Leyburn Loses its Motor Racing Hero
John Crouch, the winner of the first ever Australian Grand Prix held in Queensland back in 1949, will be remembered with a special commemoration during the 9th annual historic Leyburn Sprints on August 21 and 22.
The 84 year-old, who passed away on Sunday, was a pioneer of Australian motor racing and achieved his best ever result driving a Delahaye to victory on a circuit constructed from a disused World War 2 airstrip just outside the main township of Leyburn.
The Leyburn Sprints is a commemorative event of that famous day on September 18 1949, and Sprints committee chairman John Nitschke sends his heart felt sympathies to Crouch's family, saying the death of the motor racing icon has touched the tight knit community.
"John was invited along to the Leyburn Sprints just two years ago and was given a hero's welcome back to the scene of his greatest triumph," said Nitschke.
"He was pleased to be extended the invitation and along with third placegetter Arthur Rizzo were paraded around the one kilometre circuit, with John showing off his prized trophy from the '49 event.
"John and Arthur were honoured to be a part of the new celebration of motor racing in this region and both had plenty of stories to tell locals about their successes at Leyburn.
"I'm sure John would be proud of the way we've been able to harness what this event is all about and after attracting 18 000 people to Leyburn last year we are setting our sights even higher in 2004.
"We have a committee meeting next week where we will discuss an appropriate way to acknowledge a man so highly regarded for his achievements here 55 years ago."
Crouch, along with Frank Kleinig in a Hudson Special claimed the equal fastest lap time for the event around the 6.9 kilometre triangular circuit, clocking a time of two minutes, 52 seconds at an average speed of 145 kilometres per hour.
The one kilometre Leyburn Sprints course doesn't allow for those sorts of speeds to be achieved as it winds its way around the houses through the main township.
But the attraction the event does hold is based around a unique country setting enjoyed by Leyburn locals all year round, who are happy to extend a heartfelt welcome to visitors for this one special weekend of the year.
"The Leyburn Sprints has certainly evolved and is a celebration of what a small rural community was able to achieve in 1949, by hosting a major sporting event even before electricity was introduced to the region," added Nitschke.
"In some ways it is back-to-basics for a lot of people during the Leyburn Sprints.
"We usually have over 3000 people camping out on the Friday and Saturday nights and motor racing enthusiasts travel from all parts of Australia to enjoy this significant motoring event.
The Leyburn Sprints "Sprint Around the Houses" received a financial boost with $17,500 in funding provided under round six of the Queensland Events Regional Development Program.
The program is a State Government initiative designed to take unique and creative events to their full potential in order to increase local economic activity and development. Telstra Country Wide has partnered with the program, enabling additional events to receive funding assistance across the state.
Historic Leyburn Sprints -- August 21/22
The 9th annual historic Leyburn Sprints is a motor racing feature that sees the rural Darling Downs town explode from a population of about 150 to more than 18000, during two days of action packed entertainment. The event commemorates the 1949 running of the Australian Grand Prix around the Leyburn circuit. This was the first time the AGP was held in Queensland. The original Leyburn circuit was utilised up until 1955. Motoring enthusiasts will be treated to an array of sprint racing classes including open wheelers, and sports cars of various engine capacities during the 2004 event.