TRACKS: Warwick Farm

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Thursday 31st October, 2013 - 10:30am

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Warwick Farm, circa 1968

Warwick Farm, circa 1968

The now defunct Warwick Farm circuit, affectionately dubbed ‘The Farm’, was built around the Australian Jockey Club’s horse racing track in the eponymous western Sydney suburb and quickly rose to become one of the most popular circuits.

It had a short life of just 13 years, but thanks to the efforts of the Automobile Racing Company, who ran the circuit, it hosted many major events over the years, including the Australian Grand Prix and rounds of the Australian Touring Car Championship, Australian Drivers Championship and the revered Tasman Series.

Each year the Australian Grand Prix (AGP) was held at a different track and on four occasions the AGP was held at Warwick Farm.

The venue first hosted an AGP in 1963 after being held the previous year at Caversham Airfield in Western Australia which was constructed by the defence department during WWII.

Jack Brabham (Brabham-Climax) won the first AGP at The Farm with the other three runnings of the grand prix won by Jackie Stewart (BRM, 1967) and Frank Matich in 1970 and 1971 driving a McLaren M10B and a self-designed Matich A50 respectively.

Some of Australia’s greatest touring car battles were staged at The Farm.

These occurred in the era of the Improved Production Touring Cars comprising of Ford Mustangs, Chev Camaros, Lotus Cortinas, Porsches and Mini Coopers battling in the hands of Norm Beechey, Bob Jane, Peter Manton, Peter Brock, Allan Moffat, Alan Hamilton and Jim McKeown and locals Ian Geoghegan, Brian Foley, Niel Allen, Fred Gibson and Bob Holden.

The Farm layout

The Farm layout

Warwick Farm hosted an Australian Touring Car Championship round four times – Ian Geoghegan won in his GTA Mustang in 1968, Jim McKeown in a Porsche 911 in 1970, Bob Jane’s 7-litre Chev Camaro triumphed in 1972 and with a change of regulations to local cars in 1973, Peter Brock crossed the line first in an XU-1 Torana.

A round of the Manufacturers Championship for Series Production cars (which ran at Bathurst) was run in 1971 with Colin Bond’s Torana XU-1 the victor.

The Australian Drivers Championship for the Gold Star was one of the most prestigious awards in Australian motorsport during this era and was run at The Farm almost every year. Winners included Brabham, John Youl (whose family own Symmons Plains), Leo Geoghegan, Jim Clark, Bib Stillwell, Frank Gardner, Frank Matich and Kevin Bartlett.

But the most significant event held at The Farm each year was the round of the Tasman Series, which ran from 1964 to 1973.

This series attracted the best grand prix drivers in Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill, Bruce McLaren, Piers Courage, Jochen Rindt, Chris Amon and Derek Bell who raced against the local heroes like Frank Matich, Kevin Bartlett, Frank Gardner, Leo Geohegan, John Harvey and Lex Davison, (grandfather of Will and Alex).

Sports cars were very popular in the 60’s and twice John Harvey won the Australian Sports Car Championship race, with Niel Allen and Frank Matich taking one each.

It was a fast and challenging 3.62km track that had long sweeping bends, hairpins, a series of flowing right, left corners, a long straight and bumpy, temporary track crossings across the horse racetrack.

For spectators the facilities were excellent using the horse racing grandstand, (like Sandown Park) that could see the startline, pits, and several corners.

Like Sandown the circuit also had a small lake on the infield.

Come rain hail or shine, fans stood ten deep, shoulder to shoulder, the length of both sides of the long Hume straight, and into the tight Creek corner at the end and all away around the circuit to watch the stars.

Folklore has it that one spectator, used to play the Last Post on his bugle at Creek Corner whenever a car retired from a race, to the amusement of the crowd.

One of the biggest events staged at Warwick Farm was the finish of the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon, which was won by Andrew Cowan Colin Malkin and Brian Coyle.

The last major race at Warwick Farm was the final round of the 1973 Australian Touring Car Championship on July 15 by Peter Brock from Bob Morris and Ian Geoghegan with Allan Moffat winning the ATCC title.

The final ever meeting was a club day held in August the same year.

The outright lap record of 1:24.0 is held by Frank Gardner in a Lola T300 Formula 5000.

Warwick Farm – motor racing circuit

Opened 1960
Closed 1973
Length 3.621km
Turns 14
Lap record 1:24.0 – Frank Gardner Lola T300 Chevrolet F5000, 1972

 

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