Tracks in Time

Quorn Hall

Old Bike Australasia - - NEWS -

Tas­ma­ni­ans are a re­source­ful lot. They have to be. And when it comes to en­thu­si­asm for mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing, they’re 100%. The Is­land State has pro­duced some very fine rid­ers, and boasts an in­cred­i­ble pas­sion for the sport.

Dur­ing World War 2 the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment de­cided, with the Ja­panese so close, they needed some­where safe where the air force could re­treat to and re­group if nec­es­sary. Many large Tas­ma­nian prop­er­ties had ba­sic airstrips and West­ern Junc­tion (later to be­come Launce­s­ton air­port) was be­ing used as a train­ing airstrip for new pi­lots. So, Tun­bridge, Val­ley­field and Quorn Hall were up­graded to be able to han­dle heavy bombers. Quorn Hall was sit­u­ated on Mr T.C. Clark’s prop­erty. It had been in the Clark fam­ily since the 1830s and spe­cialised in fine wool. As Trevor Jowett de­scribed how to get there in his Jan­uary 1952 col­umn in the Tas­ma­nian Mo­tor Trade Jour­nal, “To reach the course from Camp­bell Town, spec­ta­tors should travel to the south­ern end of the town, turn left on to the Lake Leake Road, some 200 yards beyond the bridge. Ap­prox­i­mately three miles along this road, ban­ners will be seen on the right hand side. Turn right through the gate for half a mile, and there you are. It’s as easy as that and you’ll have a great day’s fun. Be see­ing you!” As­tute mem­bers of the Tas­ma­nian Mo­tor Cy­cle Club or­gan­ised in May 1946 a club ride to Quorn Hall for a pic­nic lunch where keen beach rac­ing mem­bers were able to see the po­ten­tial for the airstrip. In fact, later re­ports in­di­cate the TMCC did run some races on that “pic­nic” day. By then many states were us­ing exwar airstrips as race tracks. The run­way was still in use for com­mer­cial flights and was in the midst of a tug of war as to which airstrips should be up­graded and which should be closed. The plan hatched was to put straw bales down the mid­dle of the run­way with 44-gal­lon drums as cor­ner mark­ers and use some of the oiled gravel ac­cess road in a “J” shaped pat­tern. It may

have been ba­sic but, un­like beach rac­ing, you didn’t have to wait for the tide to go out and most of the 1½ miles was sealed. It wasn’t un­til 1951, in front of 2000 peo­ple for a com­bined car and bike meet­ing con­ducted by the South­ern Mo­tor Cy­cle and Light Car Club, that rac­ing was of­fi­cially noted. The first mo­tor­cy­cle race was for 250/350 Club­man ma­chines and was won by Devon­port’s Pat Brown on a 348 BSA. In­ter­est­ingly the first car race was won by J Tay­lor in a Jaguar; the same sur­name as the own­ers of the nearby Val­ley­field prop­erty, where airstrip rac­ing had be­gun in 1949. The suc­cess of the first meet­ing saw the clubs com­bine to run an­other one in Jan­uary 1952 with Max Stephens able to dom­i­nate the Ju­nior and Se­nior races on a 350 KTT Ve­lo­cette. The Tas­ma­nian Road Race As­so­ci­a­tion had been formed to bring the clubs to­gether and to take some of the heavy work­load off the usual com­pe­ti­tion pro­moter, the Tas­ma­nian Mo­tor Cy­cle Club. The TMCC still dom­i­nated the po­si­tions in the TRRA but other ex­perts were able to help run the events. That made two very suc­cess­ful meet­ings in a row so the TRRA de­cided to re­turn in March for a third meet­ing. With rac­ing so new to many rid­ers it was de­cided to en­cour­age younger new rid­ers with two races aimed at them; one for B grade club­men rid­ers who used pump fuel and the last race for rid­ers who had been un­placed for the day. Again, Max Stephens dom­i­nated, win­ning the 350 and 500 races, and the pair­ing of Max Eaves/Bill Denne tak­ing out the Side­car race on their 500 Manx Nor­ton. The Tas­ma­nian TT set down for the Novem­ber long week­end in 1952 was switched from Val­ley­field to Quorn Hall.

Re­ports in­di­cated this was the first time main­land rid­ers were to ap­pear at the cir­cuit. Now me­chan­ics were get­ting in­ter­ested in the rac­ing as well, with three spe­cials men­tioned. The Brown Brothers in Devon­port were build­ing a 125 based on an early Over­head Cam Ve­lo­cette with their own de­signed crank in an over square 52 x 55 bore/stroke. Launce­s­ton me­chan­ics, Bill Gough and Trevor Jowett were yet to re­veal their cre­ations, but it was known that the 125 Gough Spe­cial was us­ing a new idea of a swing­ing arm sus­pen­sion at­tached to a full loop frame. For this meet­ing the TRRA con­ducted some im­prove­ments to the con­crete sur­face of the run­way. They tar­ma­c­sealed an ex­ten­sion to the north­ern end and sealed some of the perime­ter road – mod­i­fi­ca­tions that tempted an in­flux of top rid­ers from the main­land. Satur­day’s races were the main cham­pi­onship races with Vic­to­rian mo­tor me­chanic Ray Owen the star of the day with win­ning rides on his 125 CZ, 249 Tri­umph and 500 Nor­ton. He then bolted a side­car on the Nor­ton and put younger brother Ron in to fin­ish sec­ond in the Ju­nior side­car, with me­chan­i­cal grem­lins slow­ing him. In the Se­nior he was to lead home lo­cal stars in Dave Pow­ell (498 Tri­umph) and Max Stephens (348 Ve­lo­cette). With the cham­pi­onships won, Mon­day’s pro­gram was de­voted to sup­port races with N.S.W. rider John Ast­ley (499 Nor­ton) win­ning the A grade race from lo­cal “Ike” Chen­hall (998 Vin­cent Black Shadow) and Owen. The Club­man class was won by Char­lie Rice with his 498 Match­less. For the March long week­end in 1953 all at­ten­tion was switched to the first meet­ing at nearby Long­ford, sig­nalling the start of cir­cuit rac­ing proper in Tas­ma­nia. This was a very big boost for road rac­ing in the state and the big­gest in­flux of top names since the 1950 Tas­ma­nian TT at Val­ley­field, when a charted air­craft brought rid­ers like Ken Ka­vanagh, Bernie Mack, Mau­rie Quincey, Ge­orge Skin­ner and Frank Sin­clair to the isle. The Novem­ber 1953 Quorn Hall meet­ing was billed as the Tas­ma­nian TT with an­other bumper crowd. The meet­ing again showed the tal­ent of Max Stephens who de­feated Dave Pow­ell, the Ho­bart pas­try cook known as “Pas­try Dave”, to win the 350 class on his trusty KTT Velo and the Un­lim­ited on a 500 BSA. It was Stephens who World Cham­pion Ge­off Duke ap­proached at Long­ford in 1955 to join him on the In­ter­na­tional cir­cus. Stephens couldn’t af­ford to go and stayed in Tas­ma­nia. Reg Les­lie won the 250 class on his BSA, and Pow­ell on his new £600 Nor­ton took out the Se­nior af­ter Stephens stepped off his Velo. Rid­ers like Don Thomp­son, Donny Miller, Peter Thur­ley, Dave Perry, Peter Rick­etts, John Bar­renger, Ike Chen­hall and Sam Hughes were also be­gin­ning to ap­pear on the re­sult sheets. The pre­view to the 1954/55 sea­son opener on Oc­to­ber 31st showed how much the lo­cal me­chan­ics had also taken to road rac­ing and ex­pand­ing their hori­zons. New rider Lau­rie O’Shea was en­tered on a 125 Ban­tam with a Walsh con­ver­sion kit. Ex-pat Swiss rider Tony Bran­derer had ob­tained hot up specs from DKW for his Ban­tam. An­other Ban­tam con­verted by Alan Ikin was to be rid­den by Don Thomp­son, the Gough Spe­cial was ready to go and the Brown Bros. spe­cial was hoped to be ready. Dave Pow­ell again dom­i­nated although it could have been dif­fer­ent as Max Stephens had pur­chased the ex-Quincey Manx Nor­ton, but he clipped an­other rider af­ter a slow start and sliced the front tyre. With no spare avail­able, he was out for the re­main­der of the week­end. Quorn Hall was now the warm up meet­ing for each sea­son with the high- light be­ing Long­ford the fol­low­ing March. The 1955 sea­son opened in Oc­to­ber on 27th and was all about Max Stephens with his new 350 and 500 Nor­tons, who smashed the lap record by 2 sec­onds with a lap time of 1min 5 sec in the ‚

500 race, on his way to a 350/500/ Un­lim­ited triple win. The 125 was won by Don Thomp­son’s Ban­tam and Ev Sadlier (Sadlier Spe­cial) took out the 250. The 1956 Long­ford meet­ing was can­celled be­cause of a ship­ping strike so a TT meet­ing was set down for Quorn Hall on the 15th April. Don Thomp­son’s Walsh-kit­ted Ban­tam again col­lared the 125, and Thomp­son’s lit­tle bike proved so quick that it placed sec­ond to Ev Sadlier in the 250 TT. BSA-mounted Dave Pow­ell used the 350 TT to start his run of 5 wins. He took the 350 from Peter Thur­ley (348 BSA) and the 500 from Larry Eaves (497 Ariel). He used the same bike to win the Un­lim­ited, then at­tached a side­car to win that race as well. The Novem­ber 1956 meet­ing was a Quorn Hall Cham­pi­onship and “Club­man” meet­ing. The “Club­man” class was for non-fac­tory rac­ing bikes run­ning on stan­dard pump fuel, and saw Peter Thur­ley’s BSA win the 350, while the 500 was won by Dave Pow­ell (BSA) from Sam Hughes (Match­less) who also won the 350 B grade Club­man’s. The re­turn of Max Stephens fired up Pow­ell with the two of them tak­ing Pow­ell’s re­cent lap record of 1min 5sec down to a fi­nal 1 min 3sec. The 125 went again to Don Thomp­son with Ev Sadlier as usual win­ning the 250. Thur­ley ((BSA) de­feated Dave Perry (Nor­ton) to win the 350, while the 500 was taken out by Pow­ell (Nor­ton) from Stephens (Nor­ton) and Peter Rick­etts (Match­less). Stephens got the bet­ter of his ri­val to claim the Un­lim­ited and the side­car was won by John Bar­renger (Nor­ton). The 1957 sea­son con­cluded in May at Quorn Hall with a full pro­gram of Club­man, Sportsman and Open classes. The 250 pro­vided a win for Dickie Lee (348 Velo), while Peter Thur­ley (348

BSA) downed Dave Pow­ell in the 350. Peter Rick­etts brought his G45 Match­less home first in the 500 race, but was beaten home in the Un­lim­ited by Pow­ell’s Nor­ton. This meet­ing en­tered lo­cal folk law when Sam Hughes, at full noise heard a bang and lost power. When he pulled up he found that un­der the tank the head mount­ing bracket held a small amount of metal with noth­ing be­low it. The mo­tor was spread all over the track and it was made worse by the fact that it was a bor­rowed bike.

Lead­ing Sportsman class rider Lau­rie O’Shea had a brand new 350 Club­man’s Gold Star BSA for the Oc­to­ber 1957 meet­ing. More and more lo­cal rid­ers were also cross­ing to the main­land to race and the story pointed out that the star of the meet­ing would be Peter Thur­ley who the week­end be­fore had placed 3rd in the Ju­nior TT at Fish­er­men’s Bend. Not cross­ing to the main­land to race but “cross­ing over to the dark side” was Max Stephens who was down to race a Buchanan MG car. Only a year or so later Dave Pow­ell was to do the same. Cars, many of them home-made spe­cials, had all along been on the sup­port card for each meet­ing usu­ally with 3 or 4 races in an up to 15 event pro­gram. In fact on many oc­ca­sions these ba­sic cars were raced with the side­cars, usu­ally in hand­i­cap races as side­car stars like Trevor Jowett with a 350 AJS could give them a lap start in a 4 lap race and still win. O’Shea’s new toy was a win­ner straight out of the box beat­ing Ian Til­ley (348 BSA) and Dickie Lee (250 Velo) in the Sportsman class race. The com­bined 125 and 250 class went once again to Ev Sadlier on his home-brewed spe­cial from Don Thomp­son’s rapid Ban­tam, while Dave Pow­ell took a 350/500 dou­ble on his Nor­tons.

Aus­tralia at the time was try­ing to in­crease the pop­u­la­tion with qual­ity im­ports called 10-pound POMS. If some­one would spon­sor a fam­ily and find work for them the gov­ern­ment would pay most of their pas­sage. The Tas­ma­nian Mo­tor Cy­cle Club de­cided to get in on the act and spon­sored 5 men whom had a mo­tor cy­cling back­ground. Bill McGre­gor, a handy racer on the rise, was one of them and won the B Grade Club­man race. A com­bined 125-250-350 Sportsman hand­i­cap showed the of­fi­cials were on the ball. It was won by Ian Til­ley from Peter Thur­ley and Lau­rie O’Shea, all on 350 BSAs. Although the bikes were the same, Til­ley was a ris­ing star, Thur­ley top line “A” grader and O’Shea al­most a star with a new bike. Chief hand­i­cap­per Jack Bratt al­lo­cated hand­i­caps based on times from pre­vi­ous meet­ings. Talk of the meet­ing would cer­tainly have been that in 4 months a new track near Ho­bart was to be opened called Baskervill­e – the first pur­pose-built cir­cuit in Tas­ma­nia. It opened in 1958 to a re­ported 20,000 crowd to show the pop­u­lar­ity of road rac­ing fol­low­ing the great suc­cess of Long­ford. Sym­mons Plains near Launce­s­ton opened two years later and both are still in op­er­a­tion. It was the time spent “air­port rac­ing” at Val­ley­field and Quorn Hall that had set the foun­da­tions for road rac­ing in the state, but it was time to move on and lock the gate, as the Tas­ma­nian Road Race As­so­ci­a­tion un­der the con­trol of the Tas­ma­nian Mo­tor Cy­cle Club, with the added ex­per­tise of some other club of­fi­cials shifted their fo­cus to Long­ford, Baskervill­e and a con­tin­u­a­tion of beach rac­ing.

Dave Pow­ell leads Max Stephens around the oil drums in 1952.

View from the top hair­pin with Max Stephens and his tra­di­tional ri­val Dave Pow­ell on their KTT Ve­lo­cettes.

ABOVE The Novem­ber 1952 Tas­ma­nian TT. Se­nior win­ner Ray Owen with sec­ond placed Dave Pow­ell (21) and Max Stephens (74). BE­LOW Start of the Se­nior TT in 1952 with the Stephens brothers Col (49) and Max (74) well away.

Vis­it­ing Vic­to­rian Ivan Tighe on his 7R AJS in 1952. Ray Owen leads NSW rider John Ast­ley in 1952. With a side­car mounted on his 500 Nor­ton, Dave Pow­ell (21) chases Ge­orge Martin’s pre-war R10 AJS (10). Bill Gough on his home­brewed 125cc spe­cial.

Max Stephens flat out on one of the straights. Jack Bratt, Dave Pow­ell and Don Gor­ringe with Pow­ell’s new Manx Nor­ton in Jan­uary 1953.

ABOVE Max Eaves gets his 500 Nor­ton un­der way ahead of Bob Eas­ton’s Tri­umph. ABOVE RIGHT Scratch man Max Stephens waits at the back for the start of a hand­i­cap event. BE­LOW‘ Ike’ Chenall (90), Sam Hughes (18) and Noel Wind­sor round­ing the drums in 1954. This is the hair­pin at the bot­tom of the ‘J’.

TOP CEN­TRE Max Stephens ex­its the main straight on his KTT Ve­lo­cette in 1952. ABOVE Ev Sadlier – al­most ready to go rac­ing.

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