In 1938 the Adelaide Hills township of Lobethal closed 8 miles of public roads to stage the South Australian Grand Prix. In 2008 – 70 years after this race it was recreated by a team of enthusiasts lead by Tony Parkinson with the inaugural Lobethal Grand Carnival.
Another important milestone in the history of Lobethal was celebrated on the weekend of 3 & 4 October with the 70th anniversary of the 1939 Australian Grand Prix. Grands Prix races in those days were predominately run as handicap events. The quickest cars started off scratch with the slower minutes behind.
The winner of the 1939 Australian Grand Prix was Alan Tomlinson driving an MG TA supercharged Special.
The organisers have done their best to get the cars, and the surviving drivers to the event. Alan Tomlinson, now 93 flew in from his home in New York to be Patron, and will also drive a recently completed recreation of his winning TA.
Other prominent cars that have travelled to the event include no less than two P3 Alfa Romeo’s – both ex Nouvolari & a 1936 Dalahaye T-135.
Charles (Historic Racing Australia founder) made the trip from Melbourne with Warwick Anderson, Alf Barrett and John Penfold. This party holds a significant part in the history of the 1939 AGP. Warwick’s father, Colin started the race alongside Alan Tominson in his Frazer Nash single-seater (one of 3 built) – he retired with supercharger failure. While Alf Barrett’s father, Alf Snr started near the top of the field in his Alfa Romeo Monza. Warwick has brought two cars to this year’s re-enactment. He will drive his 1934 MG L-Type “Offy” with Alf driving his Jaguar XK120 Drophead Coupe.
The event is staged as a demonstration as the 8 mile road is not only patchy in areas, but the costs associated with creating a proper street circuit are too excessive. The logistical side of the event was still immense with more than 300 volunteers and co-ordination with local and state Government, Police and other bodies all pulling together to ensure public safety, but also to manage the 5 hour road closure in Lobethal and surrounding townships.
Action kicked off Saturday afternoon with the 100 or so entrants divided into 5 “Packets” and competing in two sessions on both Saturday and Sunday.
There were no accidents, but there were casualties of mechanical problems, including the Tomlinson MG TA, which had supercharger “icing up” problems. There were many overheating issues with both the Klenig Husdon Special and George Hetrel’s Bugatti T35C.
Ross Kelly brought his two-seat MG NB from Queensland and ran well until the diff broke in Sunday’s first session and the Hard Luck award for the weekend went to the 1921 Alfa Romeo G1.
This rarely seen Alfa is the sole surviving of 57 built and was a barn find about 30 years ago. The Hard Luck award was granted to the G1 as they had two tyre blow outs, one on each day. The crew didn’t attend the Sunday evening post-event ceremony as they were driving the car back to Hahndorf – they say things come in 3’s, the tyre blew again two streets from their hotel in Hahndorf!
As mentioned, the event was capped off with a post event function in the Main St hall. Numerous awards were given for Best Presented cars in different categories, appreciation trophies to the overseas entrants & Alan Tomlinson then presented the organisers with a replica of the 1939 AGP trophy, which will be on permanent display at the Sporting Car Club of SA’s clubrooms.
An auction was held to help raise funds for future events. Warwick Anderson (a Melbourne Auctioneer) conducted the auction with the 150-odd strong crowd who dug deep for the two items. The first, a large canvas of the winning 1939AGP MG TA turning a bend at Lobethal (painted by well-known motoring artists Gay Dutton) achieved $2,600 while a billy cart replica of the TA sold for $2,000
The Lobethal Grand Carnival weekend was filled with memories of the heroic achievements of those who competed in the 1939 AGP – the average speed of the Tomlinson MG TA around the 14 km street circuit was 90 miles per hour in a race that saw many accidents including bent light poles!
Report by: Charles Rogers / HRA