Phillip Island celebrates 60 years of racing

Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit - Image by Russel Colvin

Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit – Image by Russel Colvin

Island Magic comes to the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit this weekend (November 26 & 27) celebrating 60 years of racing at the world famous track, with cars from the past to cars of the future on and off track, and two days of thrilling racing.

Named appropriately the “Grand Opening Meeting”, the first race on the Phillip Island circuit was staged on December 15, 1956.

Chris Lambden's FT 5000

Chris Lambden’s FT 5000

This weekend’s Island Magic honours the past six decades with nine categories of cars racing, and special appearances from the 500 cc Cooper of Graeme Noonan and Chris Lambden’s car of the future, the FT 5000, to be driven by competitor of the year, Tim Macrow.

The two iconic cars will bookend race day and be on display outside the café during the weekend.

Lex Davison in the Phil Irving prepared s/c Cooper Vincent, joint winner of the first event, leading Ern Tadgell in his Porsche-engined single-seater.

Lex Davison in the Phil Irving prepared s/c Cooper Vincent, joint winner of the first event, leading Ern Tadgell in his Porsche-engined single-seater.

Big fields of production cars, historic touring cars, sports cars and open wheelers fill the agenda with  300 race machines entered and 27 races scheduled.

Tickets are available at the gate for $30 for a weekend pass; $25 for a Sunday only pass, and kids under 16 free.   Gates open at 8am both days, with Saturday featuring qualifying and racing and Sunday back to back racing.

Fergus Cameron – Managing Director of the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit

“This is a historic weekend for the circuit, for PIARC and the island. As we all know the property has changed hands three times over 60 years, but PIARC has always been there since the very first meeting here in 1956. They have been integral to the success of this track and are an amazing club of 700 volunteers bound together by a love of motorsport and great camaraderie. It is quite incredible to think of the competitors they have produced, the officials they have trained and how the role they have played in Australian and Phillip Island motorsport and played such an important role in life on the island.”

The history of the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit begins with a group of local motorsport enthusiasts who would meet at a local café.

It was 1952 and the mates decided to stop talking about their dreams and start to seriously pursue their vision to bring motor racing back to the island after nearly a 20 year absence.

Together they formed the Phillip Island Auto Racing Club (PIARC), and the organisation is still at the beating heart of every major race meeting held at the circuit today – whether car or motorcycle.

The PIARC pioneers purchased a site for a circuit from local landowner, P.D. Whitlock, and within four years had designed and financed the building of the racetrack.

The inimitable Murray Rainey, Cooper-Norton at Turn 4 (“Repco”), also joint winner of the first event.

The inimitable Murray Rainey, Cooper-Norton at Turn 4 (“Repco”), also joint winner of the first event.

Despite endless challenges with finance, weather, design and construction they somehow achieved the impossible and launched the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit with their first event, the Grand Opening Meeting – a joint car/motorcycle affair –  a one day meet held December 15, 1956.

Event 1 was for “Under 1500 cc Racing Cars: and incorporated the “Formula 111 Scratch race” (for cars up to 500cc).

It was a race within a race, so technically the first car and driver to take the chequered flag was Murray Rainey in his Cooper in the nine mile Formula 111 dash.

Lex Davison, grandfather of current drivers Will and Alex Davison, in a supercharged Cooper Vincent was the ultimate winner of Event 1, taking the full length eight lap/24 mile opener.

Jack Brabham in the Cooper-Climax, winner of the feature event, following A.N.(Lex) Davison in his Ferrari.

Jack Brabham in the Cooper-Climax, winner of the feature event, following A.N.(Lex) Davison in his Ferrari.

A young Jack Brabham, who went on to become 1966 World Champion, was victorious in the feature event of the day, the “Bill Thompson Memorial Trophy race”, in a Cooper Climax.

Sir Jack and the joint winners of the first event, Murray Rainey and Lex Davison have passed away, but many drivers who competed in 1956 are still alive and some still racing in historic vehicle categories today.

Winners of the feature motorcycle event, the Senior Classic, at the Grand Opening Meet held December 15 2016 featuring Frank Spiller on his Triumph 500 and Keith Campbell on a Moto Guzzi 350.

Winners of the feature motorcycle event, the Senior Classic, at the Grand Opening Meet held December 15 2016 featuring Frank Spiller on his Triumph 500 and Keith Campbell on a Moto Guzzi 350.

Motorcycle racing also featured in the Grand Opening Meet, with Frank Spiller victorious in the premier bike event and the side car event won by Bob Mitchell.

Many famous motorcycling names of the era competed including Australia’s first world motorcycling champion in 1957, Keith Campbell.

Keith Campbell, later Australia’s very first Motorcycle World Champion in 1957 on a works Guzzi, but was sadly killed the following year at Cadours in central Southern France. His nephew and namesake Keith Jnr. won the 350cc Post Classic and second in 500cc Classic Historic Championships at Simmons Plains Tasmania on November 19/20, 2016.

Keith Campbell, later Australia’s very first Motorcycle World Champion in 1957 on a works Guzzi, but was sadly killed the following year at Cadours in central Southern France. His nephew and namesake Keith Jnr. won the 350cc Post Classic and second in 500cc Classic Historic Championships at Simmons Plains Tasmania on November 19/20, 2016.

The Phillip Island Grand Prix Visitor Centre will be open the entire weekend, so if you love motorsport history, you could easily wile away an hour or two there reliving some of the great memories of Australian motorsport.

For further information on Island Magic 2016 this weekend, an event celebrating 60 years of racing at the island December 1956-2016 visit www.piarc.com.au.

Chris Lambden’s FT5000

Chris Lambden’s prototype FT5000 car will also be on show at Island Magic this weekend at Phillip Island, the first time it has been unveiled in Victoria.

It is set to be the basis of an all-new open wheeler formula, combining modern car safety standards (i.e. carbon fibre chassis) with the best of the golden era of motorsport, the 1970s – including five-litre V8 engine, big wide tyres, and the sound and looks to go with it.

It is intended that the car form the basis of a summer series, in both NZ and Australia, much like the old Tasman series.

Some facts on the FT5000: Chassis based on a ‘Formula Nippon’ design by leading US manufacturer Swift Engineering; Engine – modified (by InnoV8) Ford Coyote quad-cam 5-litre V8 – 560bhp, 450ft/lbs maximum torque; Holinger six-speed sequential gearbox with ‘paddle’ change; tyres (rear) 410mm width by Asian manufacturer Giti; three-piece wheels by Arrow (NZ); six-pot steel disc brakes by PFC; local carbon composites by LC Race Composites (Lee Cason).

The whole adaptation of the design to take the engine/gearbox has been overseen by iconic Australian race car manufacturers Borland Engineering (Michael Borland).

Completed just four weeks ago, the car will complete some demonstration laps in the hands of test driver Tim Macrow.

The FT5000 project has been headed by former motorsport publisher (Motorsport News) and racer, Chris Lambden.

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