Cameron Davey at the wheel of Silverwings, Graeme Cocks’ 1927 Chrysler on Lake Perkolilli.

Red letter day for Lake Perkolilli

SOME call it sacrilege: Enveloping  precious antique racing cars and bikes in sticky red dust and driving them at extraordinary speeds.

But the drivers of 100 pre-war race cars and motorbikes who will be heading to the isolated claypan of Lake Perkolilli near Kalgoorlie in September don’t care what the purists think.

Getting down and dirty with their vintage machinery is the greatest reward for bringing their old bangers back to life and the ability to race on one of the world’s oldest motor race tracks, is getting old cars restored and fired up again all over Australia — and one from overseas.

Lake Perkolilli is legendary among those who know about the outback origins of Australian motorsport.

A comprehensive history of the place can be found in Red Dust Racers, a huge 488 page book weighing 3.6kg by author and historian Graeme Cocks, who is also the man responsible for resurrecting the rock-hard and billiard table-smooth claypan that was a Mecca for speed merchants who wanted to claim Australian speed records.

From 1914 through to 1939 many such records were set, but when around-the-houses motor racing came to Western Australia and the spectators did not have to trek 600km to the Goldfields, Lake Perkolilli, or “Perko” as it was called — was soon forgotten and virtually abandoned.

The Lake Perkolilli Red Dust Revival from  September 12 to 16 this year will resurrect the old natural track and re-live the glory days of motorsport.

The competitors will get their vehicles, every one of them at least 80 years old, covered in thick red dust that seems to get ingrained into the paint itself so it never comes off.

The dust will seep into everything. Their reaction? “So what?”

They’ll camp in the bush — just like the racers of the 1920s and 1930s who trekked from afar to test their cars and bikes on what was called the “Brooklands of the West”.

Britain has its Goodwood Revival on a converted airfield, the US has The Race of Gentlemen on a beach and now Australia has the Lake Perkolilli Red Dust Revival on a claypan in the outback.

The oldest cars at the Red Dust Revival will be Ford Model T speedsters.

The venerable Model T released to the world in 1909 was not known for speed but when the smart young mechanics of the era stripped them back and hotted-up the engines they were fast and loud.

There will be Chrysler racers from the 1920s, replicas of the cars which set national 24-Hour Speed Records back in 1926 and 1927.

It’s a colourful field, where cars such as Austin Sevens will compete head-to-head with more expensive and sophisticated comparative giants such as Bentleys and Lagondas.

One car is even being shipped from the UK to be a part of the revival of motorsport at Perkolilli.

About 40 classic motorcycles will also race on the claypan for the first time since 1939.

The great marques of the past such as BSA, AJS and Triumph will be well represented as well as obscure brands such as Corah which have been forgotten in time.

The “flat tank” racers with their black racing leathers and big singles or V-twins will add to the spectacle.

Vintage aircraft will also fly up from Perth to the claypan just like the original era.

The Lake Perkolilli Red Dust Revival is run by a group of enthusiasts from the vintage motorcycle and sports car fraternity who just want to experience the thrill of claypan racing.

To administer the event they formed the Lake Perkolilli Motor Sports Club Inc.

Everyone who enters the event with a car or motorcycle automatically becomes a member of this exclusive bunch of people who can say that they have competed on one of the world’s oldest race tracks with exactly the same surface as a century ago.

The event is free to attend as a spectator and thanks to the City of Kalgoorlie/Boulder there is camping adjacent to the claypan and the most basic facilities.

And that is how it should be!

Camping in the bush and enjoying the smoke, smell and clatter of old race cars and bikes as they kick up the dust.

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