While F1 and the WRC rule supreme in the world of motorsport in the 21st century, over fifty years ago a much longer, and in our opinion more exciting, type of race captured the imagination of racing fans across the globe — the Redex Australia Trial.
Unlike any other race before or since, the Redex Trial was a special rally raid which saw over two hundred amateur and pro drivers circumnavigate Australia in a collection of cars, the majority of which were no where near appropriate enough for the tough conditions. Sponsored by Redex for the first three years, the event was later dubbed the “Redex Reliability Trial” in homage to our products,which were thought to considerably improve the reliability and performance of the competing cars.
The first Redex Reliability Trial was held in 1953, at a time when the majority of Australia’s roads either didn’t exist or were in a poor state of repair. Even the Melbourne to Sydney stint, which is considered a fairly easy drive today, was hard going for the drivers — with dusty tracks serving as roads in place of modern motorways.
This tough terrain, coupled with the unsuitability of the cars themselves, was what generated such interest in the race, both with the fans and the drivers themselves. At the time, the idea of driving the length and breadth of Australia in an average motorcar was simply unheard of; there were few motels, and fuel stations were located some 1,000km apart in some regions, making for a logistical nightmare for organisers. Thankfully, Shell came to the rescue, placing hundreds of petrol dumps along the 5,000km route between Townsville and Adelaide.
Despite the scale and significance of the race, the rules were very simple. Drivers weren’t allowed to make any performance-enhancing modifications to their cars, except to add auxiliary fuel tanks and comfier seats. They would lose one point for every minute late to enter a control point, as well as a further 100 points for disobeying a direction from race adjudicators. If a driver had to swap a part at any point during the race, they would also have 500 points deducted from their overall score.
As you’d expect from such a pioneering event, the Redex Trial attracted many of Australia and the world’s greatest drivers, including Ken Tubman, Stan Jones, Jack Davey and Jack Murray. Come race day of the first trial (30th August ’53), a total of 187 racers set forth from Sydney on the 6,500 mile drive, with over 150,000 Sydney residents coming out to wave the drivers off on their epic trip.
Having accrued the best overall points tally, Ken Tubman was hailed the winner of original 1953 Redex Reliability Trial alongside co-driver John Marshall. The duo drove a ’53 Peugeot 203, something which proved significant for the modest French car manufacturer, who experienced a surge in car sales following Tubman’s win down under.
To survive the mammoth route, which passed through some of Australia’s most unforgiving terrain, drivers were required to carry additional fuel drums, sand mats, shovels and picks, as well as enough food and water to go the distance between each checkpoint.
While the Redex Reliability Trial no longer exists, our products still help you to keep driving. To find out more about how our products can help your engine and fuel economy, visit the Redex homepage.
Source: Christensen Collection, CityLibraries.