|For eighteen years, the Castrol Six Hour Race was the biggest single event on the Australian motorcycling calendar. The race was for motorcycles in absolutely standard production trim, with no modifications whatsoever allowed — a genuine 'Showroom Shootout".
From the time that the committee of the powerful Willoughby District Motor Cycle Club coined the idea for the event, Castrol backed it. Initially the race was officially known as the Castrol 1000, as it carried $1,000 prizemoney for the winning team — an unprecedented figure for motorcycle racing in Australia. However the race's duration — six hours
— would become the term by which it was universally recognised, and by the time the second event was run in October 1971, the Castrol Six Hour Production Race was the official title.
What made it so significant was that the inception of the event coincided with the biggest sales boom in motorcycle history, and that television discovered the event and turned it into a major sporting attraction in its own right. Throughout the race's history, Channel Seven and later ABC Television broadcast the event live to a national audience. Castrol also used the race to launch GTX, the brand that lubricated the majority of the field for many years.
The Castrol Six Hour Race was always run before a huge crowd, at Amaroo Park 1970-1983 and at Oran Park 1984-87. Commercial interest, from sponsors within and outside the motorcycle trade, was unprecedented. Many of the high-performance tyres fitted to motorcycles even today were originally developed in the Castrol Six Hour Race.
Some of the stars of the Castrol Six Hour Race went on to much greater things — notably Wayne Gardner, winner in 1980 and 1982 and later the 500cc World Champion, Mick Doohan, five times 500cc World Champion, and Grand Prix stars like Kevin Magee. Numerous international competitors raced in the Six Hour, most notably 9-times World Champion Mike Hailwood, and Grand Prix winners Mick Grant and John Kocinski.
Castrol Six-Hour Book Review( by Don Cox)
The Castrol Six Hour Production Race. A complete history 1970-1987. Researched and written by Jim Scaysbrook.
Twenty one years after the Castrol Six-Hour Production Race ran for the last time, comes an insider’s history of the event. Author Jim Scaysbrook was a member of organising club the Willoughby District Motorcycle Club and raced in the event.
And what an event it was for 18 years. A race with most of the country’s top racers, riding Production motorcycles. And it was on national television each year from 1971. .
Three-times winner Michael Dowson first saw the Six Hour as a young racer in the late 1970s, across the other side of the country in Bunbury. Seeing the race on “the box” made guys like Dowson, 4000km away in WA, and 1983 winner Rod Cox up in Tamworth working as an apprentice bike mechanic, want to be part of the event.
This book helps recall the Six Hour’s scale and influence. Big prizemoney, huge motorcycle trade input, live television, the “win on Sunday sell on Monday” effect and one major sponsor for its entire life. In the second half of the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s, the ability to hustle a big production motorcycle around the confines of Amaroo Park helped determine who rode for major domestic race teams.
The event dominated discussion among motorcyclists for months each year. There was always plenty of fodder – including the disqualification of Joe Eastmure’s 315 Suzuki in 1972, officials pulling the keys from the Gregg Hansford/Warren Willing Kawasaki H2 in 1974 and the BMW disqualification the same year, John Warrian’s brave Ducati solo ride in 1975, the overall result in 1980 and the 1984 race finishing 90 seconds early.
The race was full of heroic victors and men who seemed cursed never to win it. The second category included Warren Willing, Len Willing, Tony Hatton and John Warrian. Sadly, so many faces of the race are no longer around to tell the tales – Ron Toombs, Bryan Hindle, Kenny Blake, Mike Hailwood, Gregg Hansford, Dave Burgess, Jim Budd, Alan Hales and Neville Hiscock to name nine, including seven outright winners.
Author Jim Scaysbrook spent ten years on and off acquiring the pictures and doing the text, including access to the Willoughby District Motorcycle Club archives. It could almost be called the official history of the race – first because Castrol’s John Vevers suggested Scaysbrook write it and second for the insight into how the WDMCC organised the race.
Speaking of the pictures, the cover is a Rob Lewis’ gem from 1978, with Kenny Blake leading a bunch up Bitupave Hill. The back cover shows Michael Dowson right on the hammer of Wayne Gardner in 1984.
As Scaysbrook notes in the dust cover notes: “Let’s face it, who led on what lap is now largely irrelevant, but the photos bring back all the memories”.
There’s a full entry list (as per program rather than the actual race starters) and full results for each year, in addition to the story of each race – told in similar length to a bike magazine feature story.
The text also harks back to the two 24-Hour races run at Mt Druitt in the 1950s and the development of production racing.