Words and pics by Shane Murphy.
This year’s event was a dual celebration, the 24th anniversary of the Sprints and the 70th anniversary of the Australian Grand Prix, run in 1949 on an ex war time airfield just outside the town of Leyburn.
With over 200 cars entered, 2019 was a fantastic affair with a vast and divergent range of competition cars, show cars and historic caravans.
A bit of history for the Murphy’s as well. In 1949 Jen’s dad and grandfather were present at the original Grand Prix, we still have a copy of the original program in our family archives. In 2000 we travelled to Leyburn, located the original airfield, which was not easy to locate, stumbling on the stone monument.
For a couple of years I have wanted to compete. This year the stars aligned and, encouraged by Phil Hart and Jason McGarry, I made the trek to the Southern Downs.
What a cracker of a weekend, the town of Leyburn (pronounced Leeburn) turned it on with huge crowds, plenty of sunshine, celebrities of the calibre of Kevin (Big Rev) Bartlett, Dick Johnson, John French, Colin Bond, Don Holland, Bob Holden, our own Paul Stokell mingling with the crowd and enjoying an adventure into grass roots competition. Queensland Rugby League great Shane Webcke was also a crowd favourite, gladly posing for pics and enjoying the vibe.
Phil and Gail Hart jumped the gun, arriving at Leyburn by 7.30 am on the Friday morning and pegged out a vast pit area for the troops to follow.
Our crew consisted of Phil and Gail Hart (Porsche GT3), Stephen Foss (Westfield XTR2), Rod and Narelle McCray (Porsche 911SC), Bruce and Gail Absolon (Porsche 911 Turbo S), Bob Hamilton (Ford XW Falcon GTHO), Paul and Louis Stokell (Lotus Exige), Jason McGarry (Caterham R300/420R) and Shane and Jen Murphy (Lotus Seven). A united nation of cars, British, German with a bit of Japanese Hayabusa mixed in for good value.
Scrutineering went well, but don’t mention the seat belts and all was cool, literally, until on Saturday morning Steve’s Westfield would not fire and despite a new battery, multiple attempts at fiddling with the wiring loom and other complexities, Steve never managed to get it started and sat out the event – a real bugger. Even Steve’s mother and brother, while offering all manner of sage advice could not coax the Westy into life.
Louis Stokell managed to collect five huge bags full of plastic bottles over the weekend, well on the way to purchasing his first Lamborghini. Well done Louis.
The Southern Downs is gripped by a severe drought, and the region is dry and dusty and looking pretty forlorn. Kangaroos were everywhere hunting out a feed; just ask Rod and Bruce who had to navigate a big Skippy who thought it would be fun to cross the track mid run – a couple of very close shaves.
The track is a lot of fun. Six corners, five of them right angle bends, the final corner being a big left hander sweeping onto the finish line. All you have to do is miss the big hay bales and all is good, and it was for our team, although throughout the weekend a few of the competitors sadly cleaned up the bales, resulting mainly with dented pride and bent mudguards.
Winners are grinners of course, and after seven runs, four on Saturday and three on Sunday, the scoreboard was very complimentary to our group.
Yours truly placed first in the Historic Racing and Sports Cars – Group O (non log book) with a blistering time of 55.832 seconds; Bob Hamilton finished ninth in class in his spectacular GTHO; Paul Stokell finished first in class and seventh outright; Rod McCray was third; Phil Hart and Bruce Absolon were first and second in the Modern Sports Car Class over 3,500 cc and Jason McGarry placed a brilliant second in the Modern Clubman class.
A great all-round weekend, highly recommended, lets get a big team of Lotus for 2020.