While boasting more than 40 entrants, the 1953 Australian Grand Prix looked to be a three-man race: Whiteford, Jones and Davison. The smart money, however, was on Stan Jones, in the 4.3-liter Maybach, as he had convincingly defeated the Talbot-Lago of Doug Whiteford just six weeks before. Lex Davison certainly had the name and experience from his P3 Alfa, but his freshly imported HWM F2 was very much a wild card. Davison had intended to fit the straight-8 Alfa engine into the HWM, but unfortunately that delightful combination proved to be impossible, so he used the engine from his accident-damaged Jaguar XK-120 along with all the C-Type mods.
The field was an interesting mix of pre- and post-WWII cars, including the ex-Raymond Sommer 1938 Maserati 4CL driven by Cec Warren, ten MGs including three K3s and a myriad of T-series specials, Allards and three brand-new Austin-Healey 100s.
The burghers of Melbourne had attracted the race to Albert Park, just south of the CBD, and with its leafy surrounds and wide and well-surfaced closed public road it proved to be the perfect circuit.
From atop a double decker bus, race officials saw Whiteford, Jones and Davison form the front row of the grid and as happens the start was hectic with the HWM of Davison leading to the first corner. Behind was shrouded in smoke from the Mercury V8-powered Alta of Ted Gray. Davison’s lead, however, was short-lived as Jones soon took over in the Maybach.
By the end of the first lap Jones was followed by Whiteford’s Talbot-Lago. Surprisingly quick runners were Arthur Wylie’s Jowett-powered Javelin Special and the MG TC Special of Curley Brydon. Unfortunately, Davison’s HWM was running slowly toward the end of the pack and he would retire by lap three.
By halfway, or 32 laps of the 3.125-mile circuit, Jones was still out in front followed by Whiteford. However, as happens in motor racing, fortunes were about to change.
At lap 40, Jones came in for fuel and attention to an overheating engine and found his pit crew unprepared. In the confusion Jones was bathed in fuel, necessitating getting out of the car and being washed down with water. Whiteford regained the lead and would stay there to the end, despite blowing a tire just two laps from the finish. Second was Curley Brydon in the MG, with the ex-Bira MG K3 of Andy Brown in 3rd.
After 1953, the Australian Grand Prix has been held at various circuits around the country, and apart from 1956 did not return to Albert Park until 1996. Simple arithmetic will tell you that the 2013 running of the AGP marks the 60th anniversary since Whiteford was first to cross the line in 1953. The Thursday (March 14, 2013) before the AGP has been named “Heritage Day” in memory of that first meeting.
While the Albert Park circuit has changed somewhat, such as now going in the opposite direction, the charged atmosphere remains the same. It is hoped that as many as eleven of the 1953 cars will once again be running on the circuit. These include such notables as the Maybach driven by 1980 World Champion Alan Jones, the son of Stan Jones. Other cars include the 2nd place MG TC Special, the MG K3 that came in 3rd, along with other well known Australian cars such as the Kleinig Hudson, Bugatti Holden, Ballot Olds, Black Bess, Maserati 4CL and the MM Spyder.
The Australian Grand Prix Corporation recently announced that, in celebration of the anniversary, entry to the circuit on the Thursday will be free of charge. Plus, throughout the weekend the cars will be on exhibition for all to see and will be undertaking special parade laps prior to the AGP on Sunday.