The Goondiwindi Motorsports Association is proud to celebrate 40 years of Off Road Racing at Goondiwindi.
Off Road Racing first came to Australia in 1968. In the first decade, apart from some ‘sand enduros’ which were held in a few states in Australia, all competition races were held in Victoria. In 1977 a single event in north west Victoria had nearly 750 competitors on bikes and in cars. So, in April 1977 at Hattah (Mildura) it was the talk of the Pits when word got out that there was to be a new event in ”Queensland” at Goondiwindi. It was to be known as the “BP Overlander 400”, a 400 kilometre race with a 3am. Start, which meant competitors had to fit lights to their vehicles, as this was the first night race in Australia, and to top it off…. have the biggest prize money ever. The joint promotion was between BP Australia, the Brisbane Sporting Car Club and Overlander Magazine. When the June issue of ‘Off Road’ came out, it was announced that the event at Goondiwindi was still going to happen, but it would be called, “BP OFF ROAD 400”.
John Chapman of Old Man Emu Equipt. had put up the contingency prize money and entered as a competitor in his debut race. Some of the southern racing fraternity in Victoria were not prepared to travel to Goondiwindi, as they deemed it too far to travel. This did not deter the real keen competitors, one lot hired a semi from TOP Transport and brought up 7 cars from Melbourne. The event had a good number of competitors that year and the large numbers have continued to come ever since.
The dark 3am Sunday morning start, with the humming generators, flashing lights and the cold crisp air was a completely new atmosphere to Off Road Racing in Australia. The event was a big attraction for this small country town and large numbers of locals became excited spectators, as when the pubs closed from Saturday night trading, everyone headed out to “Kindon” Station to watch the race. The first lap was a nightmare for many drivers with the combination of inexperience at night driving, dust, stumps and not seeing the direction arrows.
In 1978 the night start was very much the same as in 1977, it also caused a lot of confusion for the drivers in the night dust. Several of the first to get away, got lost in the dust missing the direction arrows and it was pretty dangerous for a while as drivers drove around blindly in the dark trying to find the track. The organizers decided to call for a restart. Keith Poole (1977 Winner) was favourite and seeded to start first, which meant he was the only one not to get lost in the dust but the track was not kind to him, Keith had a flip which destroyed his car. George Stewart of Melbourne had an ‘endo’ crash at 160 Klm/p/h, he was fortunate to only have a bruised pride.
1979 saw a couple of Australia’s legendary race drivers come and try their hand at Goondiwindi, their driving accomplishments were better known for races like Bathurst than Off Road races, they were Peter Brock and Colin Bond.There has been a lot of changes with the event at Goondiwindi over the years, which the locals have fondly named “The Gundy 400”. The event has had several different names and back in 1977 there was only one Landholder involved with the track, in 2016 there was 14 Landholders. The night start in the early hours of Sunday morning has long gone, now racing is on weekends during daylight hours.
Goondiwindi has also had a number of locals try their hand at off road racing over the years, with current competitors Joe Bulmer #36, Michael Napier #68, Michael Phillips #242 Jamie Knight #439 and Steven Donpon #860 and the late Paul “Zoomer” Zacka. Paul was a circuit racer and a very accomplished one, in his HT350 Monaro, but in the late 1970’s traded circuit racing for off road racing, which he also dominated in his Holden Rodeo utes. The Goondiwindi club has several keen up and coming competitors who hopefully will ensure off road racing will continue.