Tracks in Time

Val­ley­field, Tas.

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Story Ken Young Pho­tos Jeff Frankcombe, Ken Young and OBA ar­chives.

The War De­part­ment had “rented” his airstrip and up­dated it to be able to ac­com­mo­date bombers if Aus­tralia was in­vaded. Tas­ma­nia would then be tasked with re-cap­tur­ing the main­land for its peo­ple. Af­ter World War II the air­field was handed back to the Tay­lor fam­ily. It was a tar­ma­cked cross-shaped strip.

In 1946 the airstrip hit the head­lines when Launce­s­ton had had a par­tic­u­larly wet win­ter. Western Junc­tion, later to be known as Launce­s­ton Air­port was still a grassed strip and the Civil Avi­a­tion De­part­ment deemed it too wet and boggy for pas­sen­ger DC3s to land, so di­rected them to fly a fur­ther 20 miles to Val­ley­field. Tay­lor didn’t see the hu­mour in this as the Com­mon­wealth had stopped pay­ing rent, so af­ter a few days he left a gate open and his cat­tle roamed onto the airstrip, forc­ing flights to be di­verted to Ho­bart. The main com­mer­cial com­pany af­fected was the Launce­s­ton-based Aus­tralian Na­tional Air­lines (A.N.A.). Tay­lor re­fused to al­low the Com­mon­wealth Govern­ment to bully him into re­mov­ing the cat­tle. He was happy though to al­low the “Old Boy” net­work to work and said he was happy to al­low A.N.A. manag­ing di­rec­tor, Capt. Ivan Holy­man, per­mis­sion to land his planes. A few years later Holy­man got to­gether with Reg Ansett to form Ansett-A.N.A. In 1949 the pa­pers re­ported record prices for wool and fat lambs, then in Fe­bru­ary the South­ern Tas­ma­nian Mo­tor Cy­cle As­so­ci­a­tion an­nounced they were go­ing to run a big meet­ing at Val­ley­field on the March long week­end. It was so big the Tas­ma­nian Mo­tor Cy­cle Club agreed to can­cel events they had sched­uled for that week­end so its rid­ers could com­pete. That would in­di­cate that pro­tracted ne­go­ti­a­tions had to be made and the STMCA agree to a date ac­cept­able to Mr Tay­lor. The TMCC were still the ACCA rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Tas­ma­nia at that time and would be in charge of col­lat­ing the ros­ter, so the TMCC name was at­tached to the event as the pro­moter. The TMCC had pro­moted 2 meet­ings at the smaller “J” shaped 1 ½ mile Quorn Hall and now had to set up the 2 ½ mile Val­ley­field track in a “X” shape. The only main­land visi­tor was car racer Ken Wylie for the two car events on the pro­gram with his home built “rac­ing car” with a su­per­charged 10 h.p. Austin A 40 mo­tor. He liked the track so much he felt it would be suit­able to hold an Aus­tralian GP on it. Be­tween 7,000 and 8,000 spec­ta­tors turned up to see the close rac­ing from 90 bikes en­tered. Rac­ing started with a 350 hand­i­cap won by Launce­s­ton rider E J “Jock” Walkem (348 Velo). Ho­bart rid­ers were to the fore with Char­lie Vaughan (498 Tri­umph) win­ning two races and Dave Powell us­ing Launce­s­ton dealer Trevor Jowett’s 348 7R AJS to good ef­fect. Al­though the side­car fields were light the rac­ing was made closer by mak­ing them hand­i­cap races. Trevor Jowett with a 347 AJS was able to win each one from Gra­ham Clifton (998 Har­ley) and Hil­ton Houstein (498 Velo).

At the first na­tional con­fer­ence of the Auto Cy­cle Union of Aus­tralia held at Launce­s­ton in Au­gust 1949 it was voted to al­lo­cate £300 for a race car­ni­val at Val­ley­field in Novem­ber. The meet­ing was to be pro­moted by the con­glom­er­ate of mo­tor­cy­cle clubs headed by the TMCC and the Light Car Club of Tas­ma­nia. A petrol strike put petrol in short sup­ply and the LCCT be­lieved spec­ta­tor num­bers would be greatly af­fected. They thought that the 40 per­cent of the gate they were to be al­lo­cated would not be enough to cover the £250 prize money they in­tended pay­ing to the car races.

LEFT MAIN The Vic­to­rian con­tin­gent for the 1950 meet­ing ar­rived by charted Bris­tol Freighter. Among the top names (l-r) are Ken Ka­vanagh (far left in over­coat), Bob Hen­ley (hold­ing 77 plate), Ge­orge Huse (81), side­car stars at rear Bernie Mack, Ge­orge Skin­ner and Frank Sin­clair (in hat), ACU stew­ard Reg Ben­nett (be­side Sin­clair in hat), Frank Owen (wheel­ing Mau­rie Quincey’s KTT Ve­lo­cette 8), Char­lie Ste­wart (23), Mau­rie Tyzer (rear in dark suit), speed­way pro­moter Fred Tracey (in dark hat), and Frank Ju­niper (48) with his son Gra­ham and his Ariel sport­ing a re­versed cylin­der head.BE­LOW LEFT The Launce­s­ton Ex­am­iner news­pa­per car­ried a pre­view for the open­ing 1949 meet­ing with this track di­a­gram. ABOVE Trevor Jowett (AJS 7R) and Ted Con­ley (Manx Norton) in 1949.

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