Melbourne wetlands were doomed to follow.’

What was known as the South Melbourne Swamp was low lying land around Emerald Hill which was formed into Albert Park Lake during the 1930s Great Depression years- in so doing the marsh was drained and built over for domestic housing- the only reminder of the area as it was before European settlement is Albert Park Lake.

The Park originally extended to St Kilda Road, but the land was sold in 1874, the St Kilda Cricket Club was the first of many sporting clubs to be given permission to use the land, the Junction Oval is well known to Melburnians.

The Lake itself is about two kilometres long north to south and about one kilometre wide, the site was permanently reserved as a park of 230 hectares in honour of Queen Victoria’s Prince Consort in 1876


Bob Carter on, ‘Lost and Found Wetlands of Melbourne’ Rod Giblett

Illustration and Photo Credits…

The Illustrated Australian News July 1879, Les Maloney Photo Collection, Australian Grand Prix Corporation, John Lamb, Jack Atley, Herald Sun, Parks Victoria, Jason South

Tailpiece: Albert Park Lake, 1893…



keke stag

Keke Rosberg tips his Williams FW10 Honda into ‘Stag Corner’, so named after the hotel behind him, for the long run down Rundle Road and onto Dequetteville Terrace. Adelaide GP 1985. The Stag Hotel is still there and a much nicer place to eat and drink than then! (unattributed)

‘Rossi Kekberg is on pole!’ our host Ralph announced as we pulled up at what would become our regular annual digs for the Adelaide Grand Prix for the next 10 years…

I was the designated driver for the second half of the long drive from Melbourne, but the rest of my mates were well pissed, so it was a relief to see our host similarly inebriated when we pulled up in leafy Tusmore, Adelaide. Ralph and Jill’s backyard provided our cheap accommodation only 1 km from the Victoria Park road circuit for years. Wonderful people they were and are.

Ralph was no racing enthusiast, he always struggled with the furrin’ drivers names, but his zeal for the race typified the way the average Adelaide citizen felt about the event each year despite the interruptions to normal traffic flows and all the rest. Adelaide is a small town which embraced the race in a way Melburnians en-masse never really have. The ‘Save Albert Park’ mob are still vocal despite the GP having support from both sides of politics.

There had been mumblings about Australia having an F1 GP on and off for decades, the lack of an F1 event was not such an issue in the sixties when we had the Tasman Series which was effectively 4 Grands Prix in 4 States in 4 weeks! And 4 races in New Zealand before the ‘circus’ arrived in Oz.

The ‘Tasman’ was a 2.5 litre formula dominated in the early days by ex-F1 2.5 litre Coventry Climax 4 cylinder FPF engined cars. Later on ‘bored’ 1.5 litre F1 engines were used and at the very end of the category, 2.5 litre versions of current F1 engines were built by Cosworth and BRM, in addition to the bespoke Tasman engines of Repco and Alfa Romeo. Magic it surely was!


Geoff Smedley’s shot captures all that was great about the Tasman Series. Here, at Longford, Tasmania in 1968; Clark from Hill, Amon and Gardner in yellow. Lotus 49 DFW X2, Ferrari 246T obscured and Gardner’s Brabham BT23D Alfa Romeo. This is the preliminary race, the main very wet event was won by Piers Courage in a McLaren M4A Ford FVA F2 car, a famous victory for the young Brit. (Geoff Smedley)

Later Bob Jane perhaps came close to an F1 event, his early 80’s Formula Pacific Grands Prix were intended to be replaced by an F1 event but Calder, love it as I do, is a bit of a ‘shithole’. It lacks any sort of visual appeal from a Teev viewpoint, nor does it represent a challenge to the best drivers in the world. It’s a great club, point and squirt kinda place.

Sandown looked best placed, the circuit was increased to GP length to host a 1984 World Endurance Championship Round but the Light Car Club emasculated a great circuit with the ‘Mickey-Mouse stop go’ additions to the circuits infield to get the track to the requisite length. The financial returns, or lack of them destroyed the oldest racing club in the country as well.


AGP Calder 1984. F1 drivers in F Pacific cars, Ralt RT4/85 Ford’s. Rosberg, 2nd on the inside, Lauda, DNF prang, on the outside. Roberto Moreno won the race in another RT4, his 3rd AGP win. (History of The AGP)

And so, pretty much outta the blue, with the support of the local business community, racer/business man Bill O’Gorman having pitched the idea to the committee set up to celebrate SA’s Sesquicentennial Year in 1986; South Australian Premier, John Bannon did a deal with Sir Bernie The Unbelievable to stage a race on the outskirts of Adelaide’s CBD. Part of the circuit defines the cities Eastern boundary, so ’twas a race in the city centre. Critically from an SA perspective, the Formula One Constructors Association wanted a street race, Calder and Sandown are not street circuits.

Sydney is Australia’s beautiful world city. The place doesn’t have to work hard to attract tourists who are drawn to all of its visual, cultural and sporting splendour, she is the ‘hot sister’ her sibling cities are the ‘fuglies’ in relative terms. They have to work a lot harder to get tourists into their cities.

Melbourne’s approach to combat that, is an event a month strategy, the very same Ron Walker behind the Melbourne GP was one of the founders of ‘Melbourne Major Events’ the body set up decades ago, to identify global events or develop local initiatives to get folks to come here. John Bannon grabbed an event the Victorians wanted and in fact the Victorians ‘stole’ it from the South Aussies some years later.


Derek Warwick Renault RE60, turning into ‘Stag Corner’, with the fruit markets in the background, Adelaide 1985. The building is still there. (unattributed)

Most of us hadn’t seen contemporary F1 cars. I hadn’t done the ‘big European trip’ at that point, the visits of Guy Edwards in a Fittipaldi to Sandown, and the Theodore Team to the ’79 Rothmans Series with an Ensign MN05 and Wolf WR4, all Ford Cosworth powered whetted the appetite, but none were current cars when they visited and by 1985 we were in the middle of the 1.5 Litre Turbo Era.

The sight and sound of those cars around the wide open expanses of Adelaide’s Victoria Park was something to relish. It was, and still is a street circuit but the GP circuit, the V8 Supercars use a truncated version of the track, was fast and flowing with the full gamut of corners, if not gradient changes to provide a ‘technical track’ for drivers to master.

adelaide map

Once we separated ourselves from Ralph, our host, his enthusiasm for ‘Rossi Kekberg’ undiminished, we went to the circuit, being unfamiliar with the city and were simply blown away by Victoria Park, it’s scale, the circuit itself and the standard of organisation. The event won awards from the start to the end of the period in which the races were held there. Little Adelaide had something to prove both within Australia and globally, and delivered in spades.

Typical of AGP’s is a chock-a-block program of events; that year the supports included F Pacific, F Ford, Group A Touring Cars (Gerhard Berger drove a BMW635csi in the taxi races), Historic Cars. The ‘what the FAAAAARK’ moment was provided on that Thursday, when, unannounced an RAAF General Dynamics F18 Hornet fighter did a treetops high, fast pass, with all of us in Victoria Park hitting the deck and realising what it would have been like to ‘kiss your arse’ goodbye if one of these things was flying with aggressive intent…

prost nipping a brake

Alain Prost nips a front brake, his carbon brakes gave him troubles as they did other cars similarly equipped, but a blown turbo wastegate put him out on lap 26. He won his first drivers title in 1985.(Phil Aynsley)

By the time the circus arrived in town Alain Prost had won his first F1 Drivers Title with victories in Brazil, Monaco, Britain, Austria and Italy. He lost a win at Imola when his car was found to be underweight.

The McLaren MP4/2 TAG’s were the class of the field in 1984, they were fast, reliable, handled well and were driven superbly by Niki Lauda, who took the title that year and by Alain Prost who joined the team from Renault. The McLarens took their advantage into 1985 but the year was made technically interesting by Williams first carbon-fibre monocoque and the emergence of Nigel Mansell, signed by Williams that season, as a force particularly in the seasons second half.

rosberg front

Patrick Head’s first carbon-composite Williams, the FW10 Honda a superbly integrated design, the car of the second half of the ’85 season. Honda had also got the power delivery of its potent twin-turbo V6 more progressive than in 1984. Keke Rosberg here. (Phil Aynsley)

Patrick Head, Williams designer was conservative and cost-effective in his approach to such large design changes and was also concerned about the new carbon-composite materials. Head was impressed with the way his aluminium-honeycomb monocoques had withstood big impacts; Jones at Watkins Glen (FW06) in 1978 and Reutemann at Silverstone (FW07) in 1980.

Head determined to control the carbon-composite program inhouse, Williams built 9 carbon-composite FW10 chassis during the season. And gems of cars they were, right out of the box; Rosberg won in Detroit and Adelaide, Mansell at Brands Hatch and Kyalami.

In the early part of the season the cars were powered by ’84 ‘D-spec’ Honda engines but by the time they arrived in Adelaide ‘E-spec’ engines giving a reputed 1000/1250 BHP qualifying capability and a 6 speed, rather than 5 speed Hewland gearbox to harness the power was fitted.

williams fw10

Williams FW10 and its Honda RA163E engine; 80 degree DOHC, 4 valve 1494cc twin IHI turbo V6. Upwards of 800bhp @ 12000rpm depending upon boost. Carbon fibre chassis, lower wishbone and rocker/ coil spring/dampers suspension. Hewland 6 speed gearbox. Brakes in this shot carbon, but cast iron brakes in Adelaide an important factor in the Williams win. 520Kg. (unattributed)

Qualifying was held on a beautiful, hot day, 30000 punters turned up to see Ayrton Senna do an absolute blinder of a lap, you could see and feel the effort being expended by the Brazilian on track and on the plentiful video screens around the circuit, to set pole 7/10 of a second from Mansell, Rosberg, Prost and Alboreto.

So; Lotus, Williams, Williams, McLaren and Ferrari were the top 5. Alan Jones had returned to F1 but was well back in 19th, the Lola Hart not the fastest combination in the field.


Alan Jones ponders his chances on the grid. Strategy was to ‘go for it’ knowing the car probably would not last. It didn’t! He stalled on the grid but recovered to be 7th by lap 18, when the engines timing caused his retirement. Team Chief, ex-McLaren owner Teddy Mayer beside the wing. Lola THL1 Hart. (Phil Aynsley)

We were well pleased with the first 3 days of entertainment, I was suitably jealous of a couple of mates who were part of the show, participants in the Formula Ford race and wishing I was part of history, as all the competitors in that year were. It was surely the most significant motor race in Australia’s Racing History?!

muzza and keke

Muzza and Keke. Murray Walker had the same cult following in this part of the world as elsewhere, deservedly so! He is getting the goss on the grid from Rosberg before the start. (Phil Aynsley)

We plodded into town and found a nice Italian joint to have dinner, as it happened La Trattoria, which is still in King William Street, still owned by the same family and still employs the same waiters, became a restaurant of choice for the drivers, especially the Italians.

We had not even ordered a Spag Marinara when Patrese and De Cesaris arrived with wives/friends, we were blown away to have stumbled on the place by luck; because we were first, and ate there every night, every year a table was kept for us, it was fantastic to live vicariously and get the occasional autograph without intruding too much on the drivers. Adelaide was and is a small place, this was a good example of the access the locals had, their simply were few places to stay, so it wasn’t hard to find the stars of the show.

parade lap

Grid departs on its parade lap. Mansell, Senna, Rosberg by the fence, then Prost and Alboreto. Adelaide Hills in the distance, gum trees, and a full-house. Circa 105000 people on raceday/ (Phil Aynsley)

‘Poverty tickets’ in that first year weren’t a smart purchase, practice crowd numbers meant we had a very early start to bag our viewing positions. Outside the turn 1 chicane, a top spot on lap 1 but also throughout the race with a video screen to follow the event, was our choice after much debate. Being early was key, over 105000 attended on raceday.

Ralph was keen for ‘Rossi’ to win the race, and so it was, Keke won, and after 3 pit stops!

senna grid

Senna awaits the start from pole. Lotus 97T Renault. Blinder of a lap to get pole, but his race performance was a bit erratic. (Phil Aynsley)

Mansell won the start but Senna carved him in half at the third turn, putting Noige outta the race. Rosberg then lead for 41 laps with Senna at a distance until his tyres went off.

turn 1

Lap 1 turn 1 Chicane; Mansell from Senna, Rosberg, Alboreto (Ferrari) Prost, Boutsen (Arrows BMW), Surer (Brabham BMW) on his outside and Warwick (Renault). Senna gave Mansell a tap which took him out of the race into the right hander at Wakefield Road. (unattributed)

Senna moved back towards Keke, having given his tyres a rest and regained some grip, he then made a mistake clipping a chicane on the entrance to Brabham Straight, giving Rosberg some breathing space. But crazily, Senna had another moment and boofed Rosbergs Williams up the chuff as Keke went into the pits for a scheduled tyre change. Senna had to pit for both tyres and a new nose cone.


Niki Lauda in the cockpit of his McLaren MP4/2B TAG during practice. We saw him twice in Oz, in ’85 he was a real chance but like so many others his carbon brakes were not up to the rigours of a hot race which went for the maximum possible time allowed for a GP of 2 hours, twas said the race was about 12 laps too long. In 1984 he raced a Ralt RT4 Ford F Pacific car in the last non-F1 AGP at Calder Park. Niki retired at the end of the ’85 Adelaide race. (Phil Aynsley)

Rosberg was in the lead but Niki Lauda, in his last GP was looking a possibility in 2nd. At this point the heat of the day was telling for those with carbon-brakes, which were failing, those with steel brakes faring much better.

Keke’s tyres had gone off, he lean’t on them too soon so pitted again, then a wheel nut jammed so he entered the track 45 seconds behind Senna and Lauda.

rosberg tyres

Rosberg frying the Goodyears of his Williams on the hot day, you can clearly see the graining. (Phil Aynsley)

Senna fried his tyres giving the lead to Lauda, a career ending win a possibility, but his carbon brakes failed and he was into a wall. Rosberg, with cast iron brakes was looking good, Senna with carbon not so much, but then a piston failed in his Honda engine so Ayrton was out.

keke and senna

Rosberg from Senna during their long and interesting battle. Ayrton DNF with piston failure brought an end to it, but the Brazilian’s carbon brakes would not have lasted the distance in any event. Shot captures the essence of the track, the view from this point, in the Victoria Park section of the circuit, on Pit Straight  is pretty much the same 30 years later. (unattributed)

Rosberg had the race won with 21 laps to go, last lap entertainment was provided by the Ligiers (Ligier JS25 Renault) with Jacques Laffitte and Phillipe Steiff managing to run into one another, the unfortunate Streiff misunderstanding a Laffitte waving arms gesture which meant ‘don’t pass’ rather than ‘do pass’ as Phillippe interpreted!

Ivan Capelli, Tyrrell 014 Renault Stefan Johannsson Ferrari 156 and Gerhard Berger Arrows A8 BMW rounded out the top 6.

east terrace

The cars blast down Wakefield Road heading into town and into the East Terrace section of the track. Proximity of Adelaide CBD and treed nature of the Victoria Park section of the track clear. A Renault chasing a Tyrrell. (Phil Aynsley)

What a memorable race and event it was; the last for Lauda, Renault as a team for a while, Alfa Romeo as a team and the first of many Grands Prix for Australia…and yes Ralph did master ‘Rossi’s’ correct name but it took him another year to do so…


Victory ceremony L>R Laffitte, Frank Williams with his hands on the cup, Rosberg, Streiff and in the suit John Bannon, SA’s Premier who brought the event to Australia. Williams was shortly to suffer the accident which made him wheelchair bound only several months later. Mitsubishi a welcome global and local sponsor. At the time, its now long since closed, Mitsubishi manufactured cars at Tonsley Park, a southern outer Adelaide suburb. (unattributed)


warwick and senna

Derek Warwick, Renault RE60 and Senna Lotus 97T Renault, a bit cocked up, coping with tyres fried by heat and the pressure he is applying to them. End of Brabham Straight perhaps. (Phil Aynsley)


Unusual Adelaide GP circuit angle and shot. Keke’s Williams Fw10 has gone through the fast left/right ‘Banana Bend’ kink, he is on the outside of the circuit, The Adelaide Fruit Markets to his left, by the look of it he is under brakes and plucking 2nd gear for the left hander at ‘Stag Corner’, to head east out of town along Rundle Road. The fruit market buildings are still there, but are now retail and residential space. (unattributed)

alboreto and patrese

Michele Alboreto Ferrari 156, DNF transmission, ahead of Riccardo Patrese, Alfa Romeo 185T, DNF exhaust. (Phil Aynsley)

noige hairpin

Red 5, Noige at the hairpin onto Pit Straight. Mansell a popular figure in Oz, Senna drove a nutty race, twould have been very interesting to see what Mansell would have done without Senna’s assault on him. Two wins in the previous 2 races, the ‘form combination’ coming into Adelaide. Williams Fw10 Honda. (Phil Aynsley)


‘Autocourse 50 Years of The World Championship’ Alan Henry, ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard

Photo Credits…

Phil Aynsley, Geoff Smedley, ‘History of The AGP’ Graham Howard


Johansson Ferrari Monaco 1985

Stefan was out on the 1st lap, he ran up the chuff of Bergers Bennetton BMW when the engine misfired…Prost won in a McLaren MP4 Honda

Stefan Johanssons’ Ferrari 156-85 twin-turbos lighting up some unburnt fuel in its diffusers…Monaco 1985, sensational Rainer Schlegelmilch shot…

Schlegelmilch picks up the story in’Automobile Year 44’…’For the first practice session of the Monaco Grand Prix in 1985, I took up the same position as I had the year before, at the Rascasse corner. I had my Nikon F3 and a little 43-86mm zoom lens, and as I waited for the cars to come I noted that they would be passing under full acceleration within a metre of my chosen spot beside the guardrail.’

‘I therefore chose a slow shutter speed, around 1/15th or 1/30th of a second, and closed the aperture down in order to achieve the effect I wanted, with the car relatively sharp and the background blurred to accentuate the feeling of speed. I wanted the drivers’ helmet to be the sharpest point, so that identification was  easy, and since I wanted to move the zoom during the exposure to add to the blurred effect, I knew that the helmet had to be in the centre of the viewfinder. I was doing all this when Stefan Johannsons’ Ferrari burst into view. Everything worked, and by good luck- or sheer chance- at the very millisecond I pressed the button the Ferraris’ exhausts belched sheets of flame!’

Johannson McLaren

Stefan, McLaren MP4/3 TAG Porsche in 1987 (The Cahier Archive)

Johannson Spirit Honda British GP Brands 1983

Johannson heads into Druids Hill bend, Brands Hatch, European GP 1983. Spirit 201 Honda . Finished 14th 2 laps down after qualifying 19th. (unattributed)

Honda returned to Grand Prix racing via F2 and Ralt...Ron Tauranac and Jack Brabham formed a successful partnership with Honda winning the European Championship in 1966, so they gave Ron a call when they wanted to return, achieving quick success, initially winning the European F32 Championship with Geoff Lees in a Ralt RH6 Honda in 1981.

Ron was never going back to F1 though, so they teamed up with Spirit, who had also used their 2 litre V6 in F2. The F1 turbo-charged 1.5 litre V6 was explosive in its power delivery giving Spirit plenty of engineering challenges to what was essentially its F2 chassis. Johannson cut his F1 teeth with the team and Honda signed with Williams for 1984…

Spirit Honda Brands 1983

Not so pretty from the side…in search of downforce and somewhere to mount the ancillaries!

Stefans’ route to F1 was via the British F3 Championship which he won with a Project 4…(Ron Dennis) run March 803 Toyota. Like Ron he was off to F1 but a couple of starts with Shadow didn’t launch his career which was via Spirit after some F2 promise in 1982.

He raced for Tyrrell and Toleman in 1984, picking up a Ferrari drive after Rene Arnoux was sacked early in the season for unspecified misdemeanours.

Johnannssen Spa 86

La Source hairpin Spa 1986, Belgian GP. Ferrari F1/86, 1.5 litre twin turbo V6. Stefan drove well finishing 3rd behind the winning Williams FW11 Honda of Nigel mnasell and Ayrton Sennas’ Lotus 98T Renault .(unattributed)

In  1985  and 1986 he was often quicker than team leader Alboreto and in the lead more than once but he was shown the door at the end of’86, McLaren picking him up.

He finished sixth in the drivers championship but was really keeping the seat warm for Ayrton Senna who was under contract to Lotus until the end of 1987, still winless but a frontish-runner, he failed to get the second seat at Williams Riccardo Patrese bagged and steadily slipped down the totem pole in mid-field teams…Ligier in ’88, Onyx in ’89/90, and AGS and Footwork in 1991.

He placed second four times, very unlucky not to win, after 1992 he moved to CART, Sportscars and driver management.

Johannson Ferrari F156-85 Adelaide 1985

Johannson, Adelaide, AGP 1985. Ferrari F156-85. Qualified 15th and finished 5th, Rosberg won in his Williams Renault (unattributed)

Stefan Jonannsen Monza 85

Pitstop at Monza in 1985, Ferrari 156/85. Q 10 and 5th in the race won by Alain Prosts’ McLaren MP4/2B TAG. (unattributed)

Johannson Austrian GP 1987 McLaren MP4 3 Honda

Last drive in a competitive car was with McLaren MP4/3 Porsche chassis in 1987. Here in Austria he qualified 14th and finished 7th after a big fright in practice having hit a deer! and cracking a rib in the ensuing accident. Nigel Mansell won in a Williams FW11B Honda. (unattributed)

Photo Credits…

Rainer Schlegelmilch, The Cahier Archive