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The Great Race’s first winner Frank Coad remembers a rough, hand-laid track, and a car that dealt with it


The Bathurst 1000 is arguably Australia’s most famous race, the equivalent of the footy grand final for rev heads.

The smell of high octane fuel, burning rubber, and the sound of the supercars screaming past continues to draw thousands of spectators back to the Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst, Victoria, every year.

But the epic supercar race Australians have come to know and love looked very different when the first cars crossed the start line back in 1960.

For the first two years, not only did the race have a different name, but it was held in a different state.

Frank Coad and his co-driver John Roxburgh were the first winners of The Great Race, then named the Armstrong 500 and held on Phillip Island in Victoria.

While Mr Roxburgh sadly passed in 1993, Mr Coad is 90 years old and living in a retirement home in Bendigo, Victoria, with his wife Zena.

An older man wearing a hat and glasses standing in between two women.
1960 Armstrong 500 winner Frank Coad with his two daughters Susan Owen, left, and Julie Tyrrell.(Supplied: Susan Owen)

Preparation was key

He remembers the race as clearly now as it happened, 60 years ago.

“We felt pretty confident,” he said.

“John Roxburgh was my co-driver, he started off the race, he did 40 something laps, then I took over and did 40 odd laps, then he took over another 40, then I finished off the race.

“A fortnight beforehand we’d done a full 500 mile under race conditions.”

The car they won the race in was a Vauxhall Cresta, a six-cylinder sedan.

It certainly was not the race favourite.

But as Mr Coad will attest, it was all about preparation.

“We’d put in about three or four months of work getting ready for it,” he said.

“We had the car so finely tuned.”

He said the car clocked 98 miles an hour at race day, the equivalent of about 157kph.

“We had it sewn up pretty much after the first pit stop,” he said.

A black and white photo of the Vauxhall Cresta during the race at the 1960 Armstrong 500.
Frank Coad’s Vauxhall Cresta at Phillip Island during the 1960 Armstrong 500.(Supplied: Susan Owen)

Mr Coad said the drivers, brothers David and John Youl, brought the car over from Tasmania and did not know enough about the Phillip Island grand prix circuit — hand-laid using buckets of cold mix bitumen.

“We’d done all our preparation, we knew how far we could go on our front tyres without any troubles, and they didn’t.

“They went through the first pit stop and they carried on with the original tyres hoping they’d get another run out of them.

“But it didn’t happen.

“A tyre blew, they turned it over and wrecked it.”

The rough track was the reason the race was moved, as the bridge access to Phillip Island made it difficult to get the right equipment in to fix it.

Five men stand in front of cars.
Phillip Island legends Craig Lowndes, Peter Brock, Frank Coad, Russell Ingall and Mark Skaife meet in 2002.(Supplied: Susan Owen)

Mr Coad said he tuned in to watch Bathurst every year, but it was not the same race he remembered.

“That disappeared by about 1964.

“It’s all changed, it has done over the years — as everything does.”

Racing was ‘bad business’

Mr Coad said General Motors, the parent company of the Vauxhall brand, considered racing “bad business” and didn’t want the Melbourne Vauxhall dealership to be involved in the race.

“They weren’t into motor racing in those days,” he said.

A man and a woman stand wearing sunglasses in front of a car in a black and white photo from the 1960s
Frank Coad said his wife Zena Coad was a great supporter of his career and a fantastic passenger.(Supplied: Susan Owen)

He said when the Melbourne Vauxhall dealership opened after the race, the demand for the Cresta model went through the roof.

“They didn’t want to buy a Velox, they wanted to buy a Cresta and they couldn’t get enough Crestas to sell,” Mr Coad said.

He said the prize money for first place was a far cry from the amount the Bathurst 1000 winner would take home today.

“I was married with three little children. My wife was nursing a six-week-old baby when I won it,” he said.

Reviving history

Mr Coad’s daughter Susan Owen lives in Kalgoorlie-Boulder in WA’s Goldfields region.

She reached out to the ABC after hearing an off-the-cuff comment about the upcoming Bathurst 1000 race on local radio.

Ms Owen said she wanted Australia to hear her father’s story.

“A lot of people don’t know The Great Race started in Phillip Island and that’s the sad part, I suppose,” she said.

Since being stuck in lockdown, Mr Coad has not been able to get behind the wheel, but he still loves to drive.

“I drive around in a 1995 Holden ute today, but it’s done 430,000 kilometres,” he said.

He said he had always driven fast, and racing is in his blood.

He said there was only one thing holding him back.

“There’s too many police around,” he said.

Watch Brock: Over The Top at 8:30pm on Tuesday, November 3, on ABC TV+iview



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Western Bulldogs beat Sydney Swans by 28 points as AFL remembers John Kennedy Sr


Marcus Bontempelli has marched his undermanned Western Bulldogs to an impressive 28-point win over Sydney at the SCG, where both sides paid tribute to AFL Legend John Kennedy senior.

Bontempelli’s dominant second term helped the Bulldogs — coming off a six-day break and down to two men on the bench after injuries to Sam Lloyd and Aaron Naughton — prevail 10.7 (67) to 5.9 (39).

The Swans and Bulldogs observed a minute’s silence prior to the match in honour of Kennedy, who died on Thursday morning.

Of the various ways that Swans captain Josh Kennedy imagined his 250th match might unfold, none involved mourning the death of his beloved grandfather.

Kennedy has built a decorated career on shrugging his shoulders and getting on with the task at hand, but rarely has that challenge been so immense.

Yet the hulking midfielder lifted in the third quarter as the Swans seized momentum and threatened to stage an epic comeback, while his captain’s goal early in the final term cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 20 points.

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The visitors responded in style, ramping up their pressure to create a couple of turnovers before Jack Macrae soccered a settler and sapped Sydney’s morale.

The Swans’ tally of 1.3 (9) is their lowest half-time score since 1997 and lowest ever at the SCG.

Part of that ignominy can be attributed to shortened quarters, but not all of it on a night when small forward Tom Papley booted four of his side’s five goals.

In sharp contrast it was the first time this stop-start season that Luke Beveridge’s team broke through the 60-point barrier, while their tackling and relentless pressure in the second half was particularly notable given they were down on rotations.

Key forward Naughton booted a goal then created another with an intercept mark, only to injure his ankle late in the first quarter and play no further part in the contest.

A Western Bulldogs AFL player kicks the ball with his left foot as a Sydney Swans opponents dives in the air to smother.
The Bulldogs were out of reach for the Swans throughout the match.(AAP: Brendon Thorne)

Lloyd also failed to return to the fray after falling heavily on his shoulder in the third term.

Swans young gun Callum Mills was asked to curb the influence of Bontempelli after half-time and did a reasonable job of tagging the Bulldogs skipper.

But Bontempelli did plenty of damage when the game was up for grabs in the opening half, booting two goals and tallying 12 touches and four clearances.

Bontempelli also fittingly helped generate the all-important first clearance of the final term, leading to a goal for Rhylee West.

Ruckman Tim English, who played arguably his best match for the Bulldogs, Macrae and Bailey Dale were also among the visitors’ best.

Macrae was reported for a sloppy spoil on Robbie Fox late in the third quarter.

AAP



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Local News - Victoria

A year after Courtney’s death, mother remembers her ‘little girl’


As extended family gathered around the tombstone in the autumn sun, Maxie wept.

“My little girl. I can’t believe it’s today,” she said.

Courtney Herron was buried beside her grandfather.

Courtney Herron was buried beside her grandfather. Credit:Jason South

Maxie said the beautiful weather was a sign that Courtney and her Pappou are together and are happy. Also present at the service were Courtney’s grandmother and younger brother and sister.

Courtney, who was raised in Melbourne’s northern suburbs in a Greek-Australian family, was found dead behind logs at Royal Park in Parkville on the morning of May 25. Police said at the time that Ms Herron had been the victim of a “horrendous bashing”.

Henry Hammond, 27, pleaded not guilty to the murder in December and the case will now continue in the Supreme Court.

It is one year since detectives from the homicide squad knocked on Maxie’s door to let her know her daughter’s body had been found.

Courtney Herron with her mother  Maxie.

Courtney Herron with her mother Maxie.

“I saw them walking in, in plain clothes, and I knew. My first words were: ‘The girl in the park. It’s Courtney, isn’t it?’ And they asked me to sit down.”

“I just don’t want her to be forgotten and I want justice to be done for her. And I will keep fighting until that happens,” she said.

“I will always remember the words of homicide squad Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper that Courtney had died in a ‘horrendous bashing’ and was a ‘vulnerable’ person who was failed by the society who should have protected her.

“I pray and hope that justice is served.

Courtney Herron's family and friends at a memorial service marking one year since her death.

Courtney Herron’s family and friends at a memorial service marking one year since her death. Credit:Jason South

“May Courtney rest in paradise, eternally safe with her Papouli.”

The past year has been “horrendous”, she said.

“The manner in which she died is just so horrendous … nothing prepares you for going through it,” she said.

“I feel like I’ve just been treading water … it’s really taking it’s toll on me.”

Courtney Herron's mother Maxie at the vigil for her daughter last year.

Courtney Herron’s mother Maxie at the vigil for her daughter last year. Credit:Eddie Jim

“I will not stop fighting for her. Courtney will never be forgotten.”

Ms Herron was farewelled during a funeral in June at a Greek Orthodox church in Melbourne’s north-west.

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