Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Speedway '77 - The Cost Of Racing.

In a previous post I discussed the history of Newcastle International Motordrome, particularly 1977, the first season under the N.I.M moniker and first season of Peter Gurbriel's successful promotion of the venue. During this time my father, Brian Burrell was having one of his most successful periods during his sedan racing career. His mother Mary, (my Nan) was also at her peak with regards to record keeping. I recently found a page in a book with a list she had made of racing expenses for the months of January and February 1977. Before I get to those I thought I'd start by running briefly through the meetings he raced in during those 2 months, and the prizemoney he won. I have run through most of these meetings in more detail in my post on the 35th Anniversary of the Motordrome so I won't go into too much depth here.

The first meeting for January 1977 was held on the 8th, Round 1 of the Fireball Derby. Brian at the time was running 2 Mini's. A Supercharged Clubman he had been racing for the previous 2 seasons, and the Silver Clubman formerly owned and raced by Peter Graham at Liverpool. This was the first meeting for the Silver Mini and he duly won the feature, picking up $160 along the way. The following Saturday, the 15th January was round 2 of the Fireball Derby and although he didn't win on the night was announced joint overall winner with Don McEwen and in doing so secured a lovely trophy and $180 cash.

Brian Burrell, Bob Christie & Don McEwen after the Fireball Derby
Then came a big weekend, Friday 21st January the Newcastle Motordrome played host to the visiting USA team of Welsh, Wilbur, Andretta and Pearson. The no hanky panky Yankees were too good for the local team of Butcher, Burrell, Ranger and McKew to the tune of 42 to 36.The drivers received $150 each for their efforts, and to end the night Brian finished 3rd in the feature behind Alan Butcher and Paul McKew, picking up another $50 for his trouble. Saturday the 22nd January saw the action shift to Heddon Greta Speedway for the annual Don Easter Memorial Trophy meeting. This time Brian was back running the Supercharge Blue and White Mini. He picked up $10 for winning a heat, then by finishing 2nd in the feature to local champ Charlie McGarva took home another trophy and a cool $100. Then on Saturday 29th January 1977 was the running of the 50 lap Wynns Enduro. Brian won his heat and led the feature until with 3 laps to go he suffered a flat rear tyre, struggling on to finish 5th. For his efforts at this meeting he received $100 in total.

Top: Heddon Greta's Charlie McGarva. Below: Brian Burrell.

February saw plenty of action and travel too, starting with Goulburn's annual Lilac City 50 lap challenge. This meeting attracted drivers from all over NSW and after Brian finished 1st in heat 1, he then finished just behind Bob Christie in his 2nd heat and then chased the local champ Christie for the whole 50 laps of the Classic, coming 2nd and picking up $300, a tidy sum making the trip worthwhile. The following Friday we were back to the Motordrome for the 2nd Test against the Yanks. Peter Gurbriel was obviously feeling benevolent towards his drivers as the big crowds flocked in, paying them all $250 this time around, up $100 on the opening Test. Australia beat the Yanks 45 to 34 well and truly earning their extra pay. Then to round out the month of February Brian raced the following night at Heddon Greta in the Northern NSW Championships, this time back in the Supercharged Mini. After finishing 2nd in both his heats he encountered engine trouble and failed to take his place in the field, meaning for the first time during this hectic period he picked up no prizemaoney. So in 8 meetings during January and February 1977 Brian Burrell won a total of $1300. Not too shabby for 1977.
Action during the 1977 USA v  Aust tests.

So now to the dreaded expense side of the ledger. To start with, Brian's cars were always immaculate. His father and mechanic Carr Burrell was almost obsessive about his cars and even carried a tube of Glow Polish and a rag in his pocket at  all times so it's no surprise the bulk of the costs went on painting and signwriting expenses. Here's a rundown.

Painting, Signwriting and Panel Repairs (Silver Mini):              $140.00
Painting and Signwriting (Blue Mini):                                       $25.00
Sunnyside Smash Repairs:                                                      $50.00
Tyres for both Minis                                                               $138.00
Dyno Tune and Head repairs at Precision Auto Conversions:   $56.00
Radiator Repairs and Brake Shoes:                                         $45.00
General Bolts and hoses:                                                         $13.90
1 night accommodation at Goulburn (2 rooms):                        $61.00

For a Grand Total of                                                              $528.90

So there you have it. A total profit of $771.10 after 8 meetings at 3 tracks in 2 months. He also sold one of his race engines for $1200.00 on top of his prizemoney earned. Plus a whole heap of fun and memories for all of us members of the family that have endured. Oh of course and some nice trophys that to this day sit in the shed overlooking the stable of Mini's he's collected over the years. I hope everyone found this interesting and stirs up memories of your own from a golden era of Speedway in NSW...

Another victory for the mighty Brick.

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