A Test Of Driver Than Car, But Still Extremely Tough:
With the 1957 Mobilgas trial almost becoming a non-event,
it was fortuitous then that CAMS decided to work with all
concerned parties to help ensure the success of the 1958
events. The start date for the Ampol trial was moved forward
to May 18th, the subsequent Mobilgas event scheduled for
August 20th, this allowing some time for the dust
to settle and, more importantly, the public to have a breather
from motor-sport also.
Further adding to the allure of
both trials, the routes chosen were very dissimilar. The
Ampol event covered some 7,500 miles (12,068 km) and encompassed
the three eastern Australian states. By contrast, the longer
Mobilgas event would circumnavigate Australia and cover
over 10,000 miles.
Directed by motoring identity Evan Green,
the concept taken for the Ampol trial was to open up new
and difficult back country roads on either side of the
Great Dividing Range. There were some terrific roads utilized,
around areas such as Wauchope, Walcha, Armidale and Kempsey.
There were even several hill-climb stages, and much of
the tarmac already well known and used by the various state
car clubs was included in the route.
But best of all, for the loyal Australians anyway, was
the win by Holden. Don Garard, this time without the addition of mystery “water in
the fuel tank” as had occurred in the previous years event, would
combine with ambulance superintendent Jim Roberts to take out the event.
But it was certainly no walk in the park, with other drivers and car makes
going head-to-head. The Garard/Roberts win was only one point clear of
the second placed Standard Vanguard and Volkswagen. Ford’s, Peugeot’s
and even a Chrysler were in the mix, making it an enthralling
event right to the finish line.
There were 161 entries for the event, although
only 148 would actually start over the Mille-Miglia style
ramp at Bondi Beach, where there were around 50,000 spectators. The event declared itself more a test of driver expertise than car reliability,
the emphasis being on a drivers ability to maintain high
average speeds over relatively good, if little used roads. This in turn
attracted some quality entries such as Bill Burns in his Jaguar XK120
hard top, and even a couple of Porsche 1600’s.
Sydney, the cars would travel to Bundaberg, then Roma,
Toowoomba and Stanthorpe. The organizers incorporated a
very difficult hill climb just outside Wyong on the very
first leg. Few could beat the required 6 minutes for the 4.7 mile (7.56
km) stretch, only Brooks and Firth’s
Vanguard and John Hall’s Porsche 1600 getting over the line.
there were higher than average speeds required, many drivers
came to grief, and unfortunately none more so than Myles
Dillon, who was killed when his car left the road near
Taree. Only 138 cars reached Brisbane , although John Hall
would be forced to withdraw when the Victorian constabulary
reported that his driving license had been suspended some months earlier.
There would be another death near Murgon, when Melbourne
police Detective-Sergeant Paulin crashed his Holden, although
a later coronial enquiry noted a possible cause of death
could have been a heart attack. The route then went down
through the New South Wales western districts, winding
a crisscross path that encompassed Moree, Narrabri, Tamworth, Coonambie,
Dubbo, Lithgow and Parkes.Then down through Cowra and Young, over to West
Wyalong, then Griffith, Wagga and Albury.
Once across the Victorian border
the drivers would head as far south as Ballarat before heading north again,
through Ararat and Stawel to Kerang, then on to Swan Hill and Mildura.
Once across the South Australian border, the route went as far west as
Port Augusta, Iron Knob and Whyalla, then down to Port Pirie and on to
Adelaide. Jack “Gelignite” Murray
had been keeping pace with the leaders up until now, however
his navigator made some dreadful errors that would result
in his going from 6 points to 81.
Crossing the border once again between Naracoorte
and Edenhope, the teams traveled as far north as Warracknabeal
before again turning south and heading to Hamilton, then
back across the state border to Mount Gambier, then along
the beautiful Victorian western coastline from Portland
to Apollo Bay.
It was on the Port Campbell – Apollo Bay section that
the race was won and lost. Rain and various road-works combined to make
this stretch far more treacherous than perhaps intended. Amazingly the
two Garard teams dropped only three points each in their FE Holden’s,
and Doug Stewart, driving Witter’s Volkswagen lost only four. But
the rain would see some competitors get bogged and, eventually,
block the road. Those following had little choice but to
help their fellow competitors out of the mire.
A fairly traditional route followed their
departure from Melbourne, traveling through Sale, Bairnsdale
and Orbost. There were two spectacular write-off crashes
in the section to Sale via Welshpool. In the first, a Volkswagen
rolled 70 metres down an embankment, followed minutes later
by a Holden when the driver was dazzled by the rescue parties
Fortunately nobody was injured. The 1958 Ampol
Trial was a wonderful success, and many declared it to
be the best ever, but unlike Juan Antonio Samaranch we are not tempted
to to make such a statement, but will simply state that it was
indeed very good.