Australian Championships

Australian Championships

From Scrambling to Motocross

chapter 2: australian championshipS
From Scrambling to Motocross - 1946 Harley Scramble – Les Clinton (56) and Rube Muralls (56)

Photo: Les Clinton (56) and Rube Muralls (56) at the 1946 Harley Scramble at the Rope Works Circuit in Perth WA.  The 1955 Australian Championships were held at this circuit and adopted  the TT start format with pairs starting at 10-second intervals, with each competitor being allotted his own clock.

The inaugural Australian Scrambles Championship

Just a year after the first European Motocross Championship was held in 1952, Australia held its first National Championships the following year in the small town of Korweinguboora, in the Wombat State Forest near Daylesford in Victoria.

The championships have been held ever since.

From the beginning the Australian Motocross Championships were held over one weekend – hosted in a different state each year. In the early years titles were held for the 125cc, 250cc, 350cc, 500cc, Unlimited, and sidecars (500cc and 1000cc classes).

In those days the bikes were road bikes, including 1000cc Harley Davidsons, with the only modification being the tyres. Suspension was practically non-existent in the 1930s, with minimal movement from the front girder forks and rigid rear ends being standard.

The sport was known as ‘Scrambles’ then, the circuits were big, and riders would cover over 50 kilometers for each class over two legs. 

But over the years the bikes were tailor made for the sport, becoming lighter, faster and featuring proper suspension to absorb the bumps on a motocross circuit.

During the fifties, the format of the Australian Championships was inconsistent – left up to the hosting State.

The first two Australian Championships in 1953 and 1954 in Victoria and Sheidow Park, South Australia were races with all competitors starting together, as is today.

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TT style races at the 1955 Australian Championships

In 1955, when Western Australia was the state host for the National championships, Australian scrambling returned to its birthplace – the Rope Works circuit in Mosman Park, Perth and they were combined with the annual Harley Scramble.

The Championship covered identical ground to that first broken by Aub Melrose in 1927/28, when he established the Harley Scramble. And the starts reflected Melrose’s TT background with riders starting in pairs at 10-second intervals, with each competitor being allotted his own clock.

The supplementary regulations described the course (as such): “…will consist of a circuit of approximately 2.5 miles of cross-country terrain consisting of limestone quarries and sand tracks, both loose and firm and normally dry, with a number of steep ascents and descents”.

“The total distance will be approximately 60 miles (97 kms), to be covered ten laps in the morning section and fourteen laps in the afternoon section. An aggregate of these times will determine the placings.” 

Les Sheehan leads Peter Nicol in the 1955 Australian Championships at  the Rope Works circuit in Mosman Park, Perth (WA). Nicol went on to win both the Unlimited (All Powers) and 350cc classes, plus the Harley Scramble

1955 Australian Championships- Les Sheehan leads Peter Nicol at the Rope Works circuit in WA
Ken Rumble at the 1953 Australian Championships in Korweinguboora, Victoria

Ken Rumble  (VIC) won the 250, 350 and Unlimited classes at the  inaugural 1953 Australian Championships in Korweinguboora, Victoria

From Scrambling to Motocross - 1955 Peter Nicol wins Australian Championship

Peter Nicol  (WA) takes the chequered flag at the 1955 Australian Championships at the Rope Works to win the Unlimited and 350cc classes

Harley Scramble The Rope Works Mosman Park WA

The 4km Rope Works circuit consisted of limestone quarries, sand tracks, steep ascents and descents and  riders covered  24 laps (97kms) at the event

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1959 Bill Watson, winner of the Goldfields Open

Goldfields rider Bill Watson would ride 1,200 kms from Kalgoorlie to Perth for scramble events, racing on the same B.S.A. machine

The regulations stated that “All machines must be covered by a current Third-Party Insurance policy” and “Entrants are instructed that their machines must comply with all Traffic regulations if ridden to and from the course.”

Championships were awarded for all classes contesting the the two races, which lasted more than two hours. No Championships were held for sidecars that year.

Bill Watson, who placed second in the 500cc class and third in the 350cc and Unlimited (All Powers) twice rode his B.S.A. machine from his home in Kalgoorlie to the Rope Works circuit.

The journey was a 1,200 kilometre return trip with Bill riding through the night to make sure he was on time for work on Monday morning.

Incredibly, in 2021, Bill Watson is still racing motocross – in his nineties.

From Scrambles to Motocross

Click ON IMAGES below to view other chapters

Chapter 1
The British invention
down under

Chapter 2
Australian Motocross Championships

Chapter 3
Australian Championship format

Chapter 4
The Great Australian Motocross Jumper War

Chapter 5
Australian motocross on the world stage

Chapter 6
Australian International Pioneers

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Australian Motocross History