Far from lost and certainly not forgotten is the racetrack at Caversham’s former World War II fighter aircraft base in the Swan Valley. The site of two Australian Grand Prix’s in 1957 and 1962 it is set to host a revival in motor sport history as part of the celebrations on the 50th anniversary of the 1957 AGP. Caversham was the home of Motor Sport in WA and the principal race venue for the WASCC from 1946 through to 1968 when activities moved to Wanneroo Raceway.
The airstrip, built during WWII to support Pearce RAAF base consisted of three runways and dispersal roads, all runways were used for motor sport at different times, but the most famous is the “D” circuit which was used for both AGP’s and included the near mile long straight. Following the WASCC move to Wanneroo the facilities were utilized as a transmitter site for the Defence Department up to 2005 and then the site was decommissioned and eventually sold back to the state in 2007. The triangular circuit to the west of the site is destined to become the new suburb of Albion, however the “D” circuit to the east has been preserved in remnant bush land and contained within the strip of bush that runs through the Swan Valley and includes Whitman Park. The circuit which was often subjected to inundation with water is in surprisingly good condition, possibly due to the drop in the water table over the last 30 years. It was last resurfaced for the 1962 AGP and little or no maintenance has been carried out since, except that the Police have covered the main straight with a thin layer of gravel to use as a driver training course.
Some of the infrastructure still exists, bridge abutments, pit lane and the circuit with eloquent corner names like Bugatti corner, which replaced the original aircraft names. They are still very much etched in people’s memories and will rise again when their senses experience the thrill and hear and smell those racing machines of the 40s and 50s as well as listen to the sometimes tall tales of the drivers and officials.
Now 50 years on the VSCC of WA will be returning to Caversham on September 2nd to re-enact the famous race. Will we ever resolve who really won the 1957 AGP? Was the Davison/Patterson, Ferrari flagged in a lap too late or was Stan Jones in the Maserati 250F the first finisher as he was posted on the day?