Motor racing on Sellicks Beach was first run in the early years of the 20th Century.
Several groups made use of the beach and the hills behind the beach, to race not just bikes, but cars as
well. All trying to set new speed records.
Established in 1922, The Levis Social Club organised social outings and simple trials for owners of the
Levis (pron. lev-iss) two-stroke motorcycle.
However, driven by the wishes of its’ members, the focus of the Club soon changed and from 1924 the Levis Social Club Speed Trials became an annual summer event at Sellicks Beach, generally on the Australia Day weekend.
Speed was new and exciting, there were records to be had in cars, on bikes, with aeroplanes and trains, any number of early year machines were trying to be the fastest.
When our great grandparents were looking for somewhere to go fast and break records, the beaches south of Adelaide, Sellicks and Silver Sands made the perfect track.
The beach with its pebble base and covering of sand made a hard, compact surface that was flattened and renewed at every tide change.
If you think back to those times, roads were not the paved highways that we have today. They were generally more like dirt tracks and the idea of road maintenance had yet to reach government consciousness.
For many families in the first half of the 20th Century, motorcycles were their main mode of transport. More affordable than a car, it was not unusual to see a family heading off to the shops, work, church, or the beach loaded on and in a motorcycle with sidecar.
There would be very few of us who do not have someone in the family tree who rode a motor bike.
Many of those early racers would ride their bikes to the beach, strip them down to the bare minimum, race for a couple of days, then put the bike back together and ride home. Those with a bit more money bought their racing bikes to the beach in their sidecar.
Because general travel was a lot slower, the 50 km drive to Sellicks Beach meant it became a weekend event.
Naturally, the “Levis Social Club” encouraged the social side of Motorcycle Racing (as it still does today).
With some time off during the Second World War, the Club ran the event through to 1957.
Apart from re-enactments in 1986 and 1992, there had been no competitive racing at Sellicks in 60 years.
Then in February 2017, we came back...
That weekend in February 2017 was three years in the making and many people put in a lot of hard work to make it happen.
In 2014 Sellicks Beach resident, Michael Madeley (That's him on the right), approached Motorcycling SA (MSA) for support to re-stage the historic motorcycle races. MSA President and Levis MCC Member, Brenton Matters (second pic down) knew the Levis MCC had a long-held interest in doing just that, so he brought the parties together.
Michael joined the Levis MCC, and the Club, with the full and active support of MSA, set about the task of securing permission to once again race on the iconic beach.
The Levis MCC established a Sellicks Beach Historic Motorcycle Races Committee comprising thirteen members (all unpaid volunteers).
The Committee was Chaired by Brenton Matters and had two tasks to achieve. First they had to negotiate with relevant authorities and interested groups to get permission to stage the event, then they had to plan and run the event.
A Race Committee was established, Chaired by Murray "Muzz" Tune (That's him with the beard, the other one is Carole "Crouch" Tune, Assistant Race Secretary)
With the help of Jock Shanks and members of the Historic Motor Cycle Racing Register, the Committee was tasked with setting the rules, race categories, organise the pit area, and all things to do with the actual racing.
A lot had changed in the 60 years since our Club last raced at Sellicks Beach.
The area around Sellicks Beach has a rich cultural and environmental history and there are a lot more people living there than there were in 1957. We couldn't just throw the swag down on the beach and race our motorbikes.
Over the next two years the Committee worked with the Onkaparinga Council, various State Government Agencies, Traditional Owners, Residents, Local Traders, and Environmental Groups to find a way forward and ensure all concerns were addressed in the planning.
By early 2016 the Committee had developed a detailed budget, as well as a comprehensive Risk Management Plan that addressed the many unique issues that the event raised.
In May 2016, Brenton Matters presented the proposal to a crowded Council Meeting. The Council approved the proposal and noted that it "was one of the most professional presentations to come before Council".
MSA was awarded the licence for the event. The Levis MCC was assigned the right to actually stage the event.
There was intense interest in the event right from the start.
The Southern Times was covering the progress from the very early days and, as well as Channel 7 News, covered the Council meeting and reported our comeback to Sellicks. The Sunday Mail also gave us a great article in June featuring Racing Legend and Levis Club Member, Murray Williams.
Our Facebook post announcing the decision had over 5,000 views.
In September, When Murray, along with Trevor Attwell featured in another 7 News story, more than 70,000 people viewed it on Facebook.
Meanwhile our planning was ramping up.
Our aim was to recreate the meetings of the heyday of motorcycle beach racing.
In keeping with the era, we decided to restrict entry to motorcycles built before 1963 and, sticking with the original format, the meeting would run over two days.
We also went with the original track length of "One Mile" with a barrel at each end. However, in our case it was half a mile each way which still allowed us to run similar races and to then be able to compare times to those early days.
The terms of the licence limited the number of people allowed on the beach. That meant we needed to install about six kilometres of temporary fencing to enclose the area as well as protect sensitive cultural and environmental areas. For safety, we had to establish a no-go zone in the waters around the event.
One of the first things we had to do was find sponsors. We were grateful that Shannons Insurance recognised the value of being involved and they came on very early as Naming Sponsor. Other sponsors offered a range of support which we appreciate very much because it made the difference as to whether we would go ahead.
There was an endless list of things we had to do. We needed to provide viewing areas, toilets, security, catering, litter control, car parking, traffic control, shaded areas, first aid, safety, insurance, ticketing, merchandise, programs, and everything else that goes with staging a Motorsport event.
In January 2017 we held a Pre-Scrutineering Day at Penny's Hill Winery. The thinking behind the day was two-fold. First, it gave many of the competitors an opportunity to try out their machines in a controlled environment (Penny's Hill allowed us to use their airstrip as a test track). Second, it allowed those who had been rebuilding bikes an opportunity to check that the machine would meet the required specifications.
Dozens of riders and their machines turned out on the day. 84 yro Bluey Hillman was there on a bike he hadn't ridden since the 1970s.
Three generations of the Davis Family were trying out two beautiful bikes and 80yro Trevor Attwell and 79yro Bill Angwin were putting the Ariel sidecar through it's paces while being followed by a TV film crew.
Saturday dawned and it turned out we didn't have to worry about the heat. The weather had turned to winter and a very stiff sea breeze (wind) was holding the tide in, making it a testing exercise to get the beach ready for spectators and racing.
The fans were queuing up an hour before the gates opened and were ready for action. We were still finalising things as spectators were heading out onto the beach.
With only a short delay the program got underway. First up was a parade featuring all 110 entrants. When they had all lined up we let the fans onto the beach to get up close to the bikes and riders.
This was a feature that was so popular with Riders and Fans that it was repeated on the Sunday at the request of the riders.
Then it was time for the bikes to hit the beach for first practice.
With the tide slow to go out it was a bit damp at first but it didn't take them long to get the hang of going fast on sand.
The highlight would have to be Macca MacDonald on his 1938 Harley Davidson. Not only was it the first time he'd ridden it, but it was the first time it had been ridden by anyone in 70 years. (Check out the video).
A fabulous day that gave us a lot of confidence that the main event was going to be special.
But, there was some pretty heavy work to do before we got there.
The weekend before the race, a small band of Levis MCC Members braved the heat to erect 3km of fencing around the car park.
From Thursday it was all hands on deck. We had to erect about four kilometres of fencing around the environmental areas as well as set up the pit area, merchandise/food areas, Race Office and ticketing.
Friday, the pace picked up and it was organised chaos. We had to get a kilometre of crash barriers down onto the beach as well as set up toilets, crowd barriers, traffic controls, signage and too many other things to list.
The effort put in by that small group of Levis MCC Members and their Families was just outstanding and the event simply would not have happened without their hard work.
Then it was on!
We ran 44 races over the two days. There was fantastic racing in all categories with only the occasional 'mishap'.
More than 20 different manufacturers were represented, including Adler, AJS, Ariel, BSA, Bultaco, DKW, Douglas, Harley Davidson, Honda, Indian, James, Jap, Levis, Matchless, Norton, Norton Manx, OEC, Rickman ESO, Royal Enfield, Triumph, Velocette , Villiers, Zundapp.
The smallest bikes were 125cc BSAs, while the biggest were the 1200cc Harley Davidsons.
The oldest bikes were a 1924 Douglas and 1924 AJS, the oldest rider was 84yro and the youngest was 18yro.
Between races we had flyovers by Adelaide Biplanes and demo drives by Series K cars. All adding to the spectacle of the weekend.
Almost four thousand people came over the two days and had a ball.
A week before the races none of us were keen to do it all again. By Sunday night we were already talking about doing it in 2019!
It was an awesome experience to stand out on that beach and watch those marvellous machines do what they were built to do. It was a privilege to mix with the fantastic competitors and to hear their stories about how they got there.
To all those wonderful people who took part, those who came along to join the excitement, the Sponsors who gave us their support, and most specially to all the outstanding volunteers to worked so hard to make this happen...THANK YOU...See you in 2019.