The North Eastern Car Club will this month celebrate a remarkable achievement – its 60th year of continuous operation, as long as CAMS itself. Formed in Wangaratta on March 10, 1953, the club has enjoyed sixty years of motor racing and car rallies, and today is as strong as ever. A gathering of current and past members will be held early in April where some of the hundreds of people who have been part of the club will get together to celebrate this momentous occasion.
The North Eastern Car Club was formed to foster motor racing in the area and quickly built a race track on the old Wangaratta aerodrome on the corner of Greta Road and Mason Streets for its members to race on. With the co-operation of the Wangaratta City Council who loaned their equipment to grade a track, the first meeting was held on the day of Queen Elizabeth 11’s coronation, 31 May, 1953, and attracted a healthy field of racing cars and motorcycles. New club president, Bill Higgins (then proprietor of the Wangaratta Chronicle Despatch newspaper) won a 4 lap handicap in his Jaguar SS100.
Racing at the air strip continued for a further four years but the area was badly drained and even light rain made the track almost unusable so another more suitable venue was sought. A portion of land was acquired at the Tarrawingee Recreation Reserve, 11km east of Wangaratta, and members set to to build a new one and a quarter mile (2 kilometres) track using volunteer labour.
The new venue was hugely popular and at one meeting more than 7000 spectators were on hand to watch the 23-event program, which was an Australian record for the number of races held on one day. Sixteen race meetings (two per year, in April and November) were held by which time those same volunteers had become worn out from the continual maintenance that was required on the track. When the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport insisted that safety at the track be upgraded, it was the final straw for the club and the last race meeting was held in 1965. By then there were other motor racing circuits springing up in the district, namely Hume Weir and Winton, and the North Eastern Car Club found it difficult to compete against their better tracks and greater resources.
The club’s interest then turned to car trials and rallies, an interest which continues to the present day, making use of the expertise that was gained in running so many successful race meetings. Not only has the club run many state championship events but in 1976 and ’77 it successfully held rounds of the Australian Rally Championship which received lavish praise by competitors. Over recent years the club has actively promoted its Driver Awareness Program, a program designed to equip young people from 12 to 18 years of age with basic driving skills under safe and controlled conditions.
The club is appealing to the general public for period photos of the Wangaratta Aerodrome and Tarrawingee race circuits or any other memorabilia which they may have in their possession and club secretary Jeff Whitten can be contacted on (03) 5722 1250 or email@example.com
Current and past members of the club who would like to be part of the celebrations on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 April are invited to contact club on the numbers shown above.