Under cloudy skies, fortuitously slotted between rain showers, the second Lobethal Grand Carnival opened the historic 8.7-mile Adelaide Hills road racing circuit to a dazzling parade of vintage racing cars and motorcycles.
Marking the 70th anniversary of the last and fastest Australian Grand Prix before World War II, 1939 winner Allan Tomlinson was the emotional favorite with a crowd of more than 12,000.
Tomlinson, now 93, remains the youngest-ever (aged 22) and only surviving prewar AGP winner. His MG TA supercharged special far exceeded expectations as Tomlinson won the 150- mile event ahead of a stellar field including Alfas of P3 and Monza persuasion.
After making the journey from New York where he now lives with his daughter, Tomlinson, helped by veteran AGP flag man, Glen Dix, had the thrill of flagging off an exact re-creation of his TA, constructed just in time for the Lobethal reunion by Sydney enthusiasts, John Lackey, Robert Rowe, and Rod Hoffman.
Held over the weekend of October 3-4, the Lobethal Grand Carnival, a “spirited demonstration” allowed vintage racecars and motorcycles to exercise over more than 100 miles at a good turn of speed, on what former triple AGP winner Doug Whiteford once declared Australia’s greatest circuit.
Chief among the attractions were the P3 Alfa Romeos of Jon Shirley and Peter Giddings, reviving memories of the lone P3 to appear in 1939, piloted by John Saywell. This car is now owned by Ned Spieker.
Peter Mullin generously freighted his Delahaye 135S out to Lobethal from the United States with Jim and Sharon Stranberg assigned crew duties. In the hands of Australian department store heir, John Snow, this car placed 6th at Lobethal in the main 1939 event.
A stellar field of more than 100 cars and some 40 motorbikes included no fewer than nine Bugatti variants, Ron Townley’s ex-Doug Whiteford Lago Talbot, a brace of MG K3s; one the ex- Bira car that won at Lobethal in the hands of Colin Dunne in 1938 and has been owned by the locally based Bradey family since 1958, the other the prototype believed to have been the Nuvolari TT- winning car of 1933 that Victorian Jim Nilsson has owned since 1959.
Australian Vern Schuppan, 1983 Le Mans winner, co-drove the Bradey K3 with its owner, Philip Bradey, whose grandfather, Tom Bradey won the Stock Car Race on a Singer 9 at Lobethal in 1939. Another Bradey grandson, James Redwood, piloted a Singer identical to his grandfather’s winning car.
Former Lobethal cars were represented by archetypal Australian specials, Frank Moore’s “Black Bess” which took Doug Whiteford to a win in the last race at Lobethal in 1948, Tom Roberts’s “Kleinig Special,” a Hudson- powered fire breather that notoriously diced with sandbag barriers around Lobethal in the 1938-’40 era, and the newly restored Macdonberg that Keith and Neville Roberts completed specifically for the AGP re-run at Lobethal.
Lobethal veteran Ray Pank, just one month younger than Allan Tomlinson, entered and drove in a Hudson Special sports. Pank first competed at 1936 Victor Harbor AGP before racing at Lobethal in a Ford Special in 1938 and filling the riding mechanic’s seat for Ron Uffindell in an Austin 10 at the 1939 Stock Car Race.
Owned by Adelaide collector, Ral Rainsford, and driven by Geoff Redin, another Uffindell mount, his Austin 7 racecar, which led home the 1939 Junior GP, was again a sentimental favorite on the roads of Lobethal.
As the featured marques for Lobethal 2009 were Alfa Romeo and MG, it was appropriate for the Neville Chrichton Alfa G1, the world’s oldest surviving example of the make, to appear, along with many an MG, including Chris Bucknell’s rare R-type, to mark the famous Tomlinson TA epic, a performance that in 1939 prompted Lord Nuffield to seek out Tomlinson and tap the secrets to what was regarded as the fastest road racing MG at the time.
To know more of the glorious history of Lobethal in the 1937-’48 period, an excellent 48-page book and 1-hour DVD are available. See: www.lobethalgrandcarnival.com.au