Tasmania. The Apple Isle. The isolated bit of Oz south of Victoria. It’s a pretty place and it’s got some of the best driving roads in the world.
Longford is a historic town with settlers putting down stakes for land as early as 1807 and is located some twenty minutes drive southwest from Launceston. It’s a farmland settlement and home to the oldest continually operating horse racing site in Australia. And from 1953 to 1968 it played host to a number of motorsports events including two Australian Grands Prix.
The street based track just to the north of the town was spread over 4.5 miles or around 7.2 kilometres. The races were run in a clockwise direction, with a start line that would have the drivers head towards a viaduct, kinking left before a run over a tall wooden bridge known as the “Kings Bridge”. Two ninety degree right handers would bookend a long straight before a run over another tall bridge called The Long Bridge (with both crossing the same River Esk) then into “The Flying Mile” before a super sharp right hander to take the drivers back to the start/finish line.
It was an era of household names for the Longford races. Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme, Bib Stillwell, Leo and Ian Geoghegan, Kevin Bartlett and John Harvey would be amongst the grid sheets at various times.
British driver Jim Clark would also make his presence know at Longford, driving a Lotus 33 and a Lotus 49T (for the Tasman Series) which would be held on the streets of Longford from 1964 to 1968. In that final year Chris Amon set the outright lap record in a Ferrari 330P4, with an average speed of 122mph. That’s 196.6kph in new money terms.
1958 and 1963 would see the Australian Grand Prix held in the picturesque town and in 1962 would hold a race for the category known as Appendix J, and was run as a single race event. Bob Jane would win in his immaculate Jaguar Mark 2.
The Australian GP was a bespoke race event as it wasn’t until 1985, at Adelaide, that it became part of the world F1 GP series. It gave rise to the Tasman Series, races that were, ostensibly, a tug of war between Australia and New Zealand. It arose from engine capacity restrictions in the F1 series and with Jack Brabham and New Zealander Bruce McLaren running their own “works” team cars independently, the Tasman Series would appeal to those in the northern hemisphere and would race in Australia and at Longford in the Australian summers.
The track would play host to a series known as the Australian Tourist Trophy, a GT style series now however it was known as a Sports Car series between 1956 and 1979. Longford saw three rounds, and 1966 had Frank Matich in an Elfin take the chequered flag. 1960 and 1964 were the other rounds, with Matich winning in 1964 and Derek Jolly, and Australian, in 1960.
Longford had plenty of state government support but only to a point. Financial support dwindled and 1968 would be the final year of constant racing. What is left of the circuit now sees the Longford Revival which utilises The Flying Mile.
Have you driven the Longford track or where you there in its heyday? Let us know via our social media outlets.