Lake Perkolilli Red Dust Revival (WA)


For those who have never heard of Lake Perkolilli and its red dust racing, it is situated 30 kms north east of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. The claypan there was known throughout the 1920s and 1930s as one of the best natural race track surfaces in the world and over its life, thousands of racing enthusiasts have raced around its 3.2 kilometre circuit of unique claypan. The lakebed’s hard surface allowed drivers to reach speeds of 200 kmh. After the Lake Perkokilli Centenary of Speed in 2014 was rained out (rain, mud, slush and bogged to the eyeballs), Greg Eastwood and Nic Montagu approached Graeme Cocks to offer assistance to run the 2019 races. The week started with two days of trials after all the entrants had checked their running gear and a lot of minor changes and repairs were seen to be happening. An outstanding range of cars were participating with makes such as Ford, Lagonda, Hudson Terraplane, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Chrysler, Dodge, Chevrolet and of course a Buick. The range of vintage motorbikes was equally outstanding. Lounging in his chair some weeks earlier, his lordship asked “how would you like to go to the Perkolilli Races, a lot of our friends are going. We can take the motorhome and stay in comfort?” “That sounds like a nice week away, what is the format for the week?” “Oh” says his lordship, “you will love it, good company, good food, good racing, a lovely shady camping area for you to lay back and enjoy a week away.” Well, the only thing he told the truth about was the good company as a lot of our friends arrived and the ladies enjoyed it as much as I did (ha ha). On arriving, the amount of dust at the entrance road enabled me to see absolutely nothing as it was thick . “Is this what it was going to be like?” I asked. “No” said he, “wait until we get in and set up camp, you will have the big shady trees.” Well the big shady trees turned out to be 25cm high bracken. “Not to worry” said himself “it will be nice once I put the annexe out for you”. And he was right, until the racing started. The cars never stopped and between the dense thick cover of red dust and the heat, I could neither see or breathe and each afternoon he would come back to our motorhome with the biggest ear to ear smile and say “wow, wasn’t that fabulous, maybe we should get ourselves a racer.” On the third day, the heat and dust became so bad I suggested that maybe we should leave! Well his lordship was flabbergasted, he couldn’t believe his ears. “What and miss the finals? I can’t understand you sometimes” he said, opening a cold beer. “Well what about putting the air conditioner on?” With that, he informed me that the dust might block up the air intake and damage the motor, so no air conditioner. Then came the promised good food. Brekkie was bacon and eggs and red dust, lunch was sandwiches and red dust and dinner was chops, steak or sausages and you guessed it, more red dust. I couldn’t thank him enough! Well, the highlight for himself came with the arrival of a 1928 Buick (which was the Eric Armstrong replica) and performed extremely well. Sixty cars and twenty motorbikes competed, of which his lordship informed was absolutely memorable. I was so happy for him. The first product of General Motors to race at Lake Perkolilli was a 25hp Buick raced by Walter Wright in 1915. Jack Wright raced a Buick with an impressive boattail custom body in 1927 and Eric Armstrong raced a cut down Buick in 1928. Rodney Cock’s replica of Eric Armstrong’s Buick has raced several times at Lake Perkolilli in modern time. This car was built by Rob Ferguson-Stewart and Stuart Symes (BOCWA members) and first raced at the Gull Speed Classic in Midland in 1994. The car has the trademark “valve-in-head” motor typical of vintage Buicks. I now know what it means in our wedding vows, that bit about for better or worse. As my grandmother had pointed out, “I bet you wish that you had left that verse out when you got married.” It was a huge week with about 1,000 campers and I estimated about 5,000 people on the last day, being the Sunday. So all you racing and enthusiasts of classic race cars, I certainly would advise you to get there but I would also advise you to explain to your partner, exactly what they are in for. A most memorable trip and I must admit, you wouldn’t meet a nicer bunch of people and this made my trip most enjoyable. Jenny & Steve McLennan (WA Buicks)