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The Tale of Two Circuits


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#1 Bernd

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Posted 01 September 2003 - 05:26

I've just finished putting together the pictorial laps of the Nuriootpa circuit in the Barossa Valley South Australia and Schofields which is in Sydney NSW.

It occured to me that I frankly know bugger all about either of these tracks! I've never so much as seen a picture of the racing at Schofields. So I thought I'd start this thread in the hope that one of you can enlighten me with some details, pics, reports or whatever.

Here's a link to the pics, I took the opportunity to revamp the page a little.

Lost Circuit Section

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#2 Ray Bell

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Posted 01 September 2003 - 05:57

Schofields is indeed a strange one...

Unlike Nuriootpa, which had an AGP held on it, Schofields had a much less illustrious history. First event was on July 6, 1958, the final one towards the end of 1959.

More to the point, the racing was conducted by the North Shore Sporting Car Club and the Manly Warringah Sporting Car Club, who combined their resources to run the events. It wasn't run by the ARDC, for instance, who normally conducted race meetings.

But the rollup wasn't too bad. Frank Gardner was there in a D-type, Frank Matich in a Healey, but Matich had yet to hit the big time and Gardner was hardly a big name at the time either.

The tempoorary nature of the place was against it, being an airfield that was 'between commissions' as it passed from the RAAF to the RAN. Despite it being unused at the time, it was necessary for all setting up, racing and dismantling of facilities to be done within the one day of the events.

I must ask Matich about it... it wouldn't surprise me to learn that there were also sprints and lap dashes run there on dates other than the race meetings.

#3 john medley

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Posted 01 September 2003 - 10:41

In times more recent than the Fifties there have been events at Schofields, both on the circuit and on a short sprint course. Just as the precise location of the sprint-course-with-corners will not surface in my memory , so too the dates and other details of the two ( I think )events I ran there.

What I do recall most clearly about the " Final Occasion at Schofields" meeting apart from the great width of the straight ( ie runway ) was the loose gravel particularly along that expansive straight : the charge down the straight felt what I imagine a World War 1 infantry advance felt like -- except EVERYONE WAS SHOOTING AT ME !!! I probably went home and checked up on what was written about Leyburn 1949 , when reasons for retirement included " fan belt cut by flying gravel". Schofield's straight absolutely rained rocks.

I do not recall the circuit being anything special at all , just a series of vague bends wandering along the top of the slope to the upper end of the straight , the corner onto which ( like the corner off it ) was ruined by the width of the straight. I think I recall discussing the circuit with Kevin Bartlett who ran there in his mother's Morris Minor ( he said his TV watching father said " Look dear there's Kevin on TV" " ... IN MY CAR !!" said his irate mother), and he was of the same opinion .

But Schofields was one of those stopgap circuits when there was little other racing in NSW. It existed as the ONLY near- Sydney circuit of the late 50s , after the demise of Mount Druitt.

The AllHistoric Amaroo organizing committee in 1977-78 gave serious consideration to moving its annual race meeting to Schofields , mainly because there were some real advantages in running on Commonwealth land rather than state property under the NSW Speedways Act.

#4 Ray Bell

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Posted 01 September 2003 - 11:21

Originally posted by john medley
In times more recent than the Fifties there have been events at Schofields, both on the circuit and on a short sprint course. Just as the precise location of the sprint-course-with-corners will not surface in my memory , so too the dates and other details of the two ( I think )events I ran there.

What I do recall most clearly about the " Final Occasion at Schofields" meeting apart from the great width of the straight ( ie runway ) was the loose gravel particularly along that expansive straight : the charge down the straight felt what I imagine a World War 1 infantry advance felt like -- except EVERYONE WAS SHOOTING AT ME !!! I probably went home and checked up on what was written about Leyburn 1949 , when reasons for retirement included " fan belt cut by flying gravel". Schofield's straight absolutely rained rocks.


What car were you running, John? That might help you work out the year...

I do not recall the circuit being anything special at all , just a series of vague bends wandering along the top of the slope to the upper end of the straight , the corner onto which ( like the corner off it ) was ruined by the width of the straight. I think I recall discussing the circuit with Kevin Bartlett who ran there in his mother's Morris Minor ( he said his TV watching father said " Look dear there's Kevin on TV" " ... IN MY CAR !!" said his irate mother), and he was of the same opinion.


I can just picture old Reg casually making that comment...

But Schofields was one of those stopgap circuits when there was little other racing in NSW. It existed as the ONLY near- Sydney circuit of the late 50s , after the demise of Mount Druitt.

The AllHistoric Amaroo organizing committee in 1977-78 gave serious consideration to moving its annual race meeting to Schofields , mainly because there were some real advantages in running on Commonwealth land rather than state property under the NSW Speedways Act.


Am I reading into this what I think I am? Did they really get around the Speedways Act (1957) by claiming it didn't apply on Commonwealth-owned land?

Seeing as the base was decomissioned prior to use, I would imagine that might be a bit hard to get away with... but if it was never tested I guess we'll never know.

As for complying with the Act, I doubt that it would have been all that hard at Schofields. No fences were required if spectators were 60' from the edge of the road on the straights, 30' on the corners. Plenty of room at Nirimba for that...

#5 Bernd

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Posted 01 September 2003 - 23:24

Yes the rocks at Schofields were something else. I remember going into there on a Caribou for an Air Show and we had two tyres blow out! They needed to ferry out replacements from Richmond which took quite a while.
Then there was the time I mentioned with the photo's when I got blown away by the DC3, I was picking small stones out of my shoulder and back for what seemed like weeks.

Back to the actual racing circuit. So the entire width of the runway was used? Blimey that must've made the first and last turns mighty quick indeed. As for the rest of the circuit it looked pretty good from the ground but without driving it you really can't tell.

As for Mt Druitt I had a gander at the site a few weeks ago. Sadly there is now absolutely nothing left of the circuit. The last traces seem to have been removed fairly recently with the contruction of some new Industrial areas.

Now who can tell us more about Nuriootpa!

#6 Ray Bell

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Posted 02 September 2003 - 00:23

Industrial areas?

I think not... most of it was parkland last I looked, and industrial areas don't get to encroach on parkland usually...

What are you doing next Sunday morning, we might take a look together?

#7 Bernd

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Posted 02 September 2003 - 01:03

Yes Ray Industrial areas have completely removed all trace of what was once Pit Corner and Pit Straight. (Coventry Place now).

Farm straight has been totally dug up and is basically rough grassland at the back of Whalan Reserve.
Stable Straight is completely gone. An access road for the sporting fields follows it route for a little while.

Of Strip Straight there is no trace the whole runway has been removed, the ground regraded and there is basketball courts, roads, Sports fields and other assorted features dotted across the area.

It depressed me enough last time I don't want to see it again. No trace you'd never know such a significant circuit was once there.

#8 Ray Bell

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Posted 02 September 2003 - 01:12

Even though those playing fields were there, I was always able to find traces of the circuit... I'll have a look Sunday morning.

Yes, I can understand the area around Tyresoles going under... and there's a school over part of it too, isn't there?

#9 Bernd

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Posted 02 September 2003 - 01:25

No, no School. Be careful it's a very rough area these days. About as rough as Western Sydney gets anyway.

Bring a TNF badge to the Creek for me Ray. If I can, I'll be there.

#10 Ray Bell

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Posted 02 September 2003 - 01:48

Okay, I'll do that for you...

But Barry has insisted that I only accept cash on his behalf.

Early Sunday morning shouldn't be too bad down off Debrincat Ave... the problem children should still be in bed.

#11 john medley

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Posted 02 September 2003 - 08:17

Whalan High School stands on part of the Mount Druitt circuit, and is to my knowledge the only school-built-on-a-race-circuit in NSW to have had a racing driver as its Principal : John Muddle ,who started racing with an MG TC Special in the 60s , moved on to MS Lancia/ Cheetah/ Ralt RT4..., and still races and rallies now he is retired from that work business.

The last time I went to the sad remains of Mount Druitt , perhaps 6-7 years ago , it was still possible to see the tar of the airstrip straight under the basketball courts etc -- even including the grader marks wandering back and forth that Belf Jones left

Re Nuriootpa : I've driven around it but not in anger , have relished the run down past the wineries towards the main street , and have tried very hard to imagine what it was like for those 40s- 50s Ford V8 Specials to go thundering past the Vine Hotel on their way up the main street

#12 Barry Lake

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Posted 02 September 2003 - 15:20

I have been to Schofields twice in the past dozen years or so.

Around 1990 I competed in a motorkhana there in my Datsun 1600. I think it was a NSW Championship round, from memory. The test were set out on the main airstrip. Not so many big rocks, but lots of gravel flying. It wasn't really a pleasant surface for a motorkhana - having the benefits of neither a sealed surface nor a natural gravel surface.

In 2000 it was used as a secret training centre for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sydney 2000 Olympics. We spent many a long, hot, highly-regimented Sunday there over a period of months, dancing around on the gravel. No cameras were allowed and wandering away from the designated area also was stricly verboten. I didn't see any guns ;), but security was very tight.

So, although we rode around most of what was the original 1950s race circuit in the coach that took us in there, I still haven't actually driven or walked a full lap.

As for Mount Druitt, when I was driving taxis in the general area in the early 1960s, a passenger I dropped there late one night invited me to stamp around under his backyard Hills hoist (Australian icon rotary clothes line) with a torch to see the bitumen surface of the track. I don't remember for certain exactly where the house was, nor what part of the circuit, but Tyresoles Corner rings bells.

#13 Bernd

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Posted 03 September 2003 - 02:39

Originally posted by Barry Lake
So, although we rode around most of what was the original 1950s race circuit in the coach that took us in there, I still haven't actually driven or walked a full lap.


You might want to get a move on Barry if you're interested. I predict it will be mostly gone in about a year. Didn't know about the Olympics rehearsals but it certainly makes sense as a location for them.

Whalan High School eh John. Damned if I know how I missed that. I'm guessing it must be up around the Castle Curve area? I looked everywhere for Belfs trench but didn't see it. Maybe I simply missed it.

Is there any film anywhere of racing at Mt Druitt? Especially the 24 Hour Race.

#14 Flying Panda

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Posted 03 September 2003 - 12:10

Driving out to the middle of nowhere a couple of weeks ago for the Leyburn Historic Sprint meeting has inspired me to go bush to another lost circuit, albeit significantly closer to home this time.

Can anyone tell me what I can expect to find remaining of the Lowood circuit?
and so I won't have to stop and pester the local yokels, where the circuit was located in relation to town?

#15 Ray Bell

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Posted 03 September 2003 - 14:49

Originally posted by Flying Panda
.....Can anyone tell me what I can expect to find remaining of the Lowood circuit?
and so I won't have to stop and pester the local yokels, where the circuit was located in relation to town?


A fair bit, really... though you need to have some idea of where you're looking.

You need to find Mount Tarampa... maybe there's a school there or something... and on the road out of Lowood that goes past Mount Tarampa you'll see on your right, as you climb a rise, a road called Dairy Road (or is it Daisy?).

Turn right and you'll see on the corner a stone to note the existence of the air base that became Lowood circuit. You'll also be heading onto the main straight... which is what the road is on.

There are houses along there, and the road ends before the straight did, if you know what I mean. Looking back up into the paddocks when you get down the other end you'll see something of the roads that made up the twisty bits. Maybe you can ask the locals if you can walk around it?

Three miles though... quite a walk...

#16 LittleChris

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Posted 03 September 2003 - 15:20

This is from multimap so may help.

Ray, Would I be right in thinking that the Dunlop Straight later became Irwin Road ?



http://uk8.multimap.....x=15&down.y=11

#17 Ray Bell

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Posted 03 September 2003 - 21:19

It's a while since I've been there, Chris, but I'm pretty sure the only part of the circuit accessible was Daisy Road...

#18 Ray Bell

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Posted 08 September 2003 - 06:19

Originally posted by Bernd
.....Is there any film anywhere of racing at Mt Druitt? Especially the 24 Hour Race.


Dick Willis has found some colour slides from 1954/55...

I went there Sunday, the only bit I found that you could actually recognise as old circuit (and I knew where to look!) was about 150 feet or so emerging from the fenceline of the houses above the playing fields. Belf's plough line was clearly visible, there was bitumen surface, but it was well covered with grass.

There's a bicycle track (a circuit, really) that follows a part of the line along the strip and up up the straight that goes towards Tyresoles Cnr and the pits. If only the surface had been that good in the old days!

I took some pics, will post them some time...

#19 275 GTB-4

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Posted 28 July 2007 - 06:37

A terrific film of racing at Mount Druitt (1953) is now on Brian Darbys speedway site:

http://www.aussieroa....homestead.com/

http://www.aussieroa...p1MtDruitt.html

http://www.aussieroa...om/darby256.wmv