HISTORY ON WHEELS: The 1957 Sabakat Lotus 12 making its first appearance on track.
HISTORY ON WHEELS: The 1957 Sabakat Lotus 12 making its first appearance on track. PETER BARNETT

State's top motorsport event revs up history

IF you can imagine racing through the streets in a 1967 McLaren M1B Can-am sports car, you need to get yourself to Leyburn this August 18-19 for the Historic Leyburn Sprints.

Spectators have the chance to win a ride in the car which boasts a 730HP V8 engine, driving a low-slung two-seater that weighs just 750kg.

One of only a handful made, this extremely valuable car only recently arrived in Australia and is making its first appearance on track.

"The McLaren was the fastest and most successful sports car of its day," said Sprints spokesman Chris Nixon.

"It's so fast that the driver, Brett Curran, from Toowoomba, thinks he might not get it out of first gear around the 1km Leyburn course!" Chris laughed.

The event, which was awarded the Queensland Motor Sport Event of the Year in February, against major events such as the V8 Supercars, will again see more than 200 historic, classic and performance cars competing in time trials around the closed streets of Leyburn for a crowd of up to 1500 spectators.

This year's other star attractions include a 1933 Aston Martin Le Mans car, making its debut in Australia, alongside Mike Gosbell's Lotus 12 (Sabakat), the model that launched the British manufacturer into Formula 1 racing in 1957, and has quite a local history.

Toowoomba pilot Ernie Tadgell is said to have bought the car in Europe and shipped it home disassembled inside the fuselage of a crop-dusting plane, to be rebuilt in Australia as the Sabakat (to avoid interest from customs officials).

While the original car, which had later been refitted with a massive 16-cylinder aircraft engine, overturned and burned to the ground at the Australian GP at Lowood in 1960, it was recreated from remnants and reappeared in 1979.

The title of the oldest Australian Grand Prix contender, however, still goes to Colin Schiller's 1939 MG TB, which ran in the original 1949 Leyburn GP, which the Sprints commemorate.

A journalist, Chris has about 60 years of involvement in cars and motorsport behind him, including World Rally and V8s, but said there is something special about Leyburn.

"I love the friendly atmosphere ... but particularly I enjoy the eclectic array of cars that turn up to compete and be shown," Chris said.

"This year we've got everything from a 1925 Austin to some of the most recent Porsches, but no competitor considers themselves to be any better than the other, regardless of the vehicle they own."

Chris has been part of the Sprints for over 10 of its 23 years, and said winning the CAMS Queensland Event of the Year was "a magnificent tribute".

"Leyburn is a wonderful grassroots motorsport event that never tries too hard to be flashy, but every year turns on a well organised and spectacular event where everyone - competitor or spectator - enjoys themselves," he said.

The event, which also includes a Show 'n' Shine, vintage caravans, markets and other attractions, runs from 6.30am August 18 until 5pm August 19, with entry from $20-$30.

Find out more at www.historicleyburnsprints.com.au.

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