A UNIQUE GOLDFIELDS EVENT IS BORN IN THE BUSH
By Graeme Cocks,
A Rolls-Royce appears out of a cloud of dust. An English adventurers ships his car 21,000km from the UK and lasts less than two laps before blowing his engine apart. Never mind, he is lent another 90 year old car from another competitor to race for the weekend. A priceless aircraft lands within metres of the motor racing track and the occupants get out with deckchairs and sit in the shade under the wing to watch the races. A 1913 Bleriot land yacht shares the clay pan with ultralights from the Goldfields Dust Devils hang gliding club.
It’s moments like this which made the Lake Perkolilli Red Dust Revival so special.
To some it is sacrilegious to cover precious antique race cars and motorbikes in red dust and driving them at the limit but for 100 pre-war race car owners and motorcycle riders it couldn’t get any better.
Camping in the bush and getting down and dirty with their vintage cars was their greatest reward for bringing the old bangers to life after sometimes years of work.
Lake Perkolilli near Kanowna is legendary amongst those who know about the outback origins of Australian motor sport. The rock hard and billiard table smooth claypan was a Mecca for speed merchants who wanted to claim Australian speed records, and from 1914 through to 1939 many records were set by cars and motorcycles.
When around-the-houses motor racing came to Western Australia and the spectators did not need to trek the 600km to the Goldfields, Lake Perkolilli or “Perko” as it was called was forgotten and virtually abandoned.
The Lake Perkolilli Red Dust Revival from 12 to 15 September this year resurrected the old natural track and the glory days of Goldfields motor sport was alive once more.
They camped in the bush — just like the racers of the 1920s and 1930s who trekked from Perth to test out their cars and bikes on what was called the “Brooklands of the West”.
Britain has its Goodwood Revival on a converted airfield, the USA has The Race of Gentleman on a beach and now Australia has the Lake Perkolilli Red Dust Revival on a claypan in the outback.
The oldest cars at the Red Dust Revival were Ford Model T speedsters. The venerable Model T released to the world in 1909 was not known for speed but when the smart young mechanics of the era stripped them back and hotted-up the engines they were fast and loud.
There were Chrysler racers from the 1920s, replicas of the cars which set Australian 24 Hour Speed Records back in 1926 and 1927. Austin Sevens, the original “Baby” Austins competed head-to-head with more expensive and sophisticated cars such as Bentleys and Lagondas.
Hugh Fryer’s Austin was called “The Flying Bathub” for obvious reasons and at first he didn’t like the name, but then it stuck and it was a badge of honour — “Yeah, it’s the Flying Bathtub — and yep, it flies!”.
About 40 classic motorcycles also kicked up the dust on the claypan for the first time since 1939. The great British brands of times past such as BSA, AJS and Triumph were well represented as well as big American V-Twins such as Harley and Indian.
The Lake Perkolilli Red Dust Revival was run by a group of enthusiasts from the vintage motorcycle and sports car fraternity who just wanted to experience the thrill of claypan racing. To administer the event they formed the Lake Perkolilli Motor Sports Club Inc. Everyone who entered the event with a car or motorcycle automatically became a member of this very exclusive bunch of people who can say that they have competed on one of the world’s oldest race tracks with exactly the same surface as a century ago.
The event was free to attend as a spectator and thanks to the City of Kalgoorlie/Boulder there was camping adjacent to the claypan and the most basic facilities. Thousands of people came to enjoy the spectacle just like the good ol’ days — camping in the bush and enjoying the smoke, smell and clatter of old race cars and bikes as they kicked up the dust.
For more information and to ordered the commemorative book of the event go to www.motoringpast.com.au.