BOOK REVIEW: LCCA history, by Bob Watson
Written by Jeff Whitten
Tuesday, 14 December 2010
PHILLIP ISLAND TO FANGIO
by Bob Watson
You’d have to ask why a person who spent most of his life competing in car trials and rallies, and who took out the Australian Rally Championship in 1970, would want to write a history of a car club.
But author Bob Watson has obviously had a long and enduring relationship with Victoria’s now-defunct Light Car Club of Australia and saw the need for its history to be told before any more of its long serving members passed away, taking those unrecorded chunks of history with them.
To his credit, Watson has done a remarkable job in recounting the ups and downs of one of the most active and most recognised car clubs in Australia.
The LCCA was at the forefront of motorsport in Victoria, over its golden years organising such major events as the first Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island in 1928, organised motor racing at Albert Park, initiated the Armstrong 500 (later to become the Bathurst 1000), ran motor races at Sandown, started the Rob Roy hillclimb and brought a new form of motorsport, trials and rallies to the public through events such as the Alpine Rally, the Experts Trial and the BP Rally.
It was a club that ran some groundbreaking events, pioneered (in conjunction with the RACV and, later, the Victorian Sporting Car Club, many road and circuit events, and boasted a headquarters at 46 Queens Road, Melbourne, that was the envy of all.
Yet it is ironic that a club that was so heavily involved in motorsport and in particular, motor racing, succumbed to the financial losses caused by that same motor racing, that eventually caused its downfall.
The LCCA had, over the years, been a prosperous club whose membership list boasted well over a thousand members but began the slippery slide into bankruptcy with the running of the World Sports Car Championship on two occasions, costly disputes with the Victorian Turf Club who had control of the Sandown circuit, and expensive track upgrades to enable it to stage Formula 1 races.
Some questionable decisions by the club’s committee and its employees eventually brought the club to its knees. When the administrators were called in in 1992, the LCCA was unceremoniously wound up.
As Watson records: “A final gloomy gathering of members occurred on Friday, March 6, 1992 for a wake. There was no celebration of the fine traditions of the once-mighty club, only sadness that it had gone”.
Bob Watson has woven an enjoyable read not only from recollections of those who were involved in the club through the years, but from his own research and observations as a former member. Of interest to this reviewer are the chapters on the very early days of motorsport in Australia and the chapters on the LCCA’s involvement in the Alpine Rally, the BP Rally of South Eastern Australia and the Experts Trial.
The rich history that is depicted in the book will be of interest to anyone old enough to remember the ‘good old days’ when the Light Car Club was the pre-eminent car club in the country.
The book comprises 300 pages, illustrated with hundreds of photos and copies of posters, plus several appendix’ listing the office bearers, club champions, life members and so on. It’s a book this reviewer found hard to put down – 50 short chapters make for easy reading.
Bob Watson deserves to be congratulated for recording the important milestones in the LCCA’s history and which have now been saved for posterity.
“Phillip Island to Fangio” – The History of the Light Car Club of Australia sells for $40and is available from the RallySport Magazine online store.