Posts Tagged ‘1996 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; https://primotipo.com/2014/10/01/1956-argus-trophy-albert-park-reg-hunt-and-lex-davison-maserati-250f-and-a6gcm-ferrari-tipo-500/

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 tapatalk.com 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…

(unattributed)

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.

(reddit.com)

Mark Webber’s Williams FW26B BMW during its 2005 Sydney Harbour Bridge runs the week before the AGP. https://primotipo.com/2015/08/29/mark-webbers-sydney-harbour-bridge/

Etcetera…

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.

 

(unattributed)

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

Bibliography…

Bob Carter on tapatalk.com, ‘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…

(unattributed)

Finito…