On this day in 1953, the first Australian Grand Prix was held at Albert Park. To celebrate the heritage of motor racing in the park, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation announced today that free entry will be given to all General Admission patrons on Thursday 14 March 2013.
As a result, day one of the 2013 Formula 1™ Australian Grand Prix has been renamed ‘Heritage Day’ for the occasion.
In addition to Heritage Day, a range of activities has been planned to celebrate the origins of what is globally recognized as one of the world’s best Grands Prix. The 2013 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix schedule will see the addition of a parade lap of historic cars travelling in a counter-clockwise direction around the Albert Park circuit.
This is the opposite direction to today’s Formula 1 race but mirrors how the race was staged in 1953. Historic garages and car displays will be have a distinct 1950s theme and there will be a special exhibition featuring cars, images and film from the 1953 archives.
Fifty thousand Melbourne residents were estimated to have attended the first Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in 1953. These days, the Australian Grand Prix attracts an estimated crowd of more than 300,000 patrons over the four-day event including more than 100,000 on main race day.
Albert Park hosted two further races – the 1956 Australian Grand Prix and the 1958 Melbourne Grand Prix – after which there was a long hiatus until the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix came home to Melbourne in 1996, almost forty years later.
Whilst much has changed in Albert Park over the past 60 years, clues to its early motorsports heritage still exist. Today’s world famous Albert Park circuit follows much of the original track layout, albeit the cars now travel in the opposite direction.
Happily, safety provisions have been significantly improved. In 1953 the only safety barriers were hay bales placed intermittently around the track. Spectators stood perilously close to the edge of the road, often spilling over the curb to get an even closer look at the action.
Lining up on the grid in 1953 were drivers whose names became synonymous with the sport. Sir Jack Brabham, who went on to become Australia’s first World Champion was on the entry list but did not start the race due to technical difficulties with his car. Meanwhile Stan Jones, the late father of 1980 Formula 1 World Champion Alan Jones, set the fastest lap time but had a podium finish snatched from him towards the end of the race when the clutch on his Maybach (pictured) gave up.
Alan Jones was present at the launch of “Heritage Day” today at Albert Park and to reminisce about watching his father race. He even took his father’s Maybach for a spin for the visiting press!
“I have very fond memories of watching my father race at Albert Park. He inspired me to become involved in the sport and to go on to achieve a World Championship title. But perhaps what I remember most vividly is rowing to Gunn Island in the middle of the lake while my dad was racing. I was with the sons of Bib Stillwell and Reg Hunt, who were also racing, and we treated it as a huge adventure,” said Jones.
“I’m genuinely delighted to see the heritage of motorsport in Albert Park being celebrated in this way. I hope people come from all around to Heritage Day and to take advantage of all the fun and excitement the event has to offer on and off the track.
Andrew Westacott, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, was equally thrilled to be able to share the history of the Australian Grand Prix with race goers this year.
“The Australian Grand Prix is firmly cemented as a major part of Australian sport and the amazing history behind the Albert Park circuit is something that should be celebrated,” said Westacott.
“We are thrilled to be able to open the gates on Thursday 14 March and to provide free entry to all general admission patrons to show them why the Australian Grand Prix is one of our country’s greatest sporting events,” said Westacott.
For more information on the 2013 Formula 1™ Australian Grand Prix, please go to www.grandprix.com.au.