The NSW Grand Prix – 1953

Held on the Gnoo Blas circuit

gnoo blas brabham 1 brandy

Few people probably know the NSW Grand Prix was run on the old Gnoo Blas road circuit at Orange in October 1953.

It was probably one of the first meetings sanctioned by CAMS and the first time a grand prix title had been used for a State event.

CAMS required a guarantee the race would be at least 100 miles (160km) long and have prize money of at least ₤100 ($200).Usually the title was only used for international events but Gnoo Blas organisers always on the lookout for new ways to promote the track were able to convince CAMS to allow the use of a ‘grand prix’ title.

The Orange Cherry Blossom motor racing committee billed the 100-mile race as the richest event run in Australia

It was to have scratch and handicap classes with prize money of ₤825 ($1,650) for the first 10 cars home in the handicap section. The first three scratch winners would share ₤175 ($350).
Organisers predicted every car entered would run in the ‘grand prix’ except the sedans. They had received 46 entries for the meeting and expected more at the post.
Heading the line-up was Jack Brabham in his new Cooper Bristol, which he bought when the Victorian driver who ordered it died before it reached our shores.
On paper it was the most modern race car at the time to compete in Australia.

Gnoo Blas was only the third outing for the Cooper, which cost Brabham ₤4,200 ($8,400).

The NSW Grand Prix over 28 laps had 16 starters and they tore around the track for 80 minutes, passing and re-passing. Spectators towards the end had no idea who was in front, and neither did the officials, turning the race into a comedy of errors.

Clerk of the course Dan McFarlane gave Alec Mildren the chequered flag in his MG Special but Jack Robinson had passed him on the 27th lap. Checking the lap sheets they reversed the decision to give the race to Robinson in his Jaguar Special from Mildren. Pappy Lowe (Bug Holden) was third. Robinson’s time was 80 minutes, about 78mph (125kmh).

The fastest time and Grand Prix title went to Jack Brabham in his Cooper Bristol, who had started from scratch. He was in a winning position with four laps to go when his pit crew signalled him to slow down because they believed he was a lap ahead of where he actually was.

When they discovered the error, they gave him a signal to speed up but acting on that he overdid things and ran out of brakes at Mrs Mutton’s Corner, going down the escape road. But reverse gear was blocked in the Cooper Bristol to avoid chance selection and Brabham lost valuable time getting the stop out of position.

When he got back on the track he was unable to catch the leaders even though Mildren and Lowe were having their own problems. Mildren’s throttle had stuck wide open on his MG and for three laps he had to switch the ignition off and on at the right times on his approach to corners. He had been leading but Robinson caught him a quarter of a mile before the finish.

Pappy Lowe was running out of fuel with half a lap to go and with a spluttering engine had to coast down the main straight. But he was able to hang on to his third place although the car died crossing the line.

McKay (MG), James (MG) and Cobden (Riley Special) all ran bearings. Sulman (Maserati) and Humphries (XK120) threw the treads off tyres and Brydon (MG) lost his blower belt. Sulman wasn’t happy after throwing three treads off his tyres in a row but said he could not have won in any case because the handicap would have beaten him.

The handicapping row continued to rage after the meeting with about half the Australian Sporting car Club committee resigning, including Sulman. They were not happy that performance grouping of cars had not been used and drivers were given a handicap when they entered and had to take it or leave it.

While police estimated the crowd at between 10,000 and 12,000, organisers said 7,000 was the official figure worked out from gate takings of around ₤1,300 ($2,600). The organisers admitted, though, that hundreds of people must have evaded the ticket collectors because of the shortage of volunteer officials on the entrance gates.