Round Australia Trial

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The Round Australia Trial was a motorsport rally which was run on multiple occasions between 1953 and 1998. The theme of the event was to stage a rally which circumnavigated Australia. Its early years were tremendously popular as the roads linking large portions of the country, particularly west of Adelaide, were not in good condition. Automobile manufacturers enthused over the event as it provided a particularly severe test event for their products, proving their cars were able to stand up to whatever conditions remote Australia could provide. Early editions of the event were heroic tests and were front-page fodder for the newspapers of the era.[citation needed]

By the 1960s, interest had waned as circuit racing, particularly the Bathurst 500 and the Tasman Series, would come to dominate Australian motorsport. A revival event in 1979 won by superstar touring car driver Peter Brock proved popular, but was not repeated until 16 years later in 1995. Interest in a new event continues to appear from time to time, sometimes as a rally, sometimes as a historic event for period cars, although the Australian Safari and the Finke Desert Race retain positions as the toughest off-road event in the country.[citation needed]

Redex Reliability Trial[edit]

This major event had its origin in a series of car trials staged in New South Wales, sponsored by the REDeX brand of oil additive, and organised by the Australian Sporting Car Club Ltd. of Sydney.[1] The contest was not a race, but points were lost through late arrival at checkpoints, through condition of the vehicle at the finish line, and other factors.[2] The cars' bonnets and radiator caps were sealed, and breaking the seal caused so many points to be lost it was tantamount to disqualification.

The first Redex Trials, in 1952 and February 1953, passed without much public attention. The second of 1953, staged over 2 and 3 May, was newsworthy. Billed as a 1,000 mile event, the route was actually 1,134 miles (1,825 km), starting from Sydney, up through the Blue Mountains; through Mittagong and the back roads behind the Jenolan Caves to Harden then Cootamundra, Forbes, Orange, Coolah, Mudgee, and back down the mountains to Sydney.[3] The usual hazards of the road and navigation through unfamiliar geography were multiplied by heavy rain — 11 inches (280 mm) fell in Sydney — and of 17 competitors only nine finished the course. A Ford Consul, driven by D. H. "Peter" Antill won, with a Ford Customline, driven by J. E. "Jack" Murray second and an Austin A40, driven by D. Cummins third.[3]

The first Redex round-Australia reliability trial, of 6,500 miles (10,500 km), had a first prize of £1,000, and entry was not restricted to members of car clubs. The route was planned and test-driven by the A.S.S.C. secretary, Norman Pleasance.[4] and passed through Brisbane, Rockhampton, Townsville, Darwin, Alice Springs, Adelaide and Melbourne before returning to Sydney.[5] Public interest was intense and every aspect of the trial was the subject of media interest.

On 30 August 1953 huge crowds gathered at the Sydney Showground (Moore Park) to watch as 192 cars left at three-minute intervals, and over the next week many hundreds of thousands took time to watch as the competitors made their way through the various towns along the route. A common criticism of the trial was the number of competitors who drove at dangerously high speeds to recover time lost in a stage. Another was the advantages enjoyed by sponsored teams: apart from the benefit of support crews along the way, because the route was published in detail a month prior, they were able to have a "practice run" around the course in the weeks before the event. Of the twenty top finalists, two thirds were sponsored.[6]

The success of the round-Australia tour did not spell the end of the 24-hour, 1,000-mile Redex trials around New South Wales. The next was held in March 1954 and won by Jack Murray. Many entrants used this event as preparation for the coming big event:[7]

The second Redex round-Australia reliability trial, of 9,600 miles (15,400 km), was held the following year, and had a first prize of £2,000. The route was truly "round (mainland) Australia", beginning in Sydney on 3 July 1954, passing through Brisbane, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville, Mount Isa, Darwin, Broome, Meekatharra, Madura, Adelaide and Melbourne,[8] finishing at Moore Park on 20 July 246 cars took part and 127 finished within the times allowed, though many doggedly completed the course in the following week. One forced to drop out was the celebrated radio personality Jack Davey. The winner was a 1958 Ford V-8, an ex-taxi dubbed the "Grey Ghost", driven by John Eric "Gelignite Jack" Murray (1907–1983) and navigated by the unrelated Bill Murray, losing no points on the trip. It was on this trial that Murray gained his nickname, from his occasional celebratory detonation off sticks of explosive, a custom that delighted some and infuriated others.[9] "Secret" intermediate checkpoints were an innovation this year in an attempt to curb speeding.[10]

In the 1955 Redex Trial 276 cars left Sydney on 21 August and passed through checkpoints at Newcastle, Tamworth, Southport, Brisbane, Toowoomba, Maryborough, Rockhampton, Marlborough, Sarina, Townsville, Cairns, Hughenden, Duchess, Camooweal, Tennant Creek, Darwin, Katherine, Fitzroy Crossing, Port Hedland, Carnarvon, Perth, Northam, Kalgoorlie, Madura, Ceduna, Adelaide, Broken Hill, Mildura, Horsham, Mt. Gambier, Melbourne, Whitfield, Corryong, Canberra, Goulburn, and Wollongong, before terminating in Sydney on September 11, a distance of 10,500 miles (16,900 km).[11] More than half the field failed to complete the course, most being victims of the 379 miles (610 km) stretch from Cairns to Hughenden.[12] The last leg was marred by a section near Murrumbateman where contestants had to negotiate a boggy paddock,[13] which led to Jack Murray, who fared badly and thought he was out of contention, not checking in for scrutiny at the finish line. A bad move, as following adverse criticism, results for that section were disregarded. Murray did not attend the Ball, at which the winners should have been announced, but were not due to the protests still pending.[14] The two leading Volkswagen drivers had protested swingeing penalties for non-structural cracks, and when their protests were upheld the provisional winner protested, vehemently criticising the Australian Sporting Car Club.[15] There was no 1956 Redex Trial.

List of winners[edit]

The Holden VR Commodore in which Ed Ordynski and Ross Runnalls won the 1995 Mobil 1 Trial
The Porsche 924 in which Jürgen Barth and Roland Kushmaul placed ninth outright and won their class in the 1979 Repco Reliability Trial
Year Name of trial Start Finish Distance No. Entrant Driver Co-driver(s) Car Points/Time Lost
Overall Time (1995 and 1998)
1953 Redex Trial Sydney 6,500 miles (10,460 km) 48 K.Tubman and J.Marshall Ken Tubman John Marshall Peugeot 203 19 points
1954 Redex Trial Sydney 9,600 miles (15,450 km) 256 J.Murray Jack Murray Bill Murray Ford 1948 Deluxe V8 0 points
1955 Redex Trial Sydney 10,500 miles (16,900 km) 90 Regent Motors Laurie Whitehead Bob Foreman Volkswagen 1200 21 points
1956 Ampol Trial Sydney 6,500 miles (10,460 km) 32 W.Murrell & A.Taylor Wilfred Murrell Allan Taylor Peugeot 403 258 points
1956 Mobilgas Trial Sydney 8,500 miles (13,680 km) 16 E. and L. Perkins Eddie Perkins[16] Lance Perkins Volkswagen 1200 48 points
1957 Ampol Trial Sydney 7,000 miles (11,260 km) 26 J.Witter Jack Witter Doug Stewart Volkswagen 1200 3 points
1957 Mobilgas Trial Melbourne 9,000 miles (14,480 km) 76 L. Whitehead Laurie Whitehead Kevin Young Volkswagen 1200 13 points
1958 Ampol Trial Sydney 7,500 miles (12,070 km) 158 A.C. McGrath & Co. Don Garard Jim Roberts Holden FE 9 points
1958 Mobilgas Trial Sydney Melbourne 10,100 miles (16,250 km) 2 E.Perkins Eddie Perkins Arthur Smith Volkswagen 1200 11 points
1964 Ampol Trial Sydney 7,000 miles (11,260 km) 50 Ford Motor Co. of Australia Harry Firth Graham Hoinville Ford Cortina GT 21 points
1970 Ampol Trial Alice Springs Sydney 6,340 miles (10,200 km) 11 Citroën Cars Pty Ltd Jean-Claude Ogier Lucette Ogier Citroën DS21 60 points
23 Datsun Racing Team Edgar Herrmann Hans Schuller Datsun 1600 SSS
1979 Repco Reliability Trial Melbourne 19,000 km 05 Holden Dealer Team Peter Brock Matt Philip
Noel Richards
Holden VB Commodore 3 hr 39 min 18 sec
1995 Mobil 1 Trial Brisbane Gold Coast 19,000 km 3 Mobil Bridgestone Rally Team [17] Ed Ordynski Ross Runnalls Holden VR Commodore 23 hr 41 min 28 sec
1998 PlayStation Rally Round Australia Adelaide 18,500 km 3 Bruce Garland Motorsport Bruce Garland Harry Suzuki Holden Jackaroo 34 hr 27 min 19 sec


  1. ^ "1,000 Mile Trial". The Cumberland Argus (3280). New South Wales, Australia. 29 April 1953. p. 5. Retrieved 4 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ "Rugged Conditions in Redex Trial". The Pioneer. 55, (2820). South Australia. 20 February 1953. p. 7. Retrieved 4 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ a b "Downpour Makes Car Rally "The Toughest Ever"". The Recorder (Port Pirie) (14, 051). South Australia. 11 May 1953. p. 1. Retrieved 4 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ "20 women to race in classic contest". Truth (Sydney newspaper) (3314). New South Wales, Australia. 2 August 1953. p. 49. Retrieved 4 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ As Western Australia was bypassed, the term "round-Australia" was something of a misnomer.
  6. ^ "Car Reliability Trials Can Be Improved". The Sydney Morning Herald (36, 110). New South Wales, Australia. 15 September 1953. p. 2. Retrieved 5 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "Bondi Garage Man Shines In Big Trial". The West Australian. 70, (21, 118). Western Australia. 29 March 1954. p. 14. Retrieved 5 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "Redex Trial Preview". Truth (Brisbane newspaper) (2832). Queensland, Australia. 4 July 1954. p. 36. Retrieved 5 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ "Across the Nullarbor — now in South Australia". Sunday Mail (Adelaide). Queensland, Australia. 18 July 1954. p. 1. Retrieved 5 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ "Huge Crowds See Finish of Reliability Car Trial". Cairns Post (16, 336). Queensland, Australia. 21 July 1954. p. 5. Retrieved 5 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ "Round Australia Trial for 1955". The Beverley Times. Western Australia. 14 April 1955. p. 11 (Supplement). Retrieved 5 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ "Half of Redex field out: "It's too hard"". The Argus (Melbourne). Victoria, Australia. 27 August 1955. p. 5. Retrieved 5 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  13. ^ "Late Penalties Beat Reliability Trial Leaders". The Canberra Times. 30, (8, 639). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 12 September 1955. p. 1. Retrieved 5 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  14. ^ "Jack Murray Could Have Won Redex Trial by Final Check-in". The Central Queensland Herald. 22, (1936). Queensland, Australia. 22 September 1955. p. 13. Retrieved 5 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  15. ^ "Redex protest But—he can't say why!". The Argus (Melbourne). Victoria, Australia. 6 October 1955. p. 1. Retrieved 5 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  16. ^ Eddie was the father of noted racing driver Larry Perkins.
  17. ^ Entry List, Official Spectator Guide, Round Australia '95 Mobil 1 Trial

Further reading[edit]