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.