It was to be expected that, after Reg Shepheard made the
announcement that the Redex Trials were a thing of the past, another sponsor
would step up to the plate.
But in the case of the Around Australia Trial's,
two competitive oil companies jockeyed for position. The subsequent brouhaha
would result in two separate trials being held in 1956 and, over time,
lead to the cancellation of all long distance rallies for some six years.
the centre of the controversy were CAMS (the Confederation of Australian
Motor Sport), a body that had acquired the authority to run motor sport
in Australia from the British Royal Automobile Club.
All seemed to be going
well when the Australian Sporting Car Club, responsible for the organization
of the first three Redex trials, applied for and received CAMS permission
to run a two week around Australia trial.
With Redex’s withdrawal
of sponsorship for the event, the Australian-owned oil company Ampol quickly
offered to step in and ensure the event would continue.
But CAMS had already
given permission to competitor Vacuum (Mobil) to stage the event. Problem
was, approval had been given to Mobil seemingly long before Redex had made
the official announcement of their withdrawal. Most smelt a rat, and many
car clubs alleged that CAMS had acted without due authority given no consultation
had taken place with either the States or the Car Clubs.
So enraged were
the New South Wales Clubs that they threatened to write to the Royal Automobile
Club asking them to separate the charter to control motor sport in that
state. Don Thompson, then head of CAMS, reacted by declaring the NSW branch
of CAMS non persona grata, and then disqualifying all the rebel clubs.
The rebel clubs formed the CCMC, or Council of Combined Motor Clubs, in
opposition to CAMS. Their first announcement was to declare their holding
of a non-sanctioned around-Australia trial in opposition to the CAMS approved
Mobilgas event, naturally with Ampol as the sponsor.
Both oil companies had spent thousands on promotion, and
neither wanted to back down and write off their investment. CAMS threatened
to revoke the license of any competitor that took part in the Ampol event,
then moved their event forward to August 4 to attempt to get a head start
on the publicity. Ampol simply moved their event forward to July 15.
events were similar, but not identical, in the route chosen. Covering 6500
miles (10,460 km) over 14 days, the Ampol event would encompass Sydney,
Melbourne, Mt. Gambier, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Mt. Isa,
Cairns, Townsville, Brisbane then back to Sydney. In contrast, the Mobilgas
event covered an even greater 8500 miles (13,680 km) over 15 days, going
completely around Australia (although by-passing Darwin and meeting up
with the east coast at Rockhampton).
The Ampol event was pretty much open
to all comers, the age of driver or car not being an issue. By contrast
the Mobilgas event excluded any models manufactured prior to 1950, and
allowed only very minor modification from stock standard configuration.
No doubt the heads of Mobilgas would not have anticipated the pulling power
of a Sydney grandmother and her 1927 Rolls Royce.
But the upshot of all
this squabbling was that the privateer teams were finding it increasingly
more difficult to raise sponsorship dollars to help allow them to compete.
CAMS threatened to look “unfavorably” on
manufacturers that took part in the Ampol event, and with no clear direction
on which event to back, many potential sponsors simply chose to keep their
money in their wallet.
Some Redex stalwarts chose to enter both events,
drivers such as Ken Tubman, Jack Murray and Peter Antill. Others, such
as Eddie Perkins, erred on the side of caution and only entered the Mobilgas
The prize money on offer was increased, although inevitably the “sanctioned” Mobilgas
event attracted more of the loot, along with some of the top crews, factory
support and publicity. It was no longer simply a challenge between competitors,
but a challenge between two major motoring events.
On the 2nd of August, just three days after the Ampol trial had finished and
two days before the Mobilgas event was to commence, the National Control Council
of CAMS preferred charges against 32 CAMS licence holders for breaching the
National Competition Rules (as they had taken part in the Ampol trial without
a CAMS permit).
Part of their bulletin, when referring to the Ampol trial,
read "...it was marred by the death of two crew members, from which tragic
occurence much publicity, adverse to properly organised motor sports, resulted
in the press and at least three State Parliaments". Despite the appaling lack
of sensitivity displayed, CAMS proceeded to suspend some of the countries greatest
drivers, such as Jack Murray, Perer Antill, Ron Dunbier, Ron Christie and Duck
Anderson, each receiving a 2 year suspension. Alex Strachan and Miss L. Morgan,
both office bearers of the CMCC, each received a 5 year suspension.
Others would follow, as CAMS were determined to make any who had taken part
in the Ampol trial pay a heavy price. Quoting again from the CAMS bulletin
"...As the organisers of the Ampol Trial were careful not to issue detailed
lists of crews, some licence-holders who competed may have temporarily been
missed. They will be charged as and when their names become known to CAMS".