30 April 2024

Goulburn grand prix celebrations well on track despite switch to showground

| John Thistleton
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A man riding a motorbike with sidecar up a hill circa 1920s

About 100 years ago, Park Road in Eastgrove, Goulburn, was nothing more than a dirt road leading over Rocky Hill, which can be seen in the background. To the left of the unknown rider and his sidecar are views of the old ”Irish Town” in Goulburn and beyond that, the site of Goulburn Jail. Photos: 100th Anniversary Australian Grand Prix, Goulburn.

One thousand rare vintage motorcycles, along with some of the nation’s leading past and present racers, will join celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the first Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix in Goulburn in June.

In keeping with the hurdles that threatened the inaugural event a century ago, organisers have had their own hiccup, with One Raceway unable to be the venue as originally planned. Events marking the anniversary will now be held at Goulburn Recreation Area in Braidwood Road.

Work at One Raceway, formerly Wakefield Park, replacing all of its drainage and upgrading other infrastructure, will not be completed in time for the event on the weekend of 21-23 June.

After visiting One Raceway with owner Steve Shelley and his brother Greg, president of the anniversary celebrations committee Darrell Weekes said the delay was beyond anyone’s control.

“One Raceway is going to be a world-class facility. It’s just unfortunate we cannot have our event there,” he said.

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“Fortunately the showground has a sealed track all the way on the outside and inside of the trotting track,” Darrell said. “So when people turn up on their bikes they will be able to ride around there in a controlled environment.”

On the Saturday, Indian Motorcycles will bring six bikes for test riding, stunt riders will be performing, vintage bikes will be on display and food vans will offer refreshments.

“We will have the recreation ride on the Sunday morning around the original 82-kilometre track,” Darrell said.

Some of the vintage bikes will join the re-enactment of the rally on the original course, and others will remain on display with information about their history.

“Goulburn is the hub of classic motorcycle collectors,” Darrell said. “A Red Indian is owned by a local girl, one of only six factory racers built by Indian and a ‘sister’ bike to the one that won the original race.

rider in a 1924 motorcycle race

On the starting line of the 1924 Australian Grand Prix near Goulburn is L Daniel (No. 78), from Goulburn, riding a Norton. Many of the photos of the event were gathered for Wayne Adams’ book The Racing Boys.

“These were bikes built by the factory, they’re not bikes altered for racing. We have one of the biggest collectors in the world in Goulburn, Steve Hazelton. The number of classic bikes here is extraordinary.”

Collectors and restorers from all over Australia are registering their interest in the celebrations.

Goulburn Classic Riders Club secretary Dale Towell said numerous members were either repairing or acquiring 1920s bikes for the event.

“They are works of art. They almost have a personality,” she said.

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Australian 125cc champion of the 1970s from Goulburn, Lee Roebuck, has confirmed his attendance at a planned dinner on the Saturday night of the celebrations. Another champion motorbike racer, Paul Feeney, has been invited, but his attendance is subject to his son Brock’s supercar commitments.

Current superbike champion Troy Herfoss of Goulburn is unavailable due to him leading the Baggers series championships in the United States on his Indian in his first year on the circuit’s tracks. He is also breaking lap records. Goulburn’s Australian Supersport champion Tom Toparis has also been invited, subject to his racing commitments.

Helping build interest is an extensive collection of historic photos gathered by author Wayne Adams and Mick Jackson, who went around Goulburn locating glass negatives in attics and sheds for Adams’ book The Racing Boys.

Rider, officials and crowd at motorcycle race in 1924

Onlookers and race officials at the starting line near H Crawford (No. 76), riding a Raleigh in the 1924 Australian Grand Prix near Goulburn.

While the prospect of cold weather in June has concerned organisers, they have opted to stick to the actual dates 100 years ago, mindful that the riders of vintage bikes are a hardy bunch accustomed to the vagaries of old machines and the weather.

“So we kept it on the same weekend because we wanted them to experience what it was like – travelling in some instances 100 miles an hour on a dirt road with no suspension,” Darrell said.

Anniversary organisers are aiming to make Goulburn synonymous with grand prix racing and have a rich history of motorcycle competition and a classic backdrop of character buildings to set the scene in June.

The 100th Anniversary of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix will be held at Goulburn Showgrounds on the weekend of 21-23 June at, 45 Braidwood Road, Goulburn. Register for the event or find out more via the Goulburn GP website.

Original Article published by John Thistleton on About Regional.

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