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 Introduction to Track Racing  -  What's a Wheelrace?  - Introduction to Six Day racing  - UCI codes

106th Austral Wheelrace - IM

Vodafone Arena, Melbourne, Australia, February 7, 2004

Results     Past winners

History of the Austral Wheel Race

Courtesy Cyclists International

In 1887, the Melbourne Bicycle Club, then the oldest cycling club in Australia, organised the first ever "Austral". The race was run over a distance of 2 miles (3200 metres) and was held on the grass at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Other Melbourne venues to host the "Austral" have been the three Exhibition Building tracks. At first on the asphalt oval and then on the indoor track in 1912 & 1913 followed by three events on the outdoor board track that was eventually relocated to North Essendon in 1938.

The Olympic Park area had two Austral tracks, the concrete Motordrome and the 250m wooden Velodrome that replaced the 1956 Olympic 333 m. concrete velodrome. Since the late 70's the race has been held at various times on the Brunswick, Coburg and Northcote Velodromes.

The "Austral" has had an illustrious history. The inaugural event in 1887 had a first prize of a Walnut cabinet containing 152 pieces of silver and cutlery, valued at Two Hundred Pounds (Sterling).

The 1901 event gained notoriety when the American,"Plugger" Bill Martin won from scratch, amid cries from the Press of alleged race fixing involving the event promoter, the infamous Melbourne identity, John Wren.

The massive amount of 1050 Sovereigns was the allocated prize money for the 1902 event, the low point being in the late 1970's when only $1500 was on offer.

There was resurgence in 1982 when the prize money was lifted to $5000 plus sponsors products.

The present level of prize money has now exceeded $18,000 at recent stagings of this prestigious wheelrace.

Many famous names appear on the "Austral" honour roll. World Champions, Gordon Johnson (1973) and Steele Bishop (1982), both winning from scratch. Two of our past champions in Jack Fitzgerald (1922) from scratch and Tassie Johnson (1944) from 30 yards. The great Sid Patterson (1962 & 1964) and Laurie Venn (1979 & 1981) have both won the event twice from scratch.

Sir Hubert Opperman almost made it on to the honour roll, when he ran second to Eric Gibaud in 1925.

The perennial Tasmanian, Danny Clark has had three wins off the scratch mark, in 1977, 1986 and 1990. However, the record now belongs to the consistent Victorian all rounder, Stephen Pate with four victories, in 1988 from scratch, 1991 from minus 10 metres, 1993 from minus 20 metres and his most recent win, 1999 from scratch.

On February 12, 2000, the wheel race was held on an outdoor venue for the last time at Northcote. Gary Neiwand one of Australia's greatest sprinters, was liberally handicapped on 70 metres for the Millennium edition of the event, and won comfortably.

The 2001 event was the 103rd running of the 'Austral' and another milestone for the race was established when it was conducted indoors for the first time in 87 years on the new 250 metre, wooden velodrome at Vodafone Arena, Melbourne Park. The winner was Mark French off 80 metres.

The 2002 Austral was won by the Tasmanian trackman, Darren Young riding from scratch, who repeated his victory in 2003, the first time anyone has claimed back to back victories in this event.

Past winners

Year Name                    Handicap (m)
2003 Darren Young                Scr 
2002 Darren Young                Scr
2001 Mark French                  80
2000 Gary Neiwand                 70
1999 Stephen Pate                Scr
1998 Shane Hodskiss               75
1997 Matthew Atkins              100
1996 Troy Clarke                  45
1995 Tony Hughes                  80
1994 Ashley Harding              140
1993 Stephen Pate           Minus 20
1992 Bert Glennon                120
1991 Stephen Pate           Minus 10
1990 Danny Clark                 Scr
1989 Grant Reynolds              150
1988 Stephen Pate                Scr
1987 Simon King                  110
1986 Danny Clark                 Scr
1985 Allan Rackstraw              80
1984 Terry Schintler              80
1983 Phil. Sawyer                Scr
1982 Steele Bishop               Scr
1981 Laurie Venn                 Scr
1980 Daryl Benson                 90
1979 Laurie Venn                 Scr
1978 David Sanders                50
1977 Danny Clark                 Scr (Yards)
1976 David Allan                  70
1975 Craig Price                 130
1974 Ivan Collings                90
1973 Gordon Johnson              Scr
1972 Geoff Edmonds                20
1971 Frank Daly                  135
1970 Bill Stevens                 35
1969 Charlie Walsh                50
1968 Merv. Andrea                230 
1967 Vic Browne                   65
1966 Bill Dove                   150
1965 Kenton Smith                135
1964 Sid Patterson               Scr 
1963 Fred Hellyer                110
1962 Sid Patterson               Scr 
1961 Fred Roche                   40
1960 David Good                  100
1959 Vin Beasley                 100
1958 Neil Geraghty               100
1957 John Robertson              100
1956 Don Meharg                  130
1955 Ron Murray                  100
1954 Alan Geddes                 130
1953 Tom Fitzgerald              140
1952 Doug Jennings               120
1951 Kevin Marion                105
1950 Byron Bonney                120
1948 Bill Kirkham                120
1947 George Bull                 130
1946 Pat Devine                  120
1945 Tom Shillito                160
1944 Tas. Johnson                 30
1944 Norm Munro                   90
1942 Mick Bradley                160
1941 Ken Stewart                  60
1940 Norm Stevens                 20
1939 Clinton Beasley              90
1938 Jack Middleton              120
1937 Jack Gardiner               205
1936 Harry Webb                   70
1936 Keith Thurgood              100
1929 H. "Fatty" Lamb              30
1927 Cecil Hannerman             160
1927 Cecil Manners               245
1927 Bowie Stevens                70
1925 Eric Giboud                  60
1925 Frank Corry                 140
1923 Pidge Davis                 200
1923 Dick Ford                   120
1922 Jack Fitzgerald             Scr
1921 Lou Clifford                120
1920 Ern. Tamme                   50
1913 P.B. Henry                   60
1912 W. Priestly                  60
1910 Frank Corry                 140
1909 A. H. Piano                  40
1908 M. McPherson                150
1907 A.C. Colvin                  60
1906 Harry Thomas                 20
1905 J. Sandberg                 170
1904 Jack Clarke                 150
1903 Fred Scheps                 160
1902 Murray Auger                240
1901 Bill Martin                 Scr
1900 Charles Forbes               30
1899 Frank Beauchamp             150
1898 Tom Finnigan                220
1897 Jim Carpenter                85
1896 Charles Kellow               15
1895 A. Crisp                    250
1894 Alf Middleton               180
1893 Gordon Woodward             270
1892 H. Lambton                  200
1891 Arthur Turner               240
1890 Tom Busst                   Scr
1889 J. Mullins                  140
1888 Dick Davis                  Scr
1887 H. Lambton                  210

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