Posts Tagged ‘Fishermans Bend’

(B Young)

Huge excitement was created by Geoff Duke’s visit to Australia in 1954, here his Gilera 500/4 is shown at rest in the Longford paddock…

The Brit was a ‘rock star’, he has just won back to back 500cc world titles aboard Gileras in 1953 and 1954 having won his first on Nortons in 1951. In total Duke won six 350cc and 500cc world championships between 1951 and 1955 and six TT races between 1949 and 1955.

But his fame extended beyond bikes given his film star looks and ability to communicate, as such he was a wonderful ambassador for the sport globally and in late 1954 he was poised to spread a bit of his angel dust throughout Australia.

I wrote an article about Geoff four years ago with a focus on his racing in cars; https://primotipo.com/2015/09/08/geoff-duke-norton-dutch-gp-assen-1952/

Longford (B Young)

 

In a whirlwind tour commencing on 7 January 1955 he raced in four states commencing in Western Australia at Mooliabeenie, a wartime airstrip near Perth on 16 January before a crowd of 15,000 people and then another airstrip at Gawler in South Australia, no doubt wheelspin in top gear was impressive to the 16,000 punters who experienced trying conditions in sweltering heat.

His main opposition in the west was from local all-rounder Peter Nichol on a G45 Matchless and from George Scott’s GP Triumph, at Gawler Keith Campbell and Roger Barker impressed.

Then it was off to the Bandiana Army Base near Albury, the Victoria/New South Wales border town on 30 January- the first half decent venue for the plucky gentleman in his tour to that point, the track comprised 4.5km of perimeter roads.

There, having carefully won the Senior Clubmans event in the slowest possible time, Eric Hinton’s handicap just gave him the edge over Duke to allow him to win the Unlimited Handicap in fading light, this was the only occasion on which the champ was beaten on the tour.

Duke, Bandiana

 

Maurie Quincey, Norton ahead of Duke at Bandiana

Gilera saw the commercial opportunity of a tour to promote their brand sending two current 500/4 bikes and works mechanic Giovanni Fumagalli to look after the machines.

The two bikes brought to Australia derived from a 250cc four designed by Engineer Piero Remor under Piero Taruffi in the early 1940’s. After Taruffi left Gilera to concentrate on car racing Remor and company founder Giuseppe Gilera began work on a 500cc bike whose origins lay in the earlier 250, in 1947.

The new racer was unveiled in 1948 with 1949 its shakedown season. After Remor’s departure to MV Agusta Taruffi was re-hired, together with engineers Colombo and Passoni changes were made to the cylinder head and rear suspension which allowed Umberto Masetti to win the 500cc world championship in 1950.

The bike was redesigned over the winter of 1950/51 adopting a new tubular frame with telescopic forks, pivoting rear suspension and hydraulic shocks. In 1951 Gilera won three GP’s but Duke took the title on a Norton, in 1952 Masetti again won the championship.

Fumagalli and Duke warming up the bike at Gawler (D Voss)

 

Gilera 500-4 1954 (unattributed)

When Duke joined the Milanese firm for 1953 he brought with him strong knowledge of the great Rex Candless designed ‘Featherbed’ frame Norton’s handling, upon his suggestions the Gilera frame was lowered and strengthened to bring better handling with the engine left untouched.

In 1953/54 Passoni redesigned the motor by increasing its stroke, changing the valve angle and elongating the sump to allow the unit to be lowered in the frame by three inches, by this stage the engine produced circa 65bhp @ 10,000rpm.

The frame was of double cradle design made of tubular steel with telescopic suspension at the front and pivoting rear suspension with hydraulic shock absorbers at the rear. The four cylinder, four stroke, air-cooled engine displaced 402.7cc and was undersquare having a bore and stroke of 52mm x 58.8mm. With two valves per cylinder operated by two overhead camshafts and fed by four carburettors the engine gave circa 65bhp as stated above.

1954 Gilera 500 with the dustbin fairing they commenced to experiment with in 1954 (G Cavara)

 

Back to Dukes Tour of Oz. From Albury it was then off to Sydney and a round of public appearances and a visit to Mount Panorama before the next race meeting at the permanent Mount Druitt circuit west of Sydney.

The surface was poor though due to damage from recent car meetings but Duke dominated as he did everywhere else, Keith Stewart impressive in second on a new Matchless G45 twin in the Senior GP.

Mount Druitt

 

Mount Druitt after one of his wins with Keith Stewart on a Matchless G45 behind

Duke’s final two meetings of the tour were down south, at Fishermans Bend in inner Melbourne and majestic Longford in northern Tasmania, which must surely have impressed.

At Fishermans Bend Maurie Quincey led the 500cc race on his Norton for a while before clutch slip set in and Duke pounced in the second Gilera having put the first to one side, it had lost its edge.

Longford was held over two days- with racing on the Saturday and Monday, in the opening race the engine began to lose power with what was diagnosed as magneto problems. The other bike, in Melbourne awaiting shipment back to Italy was stripped of the part which was despatched overnight to the Apple Isle. With the machine back in fine fettle Duke won and set a new lap record in the Unlimited race of 152km/h. Oh to have heard that Gilera screaming its way along The Flying Mile @ 10,000rpm!

Ready for the off at Longford, Duke at right (S Scholes)

Jim Scaysbrook summarised the impact of Dukes tour in ‘Old Bike Australasia’; ‘His whirlwind tour had taken him to every state except Queensland and his charming and eloquent manner did incalculable good for motorcycling. The unprecedented publicity generated helped to dispel the popularly held, media fuelled belief that motorcycle racers were a bunch of halfwits with a death wish. It also had a profound effect on the local riders, serving as a stark reminder of the gap between our rather primitive scene and the European big-time.’

‘A number of up and coming stars impressed him, including Keith Campbell, Roger Barker and particularly Bob Brown, who had just gained selection as Australian representative to the 1955 IOM TT races. “This young man is a joy to watch, uses his head, and should figure very well in the IoM and on the continent” he said in his report to the British Press. When Duke was injured at the start of the 1957 season, he recommended Brown to take his place in the Gilera team for the TT, resulting in two excellent third places. For 1958, Duke personally sponsored Bob on a pair of Nortons’ Jim wrote.

Etcetera…

(D Tongs)

The second of the two Gileras at rest in Longford.

The contribution and significance of this series of Gileras is recognised in a wonderful, highly technical and thoroughly researched scholarly paper titled ‘Grand Prix Motorcycle Engine Development 1949-2008’ written by David Piggott and Derek Taulbut.

https://www.grandprixengines.co.uk/Grand_Prix_Motorcycle_Engine_Development.pdf

The authors recognise ‘Piero Remor’s contribution to Grand Prix engine design’ as follows;

‘The defeat of the original MV 4 in early 1966 had brought to a close after two successful decades the career of the 1947 basic 500cc design of Phil Remor. Initially for Gilera, this introduced the Naturally Aspirated aircooled transverse 4-cylinder with double overhead camshafts and 2 wide angle valves per cylinder, bore-stroke ratio around 1. Remor’s concept, although changed in detail development by others in Gilera and MV, is worth remembering. There had also been successful 350cc versions. Remor had actually been associated with transverse 4’s since 1925 when it was the layout of the Italian GRB (Gianini-Remor-Bonmartini) which ultimately had been transformed into the water supercharged Gilera which powered Dorino Serafini to the European Championship in 1939.’

This piece is based on a wonderful article by Jim Scaysbrook titled ‘Geoff Duke- The Duke’s Crusade’, do have a read, it’s terrific.

Geoff Duke – The Duke’s Crusade

Bibliography and Photo Credits…

Bob Young Collection, Des Tongs, Stephen Scholes, Doug Voss, ‘Geoff Duke- The Duke’s Crusade’ article by Jim Scaysbrook in Old Bike Australia issue 13 May/June 2009, ‘Gilera Motorcycles and Racing History’ by Lucien C Ducret, ‘Grand Prix Motorcycle Engine Development 1949-2008’ by David Piggott and Derek Taulbut.

Tailpiece…

Finito…

(B Williamson)

The drivers of the 20 March 1954, Fishermans Bend, Melbourne, Sports Car Race make for their cars…

Event Four on the program was of 12 laps, the journey started at 1.45 pm and was won by Melbourne transport businessman, Kevin Neal- the dude in the sports-jacket aboard the number 61 Jaguar XK120, his main competition according to Terry McGrath, was Harry Firth is his supercharged MG TC Spl.

From the front is the #66 GC Newton XK120, #61 car of Neal, the 3 litre Meadows engined Lea Francis of J Robinson, then the big 3 litre Bentley owned by Haig Hurst- you can just see car #55, the RH Reynolds Morgan Plus 4.

Other notables entered include Graeme Hoinville, MG TC (which he still owns), John  Sawyer, of later Bob Jane Racing fame in a K3 MG, Earl Davey-Milne in a Fraser Nash (which he still owns), Frank Porter, a later prominent touring car racer well into the late seventies, and P McKenna in the 1948 AGP winning BMW 328- you can see that light coloured car second in line behind the dark Jag, both still not off the start-line.

(T McGrath)

Its Neal away with a blinder of a start in his supercharged Jag from the Reynolds Morgan whereas the bulk of the field seems afflicted with problems caused by the ‘Prince of Darkness’- Lucas Electrics, or is that a tad unfair?

The light coloured car behind the Morgan is the RG Davis MG TC and the dark coloured one at the very back of the cars on-circuit is the Hoinville TC.

Click here for an article on Fishermans Bend; https://primotipo.com/2016/04/15/fishermans-bend-melbourne/

Neal progressed into some pretty serious motor cars including a Cooper T23 Bristol and the ex-Reg Hunt Maserati A6GCM with which he contested the 1956 AGP held not too far away in Albert Park. Click here; https://primotipo.com/2017/12/12/hunts-gp-maser-a6gcm-2038/

Credits…

Bob Williamson and Terry McGrath Collections, Stephen Dalton for the car identifications

Finito…

 

image001

Looks of wonderment and amazement at the voluptuous lines of the Aston’s Frank Feeley penned body.  The ‘Wow Factor’ of contemporary racing cars never changes whatever the era does it?!…

Here it’s a Melbourne crowd on February 28 1958. Its the end of the long hot Australian summer but the crowd are well rugged up, Melbourne is notoriously ‘four seasons in one day’ sometimes and Fishermans Bend is an exposed windswept place at the best of times. At the wheel of the road-registered, ex-works Aston Martin DB3S chassis DB3S/9 is a youthful David McKay.

McKay aboard DB3S/9 at Fishermans Bend in February 1958. Nose of the car showing minor scars of battle, perspex headlight covers fitted to this car from its birth. First race the ’56 Rouen GP in May, then 2nd @ Le Mans ’56 driven by Moss/Collins, Salvadori was 2nd at Goodwood in September- car retained by Astons into 1957, the DBR1 the front line weapon that year with Brooks racing DBS3/9 at Easter Goodwood for 3rd. It was then used by the works for the last occasions as a practice car at Silverstone for the British Empire Trophy and for the Nurburgring 1000Km before sold by John Wyer to McKay with funds provided by Ampol (Westaway)

At the time he was ascending the driving ranks having cut his racing teeth in MG’s. He made it into the elite group too- let’s not forget were it not for a ropey jumped start call he would have won the 1961 Australian Grand Prix at Mallala aboard a Cooper T51 Climax. David would soon be known as much as a journalist, successful businessman and entrant-entrepreneur via his business ‘Scuderia Veloce’ as a driver though.

McKay raced this car to wins in the sportscar races that Fishermans Bend weekend, and was very successful in it throughout the country, taking 8 wins from 9 starts.

His only defeat, 2nd place was at the hands of Doug Whiteford’s ex-works Maser 300S in the Tasmanian Tourist Trophy at Longford in early 1958 during the Gold Star meeting.

McKay and passenger, Baskerville 1958 (HRCCT)

After Longford McKay and his crew took the car south to Hobart racing it at the new Baskerville circuit (above) in April and taking a comfortable win, and setting a new outright circuit record from Lyn Archer’s Cooper 1100 but churning through more of his diminishing stock of racing Avons due to the abrasive nature of the surface.

An amusing side-story is that the officer in charge of the old SS Taroona ship between Devonport and Port Melbourne took exception to the oversized trailer and refused to load it until David made representations to the Captain who graciously allowed the equipe aboard ensuring that important commitments to sponsors could be met.

db 3 s engine

Engine of the ex-works/McKay DB3S/9, raced at Albert Park, November 1958 by Stan Jones. 6 cylinder 2922cc DOHC 2 valve, twin plug all alloy engine fed by 45DCO Weber carburettors. Circa 225bhp @ 6000 rpm (Kevin Drage)

His last race in the car was successful, he took an Australian Tourist Trophy victory at Mount Panorama, Bathurst in October 1958 in what McKay described as ‘the faithful old ex-works Aston’s…greatest Antipodean win’.

The race was not an easy one. Initially Bill Pitt’s Jaguar XKD led and then Doug Whiteford, the formidable, forceful three-time AGP winner took the lead from McKay with Pitt 3rd. On lap 10 Doug had an enormous accident when the Maser was caught by a sudden gust of wind after coming over the second Conrod Straight hump threw the car out of control with the Maser spinning and hitting the right hand fence three times. Whiteford was almost flung from the car as it skidded backwards down the escape road and into another fence. Fortunately the St Kilda racer was only bruised by the wild ride.

McKay then led with an intermittent engine miss from Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Climax, a light rain shower adding to the degree of difficulty towards the end of the race. McKay won from Jolly, Ron Phillips and Frank Matich- Aston DB3S, Lotus 15 Climax, Cooper Jaguar and Jaguar XKC.

The weekend was a brilliant one for the Sydneysider as his new Jaguar Mk1 3.4, just imported for him by Ampol trounced the hitherto dominant Repco headed Holden sedans of John French and Leo Geoghegan in the sedan car handicap, to start the ‘Jaguar Era’ of Australian Touring Car racing.

After the Tourist Trophy win Stan Jones bought the racer but wasn’t really happy with it. The wonderful Le Mans second placed 1956 car then passed into Ray Barfield’s hands in Western Australia where its contemporary racing history ended in the early sixties. A summary of the cars history is in this article, rather than repeat myself;

https://primotipo.com/2017/03/23/bunbury-flying-50-allan-tomlinson-ferrari-500-et-al/

McKay’s first Aston, a production DB3S chassis #102 in the Carrathool paddock during its Australian LSR record breaking weekend in February 1957. Interesting to know who crafted the aero pod beneath which McKay sat and cooked! (Jek)

McKay was a very dab hand at the wheel of Aston’s by the time he bought his ex-Moss car…

He was part of the trio of privately run DB3S,  ‘Kangaroo Stable’ of cars raced by Australians Tony Gaze, Jack Brabham, Les Cosh, Dick Cobden, Tom Sulman and McKay in Europe in 1955.

McKays car, initially delivered to Tony Gaze, chassis DB3S/102 took the best result of the tour cut short by the cancellation of many sportscar races in Europe after the Le Mans disaster- McKay and Gaze were second in the 29 May Hyeres 12 Hour behind the winning Ferrari 750 Monza driven by Canonica/Munaron

At the end of the European Safari which included Oporto (Gaze 8th) and Goodwood (McKay/Gaze DNF distributor drive) David shipped the car straight to New Zealand for a number of races there including the Formula Libre NZ GP in January 1956,he retired from the Ardmore event won convincingly by Stirling Moss in a Maserati 250F.

The engine of the car was shipped back to the UK for a rebuild after a major failure during a race at Invercargill. From May 1956 production DB3S’ were fitted with twin-plug 210 bhp engines, it was in this form the engine was rebuilt and delivered from Feltham back to Sydney. The beautiful car was again race ready by early 1957.

Tony Gaze about to rejoin the May 1955 Hyeres 12 Hour, he shared the car with David McKay- car #20 behind is the Graham and Peter Whitehead DB3S DNF (CAMS)

The stunning colour photographs were taken of ‘102’ in February 1957 at Carrathool a tiny village 680 Km west of Sydney between Narrandera and Hay in New South Wale western Riverina.

The main automotive attribute of the town was a long, straight stretch of road between Carrathool and Gunbar which was ideal for record setting, and so it was that various Ampol sponsored cars sought to break some Australian speed records. The then current Australian LSR was the 136.4 mph set by Jack Saywell’s 2.9 litre Alfa Romeo Tipo B/P3 at South Australia’s Coorong in 1939.

After plenty of careful preparation inclusive of incorporating the beautifully made perspex fairing onto his Aston, McKay broke the record setting a time over the Flying Kilometre of 143.19 mph on the morning of 19 February 1957. The ‘Canberra Times’ reported that McKay made two full speed runs on the course, ‘during one run he skidded on a patch of loose dirt at 140 mph’.

This speed was soon eclipsed by other cars but the DB3S held the class record for some years.

David McKay at speed during the Ampol sponsored record-breaking weekend in early 1957. Carrathool a tiny hamlet with now around 300 inhabitants. A straight, flat road with a decent surface a long way from major population centres was ideal record breaking territory! (Jek)

The car was first raced in Australia at Easter Bathurst in April 1957, he was 2nd in the sportscar handicap and won the sedan and sportcar handicap from Paul England’s Repco headed Ausca, passing the very fast special built at Repco Research by England ‘running up to 139.3 mph to do so and clocking fastest quater mile time for the day’.

But the car saw little further use as the quicker ex-works machine arrived in Sydney in September 1957. DBS/9’s first race was the October 1957 13 lap NSW Sportscar Championship at Bathurst, an event the combination won comfortably with McKay taking the lap record despite using only 5200 of the Aston’s available 6000 rpm. Bill Pitt’s Jaguar D Type was timed at 144 mph on Conrod Straight with McKay at 136 mph using his self imposed rev limit.

Both of these extremely valuable cars still exist but sadly left Australia many years ago. Those of you with collections of Australian ‘Sports Car World’ magazine should have a fossick through them as McKay wrote two sensational articles about the ownership of his two Aston’s in the seventies, or maybe the eighties!..

Technical specifications as per text (Tony Matthews)

Aston DB3S Technical Specifications…

The Aston Martin DB3S was built from 1953 to 1957, 32 were constructed excluding the single-seater variant ‘DP155/1′ raced by Reg Parnell in New Zealand in 1956.

Fundamentally Willie Watson’s design was a shorter, lighter and stiffer car than Eberan Eborhorst’s Aston DB3. The car evolved over just four months making its debut in Reg Parnell’s hands at Charterhall on 23 May 1953.

The cars were designed around a period typical ladder frame chassis which was 7 feet 3 inches long- 6 inches shorter than DB3. The frame comprised twin tubular members of 4 inch 16 gauge chrome molybdenum steel and three 14 gauge four, and five inch cross-members. The shorter chassis made the car nimbler than its predecessor if somewhat skittish on bumpy surfaces. The track was reduced from 4′ 3″ to 4’ 1″.

Frank Feeley designed the very stylish body, as sexy as the DB3 was dowdy. More than a nod had been given in the direction of the contemporary Maserati A6GCS it seemed. Overall the car was shorter, narrower and lighter than the DB3 and importantly it ‘looked right’ straight out of the box.

Front suspension was independent by trailing links, torsion bars, piston type dampers and a roll bar. A De-Dion rear axle was used sprung by a torsion bar and located by trailing links and a Panhard rod, again with piston type shocks.

Naturally a David Brown gearbox was fitted, the S430 ‘box a 4 speeder with reverse, final drive was by spiral bevel in a light alloy casing with a ZF slippery diff usually fitted. Brakes initially were two-leading shoe Alfin drums- 13 inches in diameter at the front and 12 inches at the rear. From 1955 Girling disc bakes were specified, the rotors were 11.5 inches in diameter front and rear. Precise rack and pinion steering was fitted, two turns were required lock to lock.

A 2922cc all alloy DOHC, 2 valve, 6 cylinder engine provided the cars heart. It had 4 main bearings and wet cylinder liners with the valves disposed at an included angle of 60 degrees. Initially fitted with 35DCO Weber carburettors the engine gave 182 bhp @ 5500 rpm and 182 lb/ft of torque at 3800 rpm on a compression ration of 8.5:1.

The cars were of course developed extensively throughout their racing life with the works cars fitted with twin-plug heads and 45DCO Webers from May 1954 giving 225bhp @ 6000 rpm.

The ‘Kangaroo Stable Cars’ (DB3S/102 Gaze-McKay, DB3S/103 Sulman, DB3S/104 Cosh) delivered in early 1955 all had the 200 bhp Weber 40 DCO engine- when announced at Earls Court in October 1954 the production cars had a feeble and uncompetitive 180 bhp on triple SU’s.

For the sake of completeness special works engines included a supercharged 240 bhp car raced at Le Mans in 1954 and a 2992cc normally aspirated variant raced at Dundrod in 1955.

In an era of unlimited sportscars the production based 3 litre DB3S was rarely an outright contender, the big guns, depending upon the year were the Benz 300SLR, XKD Jags and Ferrari V12’s of varying capacity. But with a change to 3 litres for the manufacturers championship and a more uncompromising approach the DB3S’ younger brother triumphed at Le Mans in 1959 and won the manufacturers title to boot. The path to that success was in part via the DB3S journey…

David McKay and passenger doing some camera work at the then new Baskerville circuit, Tasmania in early 1958 (HRCCT)

Etcetera…

(unattributed)

McKay on the left and Doug Whiteford, Maserati 300S with Bill Patterson’s Cooper Climax Bobtail behind?

Its Longford before the startline was moved from here- towards the end of The Flying Mile, before Mountford Corner to what became Pit Straight- the stretch after Mountford.

(unattributed)

Perhaps an Ampol publicity shot- ‘Rice’ trailer? Nice rig.

Bibliography…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, ‘David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce’ David McKay, ‘Aston Martin: A Racing History’ Anthony Pritchard, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, ‘The Canberra Times’ 20 February 1957

Photo Credits…

Don Westaway, Kevin Drage, Ampol, Sharaz Jek, Tony Matthews, HRCCT- Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania, CAMS

Tailpiece: McKay at high speed in DB3S/102 during a practice run at Carrathool, in New South Wales western Riverina in April 1957…

(Ampol)

Finito…

 

lex davo

Who What Where and When?…its Lex Davison in his Alfa Romeo P3 ‘50003’…the where is a little more interesting?…

My writer/historian friend Stephen Dalton thinks its Fishermans Bend, Victoria at the 13 March 1949 meeting…the background looks bucolic to me so it may be Ballarat Airfield in 1950? All correspondence will be entered into.

The shot itself is by George Thomas, i tripped over it…ripper shot which catches the essence of these airfield circuits.

I will get around to writing about this wonderful Alfa in due course, on the basis that it is Fishermans Bend Davo won the 12 lap, 25 mile scratch race from Charlie Dean in Maybach 1, those of you who have read my Stan Jones article will be familiar with this car, Arthur Wylie in a Ford V8 Spl was 3rd.

Credits…

George Thomas, Stephen Dalton, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ 14 April 1949