Old Bike Australasia - - TRACKS IN TIME MT. DRUITT -

oc­curred. Don Black­burn (who was com­fort­ably lead­ing the Ju­nior class on his Ve­lo­cette) crashed at high speed on the down­hill sec­tion and was struck by sev­eral other bikes, re­ceiv­ing fa­tal in­juries. Wrecked ma­chin­ery lit­tered the track and the race was stopped. Af­ter a meet­ing be­tween of­fi­cials and rid­ers, it was agreed to al­low the event to pro­ceed. To fur­ther add to the con­fu­sion, the light­ing in the pit area, what there was of it, failed for al­most four hours, and in the dark­ness a pres­sure lamp ex­ploded and set fire to the build­ing con­tain­ing the fuel stores. The one-hour de­lay in rac­ing how­ever, al­lowed the Sluce team pre­cious time to re­build the Tiger 100, and when the event was restarted they were ready for bat­tle again. Woody­att, with his bro­ken wrist and dis­lo­cated thumb heav­ily strapped, was pressed into duty again and went out for a two-hour stint! Bob Sluce, who was not a recog­nised road racer, then took over for a marathon stint, carv­ing chunks out of the lead­ers’ ad­van­tage to take over the front run­ning in the 19th hour.

They held the po­si­tion to the fin­ish, beat­ing home the dis­trib­u­tor-en­tered God­frey/Ast­ley/Har­man Match­less by just one lap. The Match­less squad had their strong chance of vic­tory ru­ined when the bike fell over in the pits while it was be­ing re­fu­elled at the 20-hour mark, smash­ing the head­light (for­tu­nately the race now be­ing in Sun­day’s day­light) and trap­ping rider Ast­ley’s hand, which forced him to re­tire from any fur­ther rid­ing. The win­ning to­tal was 599 laps, 49 fewer than the pre­vi­ous year, al­though nearly one hour’s rac­ing had been lost. The win­ning Tri­umph, owned by Bob Sluce, had just 700 road miles on the clock when the race started. The team had no trade sup­port, un­like the fan­cied 650 Tiger 110 owned by im­porters Hazell & Moore and rid­den by crack rac­ers Keith Bryen and Barry Hodgkin­son, which fin­ished out­right third on 597 laps. The Ju­nior class was taken out by the 350cc BSA rid­den by Gor­don Hunt, Vince Tier­ney and Bob Short on 571 laps. NSUs fin­ished 1-2 in the Light­weight class, with Kel Car­ruthers, Max Shearer and L. Green clock­ing up 567 laps, 39 more than the Vic­to­rian squad of Norm Os­borne, Doug Rus­sell and Ned Caddy. A 197cc Fran­cisBar­nett rid­den by Blair Har­ley, Todd Hamil­ton and Bernie Sin­clair was the Ul­tra Light­weight win­ner on 468 laps.

In the af­ter­math to the event, tales of bril­liance, hero­ism and in­cred­i­ble stamina emerged. The pits were a hive of in­dus­try, with wheel changes achieved in less than two min­utes, gear­boxes re­built in 40 min­utes, and spec­ta­tor ma­chines can­ni­balised to sup­ply spare parts. Al­though the four-stroke NSUs took first and se­cond in the 250 class, the per­for­mance of the 250 Puch, which had had its en­tire elec­tri­cal sys­tem wiped out in the crash in which Black­burn lost his life, was truly re­mark­able. The bike lost al­most six hours while the electrics were re­built, and crashed again when Roy East was brought down, yet still fin­ished fourth in its class. Dra­matic the event may have been, but for the pro­mot­ers it was a fi­nan­cial disas­ter. There had been ex­pec­ta­tions of a good crowd to watch the Sun­day’s ac­tion un­fold, but af­ter the tragic mid­night melee, ra­dio sta­tions and Sun­day news­pa­pers an­nounced that the event had been can­celled, leav­ing spec­ta­tor ar­eas bare as the race drew to it con­clu­sion. And so the “World’s Long­est Road Race” slipped into his­tory. How­ever the con­cept of long-dis­tance rac­ing for stan­dard pro­duc­tion ma­chines re­tained strong sup­port among the Aus­tralian sport­ing fra­ter­nity. 14 years later en­durance rac­ing fi­nally re­turned in the form of the Cas­trol Six Hour Race at Ama­roo Park. “The Six Hour” went on to be­come the blue rib­bon ti­tle on the Aus­tralian cal­en­dar, but it owed much to the pi­o­neer­ing ef­forts of the brave rid­ers who swept around an un­lit cow pad­dock all those years pre­vi­ously.

1955 200cc Light­weight class win­ner Blair Har­ley screams his 197 Fran­cis Bar­nett down the rock-strewn main straight with Noel Gard­ner’s 350 Royal En­field for com­pany. Bob Sluce gets down to it on the win­ning Tri­umph Tiger 100 in 1955.

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