It’s been 70 years since the Victory Grand Prix at Caversham marked the beginning of an unforgettable era of motorsport in WA.

No one would have known that shortly after the guns of World War II were silenced in 1945, a small aerodrome north-east of Perth would host one of the biggest events Western Australia had ever seen. It was called the Victory Grand Prix and it took place on 7 April 1946.

According to news reports of the day, more than 60,000 people attended, a number that represented more than 10 per cent of the Western Australian‚ population. During the war, the venue was called the RAAF Fleet Air Arm Aerodrome Middle Swan. Later, it would become a motor racing circuit simply known as‚ Caversham.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of that first-ever motor race held at‚ Caversham.

The Victory Grand Prix

Considerable effort was taken by the organisers to promote the Victory Grand Prix, and to get people there. According to an article published in The Swan Express on 11 April 1946, those arrangements paid offŒ: “Cars, buses, and trucks made an uninterrupted ribbon of tra’c from Guildford to the airstrip from about 9.30am onwards. At the airstrip, strings of eight to 10 buses at a time could be seen hastily disgorging their contents and then rushing oŒ to refill.”

The day’s program consisted of five events – two races for cars and three for‚motorcycles.

Clem Dwyer, who would go on to become an icon of WA motorsport, won the main event – the Victory Grand Prix. As was typical of early post-war competition cars, Mr Dwyer’s car was a special he built himself. It was called the Plymouth Special and amazingly, the vehicle still exists. However, it now resides in South Australia.

In second place was Allan MacIntosh in his Salmson-based Bartlett Special. This vehicle has been restored and remains in WA. Third was Ron Blowes in an MG TA.

Cars and motorcycles weren’t the only attractions at the event. According to a report in The West Australian newspaper: “One of the early thrills after lunch was the appearance of a Gypsy Moth [aeroplane] coming in low over the south end of the strip while the third race was in progress. It appeared to be about to land, but after flying very low over the finishing line, gained altitude and veered away.”

The huge success of the Victory Grand Prix at Caversham paved the way for the event’s organiser, the WA Sporting Car Club (WASCC), to eventually sign a lease with the Commonwealth Government in‚1953. WA motoring historian Graeme Cocks said this allowed for the official use of the airstrip and its grounds for motorsport.

During the 22 years after that first race‚in 1946, Caversham became established as one of Australia’s key motorsport venues.

Central to motorsport history

Today, the Victory Grand Prix is still recognised by enthusiasts as one of WA’s most successful early motoring events. Caversham’s status was at its peak when the venue hosted two Australian
Grand Prix events in 1957 and 1962. Don Hall competed at Caversham from the early 1950s.

“The older members of the WASCC put so much time into changing it from an air force location to a race circuit. It was out of town a bit, but I have some very good memories of Caversham.”

“My best memory is driving with Ron Thorpe in the AC Cobra. That was a genuine factory AC Cobra, not a copy. It was quite a handful to drive – reasonable handling but they weren’t the best in the world,” Mr Hall said.

The WASCC lease at Caversham finished in 1968. Now, 48 years after the WASCC moved its headquarters to Wanneroo Raceway, only the remnants of the Caversham track remain.