In the circles that I frequent, the name of Arthur Blizzard comes up pretty frequently. Those of us who remember the glory days of the 70’s road racing in Australia would not be able to recall the era without acknowledging the amazing achievements of the quiet, yet determined man at the helm of the ACU of NSW (now MNSW).
I am grateful to the internet for the following information that has been collected by someone and catalogued. I’d like to reproduce that information here before moving on to some recollections of my own personal and administrative dealings with the man. So, here’s the potted history.
Born:29th June, 1934– Paddington.NSW Died:1st July, 1995– LoftusNSW. Joined St. George Motor Cycle Club 3rd October, 1951.
COMPETITION ACHIEVEMENTS: 1951 to 1961. “A” Grade – Scrambles(Now called Motocross) “A” Grade – Reliability Trials (Now called Enduro) Occasional Road Racing and Dirt Track.
ADMINISTRATION ACHIEVEMENTS: If he did not compete he officiated at EVERY Club day regardless to what phase of the sport it was: ie.Sporting Trials, Dirt Track, etc. Has officiated at all motorcycle meetings conducted at Oran Park since its inaugural meeting in 1963. Officiated at most motorcycle meetings conducted at Amaroo Park since its inaugural meeting in 1964. Officiated at EVERY motorcycle meeting at Mt. Panorama, Bathurst from 1951 to 1993. (A total of 40 years) commencing as a Flag Marshal and graduated to Event Director. ACU Delegate for St. George MCC from 1953 to 1974.
Member of ACU Competitions Committee from 1961 to 1988. ACU Competitions Committee Chairman from 1966 to 1974. St. George Motor Cycle Club President from 1963 to 1974 – resigning as he became President of A.C.U. ACU President from 1974 to 1988 ACCA (Now MA) Delegate 1978 to 1988 ACCA Treasurer 1982 to 1988 Life Member of St. George MCC since 1965 Life Member of ACU of NSW since 1973 Life Member of ACCA since 1991.
Organised Mt. Panorama, Bathurst totally after taking over from the Late Harry Bartrop when meetings went onto become International Events. St. George Club Director to Nepean Motor Sports Club for several years.Has officiated at Nepean Raceway on numerous occasions as Clerk of Course or Starter and in later years ACCA Steward. Also officiated at Motocross meetings on occasions. First Australian Official to be issued with an FIM Officials Licence for Road Racing in 1980. First Australian to officiate as a Jury Member in an International Jury.
In 1980 attended as Australian Representative at 250cc and 500cc GP World Championships at Paul Ricard in France, Isle of Man T.T., and 8 Hour race at Nurburgring in Germany. Also Jury Member at first and second Australian Grand Prixs. First organiser of International Motocross in Australia.Conducted at Oran Park in 1972. Designed track and set meeting up with 2 weeks notice. First Australian to conduct, as Event Director and Clerk of Course a World Championship Round in Australia, ie: World Superbike Rounds at Oran Park in 1988 and 1989 then went to assist in New Zealand in 1988. One of only 13 Honorary Citizens of Bathurst,awarded on 4th April, 1985.
I do hope that you read all of that; it is an astonishing list of achievements for a man whose involvement in the sport covered just 44 years. During that period it was impossible to attend or be part of any road race meeting where Arthur (and his wife, Jan) were not somehow involved.
In 1976, not long after I moved to Canberra to live, I became aware that there were many Canberra riders who were actively involved in road racing. However, it seemed perplexing to me that every single one of them were members of one or other of the major, Sydney-based motorcycle clubs; St George, BWP, Willoughby, Northern Districts, Annandale Leichardt, MCRC etc. When I asked why I was told that the riders did so so that they could compete in club days at Oran Park and Amaroo Park.
No Content Available
I knew enough about the sport even then to know that you only had to be a member of an ACU-registered club for you to get a competition licence and race so I enquired as to why these guys weren’t racing as members of a local club. The answer was that the local clubs (there were 3 of them) were only interested in dirt bike racing and were not providing the support that they needed to go road racing. Added to this was the fact that the major Sydney club days were all run by the small list of clubs that I mentioned above.
I should explain. Back in the day, there were many more events in which riders could compete than there are today. Starting at the top there were National Open Meetings. These were the glamour shows where the top A Grade riders would compete, events like the various State Championships (remember them?) the ARRC (Australian Road Racing Championship), and privately promoted series like the Rothmans Pro Series at Oran Park and similar events. Then, of course, there was Bathurst at Easter and the Castrol Six Hour in October.
There were three levels of grading for riders, A, B and C. Later a D grade was added but it was just these three for most of the 70’s. A and B grade riders could enter in all of these events but C grade riders were only allowed if they had met certain requirements so it was in your best interest as a rider to get yourself upgraded from C as soon as you can. The process was determined not only by how many races you had won but by your lap times at the meetings at which you competed and how many meetings where you had competed. At Bathurst, for example, (and at most of the other meetings) there were races for the C graders, but just because you were a C grader didn’t necessarily mean that your entry would be accepted.
How can this be, you might be asking. Wouldn’t the organisers be grateful for every entry they could get? Well, yes, but not to the extent you would imagine. At Bathurst, again for an example, there were regularly grids of 70 to 90 riders for the races. The grid as it was formed sometimes meant that the last bikes were queued up heading UP Conrod Straight.
So riders had the National Open meetings, the State Open meetings, C grade days and then there were club days. Club days were where the novice riders got their practice and honed their skills. In any one month there would be at least 2 club days and there would be a C grade day at least once every couple of months. These meetings were nearly always fully subscribed with anywhere between 100 and 200 riders crammed into the pits. They raced all the types of bikes that were raced at the Open meetings, all the way from 250 production up to TZ700’s and the superbikes of the day (then called Unlimited Improved Production)
So club days formed a very important part of the fabric of road racing and, if you wanted to get your maximum number of club days that were available, you basically had to be a member of one of the mentioned big Sydney clubs.
So, when a group of us got together and decided to try and form a specialised road racing club in Canberra, we faced two difficulties. The first was that, as there was already three motorcycle clubs in the ACT, we had to hope that we could convince the ACU to allow and sanction the formation of a 4th one. As secretary of the ACU’s Road Racing Committee, Arthur was the man with whom we had to deal and who we had to convince of the merits of the idea. After a series of phone calls we were told that the ACU would approve our application as long as we could provide evidence from the other three clubs that they had no objection to the plan. That bit proved to be fairly easy.
The second was that, should the club go ahead, what sort of provision could be made for our new club to fit into the club day scenario? Club days were restricted in that a 5-way club day was the maximum size. Since the existing arrangements were already working well, it was a concern about how a new club could fit into the structure. However, again through the good graces of Arthur Blizzard, we achieved an agreement that CRRC would be accommodated and that our club would be invited to regular Sydney club days.
So, with agreement from the existing ACT bike clubs and a welcome from the “powerhouse” Sydney clubs, we went ahead and formed CRRC with a founding membership of 57 people (more than half of them being riders) There is no doubt that, without the help of Arthur Blizzard and without him smoothing the way, CRRC would never have been formed and the Macarthur Park road closures would never have happened.
Fast forward from November 1977 to early 1978. The idea of the road closures (races around the streets of a yet-to-be-built-upon housing estate in Canberra’s southern suburbs) had been suggested and our initial enquiries with the ACT government and bureaucrats had been met with a favourable response. Of course the event would have to be sanctioned by the ACU so it was back on the phone and backwards and forwards to Sydney for meetings. Despite suggestions from many that the ACU was too old and stodgy to even entertain such an idea, we pushed ahead and found that our local controlling body was not exactly amenable to the idea. Many of the members of the committee felt that we were too new and too inexperienced to run a race meeting no matter how enthusiastic we were. Even though the first meeting would only be a 5-way restricted club day there were still concerns.
We submitted all of our paperwork as the planning progressed and managed to tick all the boxes but, in the end, it was still up to Arthur to have the final say. Needless to say we were delighted when the final approval came through but less than delighted to find that the ACU had added a proviso that Les Johnson, the then promoter at Oran Park, was to be appointed to OUR committee in an “advisory” capacity because of our lack of experience at running race meetings! When this provision became public there was general amusement in the motorcycling media and, when the meeting had been completed, as an outstanding success that attracted more than 10000 spectators, there were some journos who suggested that, perhaps Mr Johnson could hire some of OUR people to help advise him on how to promote a successful meeting at Oran Park!
Again, Arthur Blizzard played a pivotal role in the staging of the first road closure and ensured that, over the next 4 years we were able to run 4 more hugely successful meetings.
Arthur Blizzard WAS Bathurst, of course, and the success of the Easter meetings at Mount Panorama were primarily as a result of his vision and determination, as well as his quiet and efficient way of getting the job done.
Lastly, the brief bio above mentions Arthur’s trip to Europe in 1980. It was while on this trip that Arthur spoke at length with the team principals of the Honda GB team about a young, up-and-coming rider from Wollongong named Wayne Gardner. As a direct result of these consultations, Wayne was to be offered a seat with Honda GB that led onto the “works” ride and the 1987 50cc World Championship. Wayne’s success at the top level helped open the door for many other Aussie racers to go to Europe and race for top teams. And that was thanks to Arthur Blizzard, too.
We were devastated when we learned that Arthur had been diagnosed with cancer and the motorcycling fraternity closed ranks around him and Jan and helped support them however they could. Not long before Arthur passed away I visited him at his home in the Sutherland Shire of Sydney and sat by his bed reminiscing about motorcycles and racing. Despite his body being ravaged by disease, his mind was as clear and sharp as a teenager’s and I always count it a privilege that I was allowed to share some very special moments with him in the closing days of his life.
As noted above, he passed away in 1995, aged 61 years; years that were filled in the selfless service of others, mourned and missed by a myriad of motorcycling friends and acquaintances. His wonderful wife, Jan, has continued his legacy, only recently hanging up her clipboard after decades of service to St George Motorcycle Club, motorcycle road racing and her close-knit family. Every one of the honours that Arthur was awarded were richly deserved and I count it a privilege that I knew him and watched him work.
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.