The Gnoo Blas Classic Car Club Inc is keeping alive the history of the old Gnoo Blas road racing circuit at Orange in central NSW.
The old circuit is an important part of motor sport history, built as a community project in 1953 by Orange City Council and Canobolas Shire Council. Now a busy main road, half of it is mostly the same as it was all those years ago.
Most of Australia’s best drivers competed there. Jack Brabham started his road racing career at Gnoo Blas and held the lap record of more than 102mph up to the last meeting in 1961. Jon Leighton and John Youl in their Cooper Climaxes both broke Jack’s lap record of 2m 12s with Leighton getting a 2m 7.4s, just over 105mph (168kmh), and Youl a 2m 8s. Both recorded 157.8mph (252kmh) through the flying quarter mile.
Other drivers who raced on Gnoo Blas included Bob Jane (Maserati), Stan Jones (Maybach), Reg Hunt, Prince Bira of Siam (Maserati), internationals Peter Whitehead and Tony Gaze (Ferraris), New Zealanders Fred Zambucca (Maserati) and John McMillan (Alfa Romeo), Alex Mildren (Cooper Climax), Ted Gray (Tornado), Doug Whiteford (Maserati), Tom Sulman (Aston Martin), Leo and Ian Geoghegan (Holdens and Jaguars), Des West, Arnold Glass, Paul Samuels, Max Stewart, Jack Myers, Len Lukey, Frank Matich, Bill Buckle, Bob Cutler, Doug Chivas, Charlie Smith, Brian Foley, Bob Holden, Peter Williamson,
Zambucca and McMillan set the first 100mph lap (2m 15s) in Australia at Gnoo Blas at the 1954 Easter meeting.
Gnoo Blas in 1960 was the venue for the inaugural Australian Touring Car Championship, now the V8 series, which attracted a field of 50 drivers and a dozen different makes of cars. David McKay (Jaguar), Bill Pitt (Jaguar) and Ron Hodgson (Jaguar) were the place-getters.
The Gnoo Blas club has more than 420 members and has monthly runs on the third Sunday of the month. It meets at Orange Ex-Services Club on the third Monday.
The club holds its annual Gnoo Blas Classic every year on the third weekend in February in Jack Brabham Park in the centre of the old track.
The name ‘Gnoo Blas’ is Aboriginal meaning ‘twin shoulders’ and described the nearby Mt Canobolas and Pinnacle, appearing on one of Major Thomas Mitchell’s early maps. Later it evolved into Canobolas.