Looking back at Longford
The Longford Circuit was a temporary motor racing course laid out on public roads at Longford, 23 kilometres south-west of Launceston in Tasmania, Australia.
The race circuit was located on the northern edges of the town and its 4.5-mile (seven-kilometre) lap passed under a railway line viaduct, crossed the South Esk River via the wooden Kings Bridge, turned hard right at the doorstep of the Longford Hotel, passed over the railway line using a level crossing and traversed the South Esk again via another wooden structure, the Long Bridge.
The circuit was in use from 1953 to 1968 and the Australian Grand Prix was staged there in 1959 and 1965. Longford hosted a round of the Tasman Series each year from 1964 to 1968.
It was also the venue for the single race, 1962 Australian Touring Car Championship and was the longest circuit ever used in the ATCC.
Also held at Longford were the Australian Tourist Trophy in 1960, 1964 and 1966, and a round of the Australian Drivers’ Championship each year from 1958 to 1965.
The start of the Australian Tourist Trophy for sportscars, 1964: Pit Straight with Frank Gardner’s Alec Mildren owned Lotus 23 Ford leading from Bib Stillwell’s Cooper Monaco, Frank Matich in the Total owned Lotus 19B Climax and Bob Jane’s Jaguar E-type.
In the mid-Sixties, Tasmania claimed to provide ‘the best that motor racing can provide’ at Longford, but its use as a motor racing venue was curtailed due to financial issues, following the running of the 1968 Tasman Series meeting.
Drivers who raced at Longford read as a ‘who’s who’ of 1960s motor racing. The list includes world champions Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Phil Hill, Denny Hulme, Jackie Stewart, Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon.
Australian open wheel and touring car stars Bib Stilwell, Lex Davison, Leo Geoghegan, Frank Matich, Frank Gardner, Spencer Martin, Kevin Bartlett, John Harvey, Ian Geoghegan, Norm Beechey, Bob Jane and Allan Moffat also raced at the circuit.
The outright lap record of 2:12.6, at an average lap speed of 122.2mph (196.62 km/h), was set by New Zealand’s Chris Amon in a Ferrari P4 sports car at the final meeting. It was the fastest lap speed for any Australian motor racing circuit and remained so until the opening of the Calder Park Thunderdome in Melbourne in 1987.
Purists discount that venue, because unlike the Longford road circuit, the Thunderdome was a 1.8-kilometre, banked oval speedway.
Longford Circuit in 1968 – Graham Hill’s BRM P261 leading Jim Clark’s Lotus 49 Climax, Amon Ferrari’s Dino 246T, Frank Gardner’s Brabham Alfa BT23D, Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco, Richard Attwood’s BRM P126, Kevin Bartlett’s Brabham BT11A Climax and Pedro Rodriguez’s BRM P126.
Longford remained Australia’s fastest road racing circuit until the Formula One series moved to the new Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit in Melbourne in 1996.
The remains of the Viaduct corner where the circuit crossed underneath a railway
There is little left of the original track, as the two bridges have long been demolished and a highway now intersects the network of roads on which the circuit was laid out.
The viaduct, today.
Motor sport returned to Longford in 2011 with the first running of the Longford Revival Festival which took place on Pateena Road (The Flying Mile). There, drivers got to run their road cars and historic race cars, down The Flying Mile.
Tasmania’s Department of Film Production produced the above short film that provides quite a lot of entertainment and plenty of names for the hardcore 60s racing enthusiast.
There’s a ride along the track, saloon racing, motorcycle action and open wheelers providing the capstone to the weekend.