READY, SET, GO: Rally driver Stewart Reid revs up the engine at a previous Historic Leyburn Sprints.
READY, SET, GO: Rally driver Stewart Reid revs up the engine at a previous Historic Leyburn Sprints. Kevin Farmer

The fast and the friendly: Sprints welcome famous drivers

THOUSANDS of motorsport enthusiasts will be racing in to Leyburn this weekend to celebrate 70 years since the small town established its humble claim to Grand Prix fame.

The annual pilgrimage began in 1949 when visitors journeyed from across the country to witness the 14th Australian Grand Prix take place at the Leyburn Airfield,, which was largely considered to be the fastest racing circuit in the country at the time.

"It's extraordinary to think that relatively modest affair formed the foundation for an event that gets global attention and involves operating costs stretching into the hundreds of millions of dollars,” Leyburn Sprints spokesman Chris Nixon said.

"You really can draw a connection from Leyburn to the world of Formula One in 2020.”

Though the Grand Prix has marched onward to more than ten different countries, the old-school bush hospitality of the Historic Leyburn Sprints remains a drawcard for many.

"No one comes to Leyburn expecting to win some rich prize,” Mr Nixon said.

"They come for the fun of racing and the camaraderie of meeting with groups of people who share a common interest.”

Race director John Mellon said he knew visitors that had been making the trip for more than two decades.

"There's so many different people you can meet,” he said.

"You make really good friends out of it.”

Among the visitors this year will be racing champions and household names such as Dick Johnson and Kevin Bartlett, who will feature for the first time in the parade lap around the track. "They were great racers in their day and are still revered by many motorsport enthusiasts,” Mr Nixon said.

"Having them at Leyburn will be a great attraction for spectators who don't often get a chance to catch up with people like that.”

The informal atmosphere at the Sprints allows for racers young and old, amateur and famous, to have a chat and create lifelong connections.

"Fans will be able to chat to them and meet them on a number of occasions,” Mr Nixon said. "We're extremely relaxed so many visitors have an opportunity to go and talk to competing drivers and look at their cars.

"It turn, many drivers are very eager to show off their cars!”

This year the show boasts more than 200 cars, dating back as far as 1925, and a display of period caravans and motorbikes of all types and vintages.

What's on during the sprints this weekend:

The main event

THE Leyburn Historic Sprints commence at 8am, Saturday and Sunday. The official opening will occur at 12pm Saturday.

Competition ends around 3pm on Sunday, with trophies to be awarded at around 3.30pm. Entry is $20 per day.

Vintage vans

FAMILIES seeking to relive the joys of a good ol' campervan holiday will be charmed by the vintage display on offer this weekend.

Everything from Studebaker to Zephyr will be parked in the grassed area behind the Royal Hotel.

Prizes will be awarded for best caravan, best caravan and car combo and best fancy dress. Entry is free.

Show 'n' Shine

MORE than 150 cars and motorcycles will be on show at the paddock behind the Leyburn Motel on Sunday.

The event features cars dating back to 1925.

Owners compete for a number of fun prizes, ranging from best pre-1950s, to best modern radical and beyond. Trophy presentation begins at 1.30pm. Entry is free.

Community market

OVER 30 stalls will be set up in the Sprints Paddock featuring everything from sweets to auto memorabilia.



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