A Circuit Closes – A New One Beckons

A Circuit Closes – A New One Beckons

by John Hurney

Photo credit – Ken Devine

A poignant day in WASCC and WA Motorsport history – October 27th 1968 – the final race meeting at the Caversham circuit. Born just after the end of World War 2 for the running of the “Victory Grand Prix”, and fittingly built on a war time airstrip, the old circuit went out in style with the running of the WA Touring Car Championship sponsored by Coca Cola.

An excellent entry was received, the weather was great and the big name Shell Racing Team were the main attraction. All eyes were on the team leader Norm Beechey’s mighty 327 Monaro improved production car. Bright yellow and mostly driven sideways, this was the first Australian built muscle car and promised to provide a great spectacle. And so it did, absolutely mowing the field down in the 25 lap championship race to finish almost a minute ahead of Shell team mate Peter Manton’s Cooper S, and the first local entry Fritz Kohout’s Porsche 911S.

But as that final day ticked down no one stirred, there wasn’t the usual trickle of early departures from the spectator areas. Everyone was waiting for Beechey the showman and the thundering Monaro to bring the curtain down on 22 years of Caversham racing in the final 10 lap handicap. He didn’t disappoint, setting a new perpetual Touring Car lap record on the way and reaching over 220 kph on the long straight, Beechey, and the other 9 cars in the race, sent the old track off in fine style. That was his 5th consecutive year at Caversham and Norm was obviously mindful of the significance of the final race, as with a big lead he slowed right down to take the final flag from starter Felix Smetana to make the great photo shown above, taken by handicapper/photographer Ken Devine.

It also a measure of how much our sport has changed when a quick read of the results below reveals that the thundering Monaro (at the time one of the country’s fastest racing sedans) shared the track with several road registered machines that were driven to and from the circuit on the day.
Event 10: Touring Car 10 lap hcp Final Race at Caversham
1. Monaro GTS 327 N Beechey 19.16
2. Mini Cooper S J Alford 19.20
3. Valiant R Roberts 19.22
4. Mini Cooper S J Dunkerton 19.25
5. Fiat 850 M McKiggan 19.31 (scratch)
6. Mini Cooper N Grigsby 19.38
7. Mini Cooper S N Barter 19.39
8. Alfa Romeo GTA G Stephenson 19.43
9. Falcon GT R Donovan 19.47
10. DNF Isuzu Bellett B Coleman —-

Fastest time: #4, 14 min 31 sec, 85.1 mph
Fastest Lap: #4, 1 min 25 sec, 87.2 mph – New lap record

At the conclusion of the race Norm brought the Monaro back to the finish line after a lap of honour and was presented with his trophy. He then led the assembled crowd in a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne. Truly a fitting send off for the first permanent road circuit in WA.

October ’68 a Personal Perspective by John H
I actually don’t remember that much about the final Caversham meet, although my Dad and I were there of course. I know I was disappointed that the 3rd Shell Team car – Jim McKeown’s superb Lotus Cortina – didn’t race. The Monaro/Beechey combination were truly impressive and I do remember being interested to see how softly sprung the car was compared to the other modified tourers, it seemed to ride the notorious bump in the turn onto the main straight really well.

My memories of that time are much more vivid from the following weekend, when many of us volunteers turned out at Caversham again to dismantle the modest pit structures to be re-used at the new Wanneroo venue. As part of the crew involved in moving this gear to Wanneroo I thus got my first view of WA racing’s new home. Of course, the track wasn’t surfaced, but the course was already laid out.
Going to Wanneroo I rode with prominent racer Vic Watson in his GT Falcon towing a car trailer loaded with metal frame work and roofing material. I think we did a couple of trips (I probably just got in the way really). And on the final return trip down Gnangara Rd, Vic amused himself by tapping the Falcon’s front bumper of the rear of fellow racer George Cole’s similar trailer at just over 100mph – no speed limits outside the Metro area then!

Once back at the Caversham site I found my mate Doug and we fired up our respective MGA’s for the trip home. But we then realised that everyone else was gone – we had the place to ourselves. So, heedless of the gathering twilight and the large population of kangaroos, we just had to cut a couple of laps at the very last WASCC official day at Caversham. Something we kept very quiet for a long time……………….
Little did we know that pretty much every weekend day and many others besides in that summer of 68/69 were being taken up with working bees at the new circuit.

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