1952 Australian Grand Prix, Mount Panorama

Every March for three days, Victoria’s Phillip Island racetrack hosts what I think is one of the best motoring events in the country, ‘The Phillip Island Classic Festival’.  More than 500 entries, many from overseas meet on the island to showcase some of the best Historic Car racing you’ll ever see. Every time I go down there, it reminds me how over the years safety standards for both drivers and spectators have improved.

Speaking of historic racing, I lost a bet recently when some mates and I were talking about Bathurst’s Mount Panorama racing circuit and I didn’t think the Australian Grand Prix was ever raced there, but I was wrong, and it cost me a few rounds!!!! So, I decided to investigate the history of the Bathurst track which is fascinating.

Although several other tracks had been built in the early 1900’s by two builders who drove their steam-powered Thompson earth mover 783kms from Melbourne, construction on the Mt Panorama circuit commenced in 1936 with the first race meeting, that was for motorcycles, being the 1928 Junior Tourist Trophy, which was won by 20-year-old Queenslander Lee Sherrin riding a Norton. 

Then, unfortunately for my ego, the first car race at Mount Panorama was the 1938 Australian Grand Prix ……., which was won by Peter Whitehead driving a British racing car called the ERA, which stood for ‘English Racing Automobiles’.

The layout of the track has really had only two configurations with the original circuit which was 6.127 km in length with 20 turns and a very long Conrod Straight being used from 1938 to 1986, and then primarily for safety reasons, the Chase was created near the end of Conrod Straight in 1987 to form the current circuit, with a distance of 6.213km and 23 turns which in use today.

If you’re into race statistics, the fastest official lap of the Original Circuit is 2 minutes 9.7 seconds which is held by Niel Allen driving a McLaren M10B-Chevrolet in 1970, while the official lap record for the Current Circuit is 1 minute 59.291 seconds which is held by Christopher Mies driving an Audi R8 LMS GT3 in 2018. For comparison, the fastest official lap for a current Supercars Championship vehicle is 2 minutes 4.7602 seconds held by Chaz Mostert in a Ford Mustang GT in 2019.

Unofficial times of the current circuit have been Jenson Button as promotion for the 2011 Australian Grand Prix recorded a time of 1 minute 48.88 seconds in a McLaren MP4-23 Formula One car, and in 2019 Luke Youlden recorded a lap time of 1 minute 58.694 in a promotional run of the Brabham BT62 at the Bathurst 12 Hour Race.

Getting back to the historic cars, have a look at this amazing vision from the Super100MPH website of the 150 mile (240 km) 1952 Australian Grand Prix, which saw 43 cars racing in front of 15,000 spectators, with the winner being Victorian Doug Whiteford, driving a Talbot-Lago (T26C) with a fastest lap of 3 minutes 2 seconds and top speed of 139 mph (224 kmh), ahead of Stan Jones (father of Alan) in a Maybach Special in second place.

In particular, check out the racing attire of the drivers, the safety around the track and how good the drivers were at throwing their cars around.

1952 Australian Grand Prix, Mount Panorama

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