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BP Record Attempts
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Almost every Australian national speed record for cars and motor-cycles fell on September 28-29, 1957 in the first mass attack ever organised in Australia, Sponsored by B.P. The attempts were held near Coonabarabran, in northern N.S.W. The hand-picked team of drivers and riders set new marks in 12 of the 13 classes represented - and the remaining record (Class F cars) would undoubtedly have fallen also if it hadn't been for Jimmy Johnson's tragic crash a few hours before the attempts. The attacks were on the flying kilometre; in accordance with F.I.A. regulations, two consecutive runs in opposite directions had to be made within an hour, and timed accurately to the nearest 1/100th of a second.

John Crouch and George Hutchings were the C.A.M.S. observers. B.P. had chosen cars and drivers to attack records in classes C to I, plus the big saloon-car class, and had also lined up several motor-cycle riders to try out in five classes. The runs were held on a four-mile section of road linking Coonabarabran with Coonamble, via Baradine. The sealed aggregate surface was good and allowed high speeds - but it was only 18 feet wide and had a pronounced crown. Run-off on the sides was limited by lines of white posts, and in addition the road was flanked by trees on the eastern side, while to the west was a railway line and a string of telegraph poles. Additional hazards were small dirt tracks leading off the main road over the railway to give access to properties, and dust blown over from a dirt road on the other side of the railway by the prevailing westerly wind.

There was also a bend at each end of the four-mile strip, which limited both run-in and run-out. The usual was is to hold speed attempts at dawn, when the weather was at its calmest. On this occasion, however, the runs were made in the middle of the day (presumably to attract spectators). The winds were blustery at that time, so that no motor-cycle attempts were made until the Sunday. In Class C, for cars with 3001-5000 c.c. engines, Victorian Ted Gray was given the best chance of setting fastest time. The Lou Abrahams Tornado was sporting the tew 4.3-litre Chevrolet Corvette engine using fuel injection and developing around 280 b.h.p. Final drive ratio was 3.1 to 1, with 19in. wheels and 5.25 inch tyres.

Gray was hoping for speeds around 160 m.p.h. As it happened, magneto trouble cut in around 5300 r.p.m., forcing him to raise his ratio to 2.8 to 1 and lower his-revs. This he successfully did on the Sunday, clocking 157.53 m.p.h. to take the outright record from Davison, whose Class D Ferrari was fastest on the Saturday. The other C Class car present was New Zealander John McMillan's 3.5 Maserati. McMillan was wisely content to feel his way after his monumental prang a few weeks earlier at Mt. Druitt, which necessitated a fairly comprehensive rebuild. The car's appearance had been improved with a more shapely nose, but it was still minus its tailpiece. John finished up with a mean of 152.9 m.p.h.

Stillwell's car had just been landed from Italy, and he couldn't get it there in time. Davison had the faithful 3-litre Ferrari pulling a 3.27 to 1 rear end, which gave a theoretical maximum of 160 m.p.h. at 6000 r.p.m. He was using half-worn tyres, following the practice adopted by Dunlop of using very little depth of rubber in making high-speed tyres. Davison did all he could to lengthen his run-in, as he was 200 revs down on entering the traps, and finished his run only a shade over 6000 r.p.m. But the road didn't allow for much longer run-in, having sharpish corners at either end. He finished with an average of 155.99 m.p.h., and so broke my seven-months-old Class D record of 143 comfortably.

The E Class (1501-2000 c.c.) record, held by Mary Seed at 113 m.p.h., was Len Lukey's target in his immaculate Cooper-Bristol. Len and his boys fitted an ant-eater-like snout to the green car, improving both appearance and speed, and also enclosed the sides of the cockpit. Although plagued by overheating, Lukey averaged 147.46 m.p.h., and this was voted the best run of the meeting. Lukey again stole the limelight when his incredible Customline, undertrayed and masked, notched an opening run of 130 m.p.h. on the Saturday, aided by a tailwind. The antiquated timing-gear, which B.P. had borrowed from Victoria, hadn't turned temperamental, Len might have got an even higher mean than his final 123.38 m.p.h. The Ford was using normal transmission and ratios, but pulling 700 by 16in. tyres, and using 6000 r.p.m. instead of the normal 4500.

The existing. F Class record of 103.5 m.p.h. would have been well broken by the late Jim Johnson and his MG Special, as Jim was confident of reaching about 120 m.p.h. His tragic death. in a road accident on the Saturday morning was keenly felt by his many friends and visiting drivers, all of whom admired his eagerness and skill. Derek Jolly came from South Australia with his Climax-engined Decca Special to take the Class G (751-1100 c.c.) record at 116.75 m.p.h. The little Decca was the only sports car present, and was modified only to the extent of a head fairing. Class H (501-750 c.c.) went to Jim Madsen's s/c Cooper-BMW with 109.97 m.p.h. and Class I (351-500) to the Roy Blake/Steve de Bord Cooper 500, which screamed through the traps at 102.47 m.p.h.

Motor-cyclists Jack Forrest, Jack Ahearn, Frank Sinclair and Bernie Mack split. up the bike records between them. Australian overseas rep Ahearn took the 251-350 c.c. class with his Norton at 125.68 m.p.h. and the 175-250 c.c. class with the NSU at 121.25. He was also second outright with 144.59 to . Jack -Forrest's 500 c.c. BMW (149.06 m.p.h.). Sinclair took the big side-car class (750-1200 c.c.) with his HRD at 124.25 m.p.h., while Mack's Norton made easy work of the 351-500 c.c. side-car class with 122.22 m.p.h.





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